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Emergency Landing At Big Creek Idaho

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The following is an account by Super Cub owner and RAF Director Mike Sidders describing his emergency landing at the Big Creek, Idaho backcountry airstrip with engine problems.

June 13, 2005

Engine trouble with this Super Cub near Big Creek Idaho.
Mechanic Alan Rickman working on Mike's PA18 at Big Creek, Idaho.

Something just didn’t feel right. My engine began running rough and losing rpm and there really wasn’t a good explanation. There were a few scattered clouds, and I habitually pulled carb heat whenever the engine ran a little rough. This action just made it run worse and I noticed my oil pressure gauge needle bouncing sporadically.

Swapping engines in the backcountry. The loaner engine was flown over in a C-180 and the Super Cub was back in the air the same afternoon!

My first action after that was to push the “nearest” button on my GPS. There were three airstrips within about a ten mile radius and I was familiar with all of them. I decided on Big Creek because I knew that it was the only one with access to a road. Thinking back, Chamberlin would have been a wiser choice with more chances for surviving a forced landing.

I chose to leave the throttle untouched since I knew this could cause a complete engine failure. The engine labored and the oil pressure was at redline as the airstrip came into sight. I continued to the threshold before reducing the throttle. Upon reducing the throttle, the engine came to a stop and I coasted to the side of the runway.

The source of the problem as described in Mike's account.

The engine had just been overhauled and apparently standard pistons were installed in oversize barrels. This caused the wrist pin plugs to work their way out and begin shaving off a significant amount of aluminum. The aluminum completely filled the oil screen and bypass.

While the engine was warranted and the costs to recover were paid by the insurance company, I would have likely paid the ultimate price if there were not a backcountry landing strip for a precautionary landing.

Mike Sidders