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PIPER J-3 ACCIDENTS: STALLS, RLOC.

Having flown J-3s for more years than we like to consider, we were interested to note that only 16 of the 100 most recent prangs involved runway loss of control (RLOC). Because most groundloop events usually involve minor or no damage, they are not required to be reported under the NTSB regs. With heel brakes of varying quality and challenging ground handling, we think the real rate of RLOC events in the J-3 is significantly higher than 16%--and we strongly recommend a careful checkout if you decide to buy what we consider one of the most fun to fly airplanes ever built.

Being able to fly a J-3 with the fold-down door and fold-up window open has been a huge factor in the aircraft's success. It's also, we think, a huge factor in the high percentage of stupid pilot trick accidents--mostly hitting stuff while flying low or pulling up into a stall after a low pass--we observed with Cubs.

There were 20 stall accidents, split about half and half between losing it shortly after takeoff-often over gross and/or in high density altitude ops--and while maneuvering in the weeds.

Normal cruise in a Cub is just about slow flight in anything else, and wrapping the high-drag airframe into a steep turn scrubs speed in a hurry, taking the airplane near stalling angle of attack. While a Cub has a docile stall, doing so when the ball isn't centered is an invitation to a rapid roll-off and steep pitch down that may take more altitude than is available for even the best pilot to recover.

With its low wing loading a J-3 is big-time susceptible to wind gusts and shear. A number of the inflight loss of control accidents as well as hitting obstructions on takeoff or landing and blown go-arounds involved high winds and turbulence. A Cub has a slow roll rate, requiring putting the ailerons and rudder to the stops to keep the airplane pointed where the pilot desires in serious turbulence. Turbulence can also cancel out what little rate of climb the airplane has in high and hot conditions.

We were, nevertheless, impressed by the pilot who got sideways on landing in gusty winds, went around and flew the airplane into an open hangar, suspending it on a wall, five feet above the floor.

When we do accident sweeps for the Used Aircraft Guide we expect to see, at most, one ground collision. There were four involving J-3s, a very high rate, even for tailwheel birds. Ground visibility is lousy and a pilot has to aggressively look out for other airplanes during ground ops.

Two Cubs were simply blown over when taxiing. Correctly positioning the ailerons and elevator during taxi is not just an academic exercise in a J-3.

The rate of engine stoppages was below what we expect to see--the little Continentals seem to be holding up well over time.

We're used to seeing ground impact accidents involving folks shooting coyotes from a Cub--losing control while chasing critters just seems to be a thing to do. However, one pilot/marksman team flew into the ground because the shooter dropped a shotgun shell and jammed his control stick. The pilot couldn't get enough aft deflection to avoid terra firma.
ACCIDENT SUMMARY

STALL (20%)
RLOC (16%)
ENGINE/MECH(15%)
OTHER (15%)
FUEL-RELATED (9%)
LOW FLIGHT/BUZZING (8%)
INFLIGHT LOC (5%)
GROUND COLLISION (4%)
BLOWN GO-AROUND (4%)
HIT OBS.T.O./LDG(4%)

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Publication:The Aviation Consumer
Date:Jul 1, 2019
Words:580
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