With the growing popularity of backcountry flying and short takeoff and land (STOL) competitions, landing on mid-river gravel bars has become a popular activity. High-lift devices, specialized engines and props, and oversize tires make the practice relatively safe, and lots of fun.
But gravel-bar flying received an unwelcome black eye last week when a Piper J-3 Cub taking off struck a 42-year-old woman on a kayak near the Lower Lambert Bar of the Willamette River. The woman received serious but reportedly non-life-threatening injuries to her head and leg. The woman’s mother was with her daughter aboard another kayak and was uninjured. In photos from the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office, the bright green plastic kayak appears only slightly damaged.
The pilot immediately returned to the scene of the accident and is cooperating with the investigation, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The 69-year-old local pilot has some 6,500 hours logged and told local news sources he had operated from the same gravel bar “at least 50 times.”
The 1946 Cub, which was upgraded to an 85-HP Continental engine from its original 65-HP engine, has oversized tires and is registered to an air park about 15 NM from the site of the accident, though it is not listed on the park’s website as among the aircraft it has for rent. The air park declined to comment on the accident.