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ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS
(From CP30, Page 9, October, 1981)

Take off Incident.

     Byron McKean damaged his VariEze in an aborted takeoff. He took time off from the repair job to wite the following story for us in the hopes that publishing this information ma.y prevent someone else from having the same problems:
     "The takeoff direction was to the SE with a mild left cross wind. The runway is 2650 ft. long, very narrow, and very bumpy and rough. There is considerable grass that is six to eight inches high growing onto the edges of the runway. There had been considerable rain in the early hours of the morning and there were numerous puddles of water on the runway. My takeoff attempt was intended to miss the majority of the puddles but my right wheel hit a long puddle causing the aircraft to veer about ten degrees to the right. I was near take off speed and saw the grass on the runway ahead of me so I attempted to lift off unsuccessfully. Seeing that flight was impossible I reduced the power, the nose dropped sharply, breaking off the nose wheel followed by the nose strut collapsing into the retracted position. Additional resistance of the grass on the right side caused the aircraft to veer off the runway and into the muddy plowed field where the main gear collapsed and we all came to a stop. From the spot of the main gear collapsing to the stopped position was around fifty feet. I turned the switches off, then got out and assisted my passenger out. There were no injuries other than my passenger having sore knees from pressure against the back of the front seat. We both wore seat belts and a two strap shoulder harness. The ELT did activate.
     Later, upon investigation, I found a small piece of broken fiberglass wedged between the right brake puck and the brake disk. I was unable to rotate the wheel. Since the right wheel pant was torn off the landing gear prior to the main gear collapsing, I now wonder if this could have caused more drag on the right side far greater than what the grass caused. Without this additional drag a "save" may have been possible.
     I can understand now that when I hit the water and was pulled slightly to the right the wheel entered increasingly deeper water causing more drag and more turning to the right. There is that moment of delay while the mind digests what is happening until a response is initiated. That moment is too long.
     It is interesting to me what thoughts go through the mind during the short interval of an emergency.
     Some of my thoughts:
     Look at all those puddles of water. Better choose a good path and try to miss most of them. Narrow runway, run the engine up full before releasing the brakes. 2500 rpm Ok, oil pressure up, let’s go. Boy is this a rough runway, nose bouncing, come on airspeed let’s get the nose of f this rough stuff. Ah here comes some airspeed, nose slightly off, not too much Now here comes that long puddle, left cross wind, going to hit the water a little bit with the right wheel. Airspeed approaching lift off, my God that water is pulling me right, this isn’t supposed to happen, come on airspeed, here comes that grass, can’t hit that, can’t fly if I hit that, try for a lift off, nose up ... up... nose is plenty high, if it does lift off can I fly out of ground effect, don’t want to end up in the bay at the end of the runway, what if the wing drops and hits the ground, no good, won't fly, damn, hit the grass, noisy, lots of drag, being pulled to the right, this can’t happen.... chop the power, keep wings level, bang! my gosh, I broke something, this is a crash. What an experience for my passenger, first time in a homebuilt and doesn’t particularly like flying sick.., sick.., sick... there goes the main gear, here comes the field, turning right, keep it level, keep eyes open, keep thinking, look. I’m still Ok, hang on, brace, keep looking, it’s stopped, I’ve really messed it up. Switches off, get out now, what about a fire, get my passenger out. We are both OK but look at my pride and joy, belly in the mud, mud everywhere, look back at where I’ve been!
     My VariEze is equipped with a Compucruise computer that includes a fuel flow sensor. In order to use a fuel flow sensor on a VariEze you must install an electric fuel pump. I also installed a four-way fuel selector valve so that I could select a "by-pass’ position in the event of a malfunction of the electric pump, flow sensor, or in-line fuel filter.
     I mounted the electric fuel pump and fuel flow sensor on the center section of the main landing gear behind the rear seat. I now recoqnize that this is a no-no! When the main landing gear collapsed it tore the fuel lines loose. Had the fuel flow sensor and electric pump been attached to the fuselage or firewall no leak would have occurred. Even the gascolator that extends slightly below the firewall into the air intake scoop was undamaged".

Forced Landings

The following information was supplied by Bruce Muirhead, from Colorado:

     "Dear Burt, I guess I should report a couple forced landings we experienced.
     The first was on an early frosty morning flight from Pagosa, NE, over the Rockies to Boulder. I may tell the whole story in more detail another time but suffice to say here that is was a variation of the old "gas cap" story. The right cap didn’t get secured, fell off on take off (damaging the prop some), but I didn’t catch on until a temporary power loss got me to thinking over the Sangre de Christos. As Mary continued to report plenty of gas in the right tank but left running low, I was guided to make a sharp right turn and head for the plains.
     There we spotted the Air Force Academy chapel and turned north, still at 12,000. A minute or two later, flame-out. We did a 180 and glided 20 miles, straight into the Academy’s north-south runway, unannounced, uneventful and followed by lots of red tape.
     The second was on the way to Taos for the IVHC fly—in just 35 minutes from here. Just over the mountains and letting down 25 miles from Taos it quit. Fuel starvation on descent? Nose up - no luck. No reserve - faulty valve. A straight section of highway complete with a convenient turnoff made for another uneventful landing - at the New Mexico Port of Entry! Borrowed the officer’s pickup, got five of regular, prop, run up ok, and took off on our "runway" for Taos. There most of the 19 VE pilots discussed my problem and the consensus was clogged vent line. That’s what it was, though what I dug out of it was hardly enough to analyze. Even the little fuselage tank vent was plugged. Anyhow, you can bet those other 18 pilots at Taos will check their vent lines, and probably also,

Yours truly,

Bruce Muirhead.

     RAF comment - we don’t know why Bruce was unable to use the reserve tank to save the situation for both these cases - apparently the "faulty valve". You VariEze guys should always keep your reserve system in good operating order — its your redundancy to protect against vent clog, lost cap etc. Note: The Long-EZ while not having the reserve tank, has separate left and right pumped systems (which feed a ost cap) and separate vents.

Engine Failure, on top, over Lake Michigan

     A VariEze accident claimed the lives of a New York couple and their son en-route home from Oshkosh. The pilot was a low-time relatively new private pilot taking his first cross-country trip in the airplane, which had 49 hours total time. The following information is from a VariEze pilot who was flying with the Eze that crashed, and from FAA investigators.
     The flight was heading east across Lake Michigan to save trip length even though it was over a solid under cast with tops at 10,000 feet. They were cruising at 11,500 feet directly over the center of the lake when the pilot noticed zero oil pressure. They continued another 10 to 15 miles when the engine lost power, then quit. The wingman noted that the pilot kept turning right during the trip and he had to keep instructing him to turn left to remain on course. He repeated this instruction as the pilot descended into the clouds in a right turn. Radio communication was lost when he tried to get him to switch to Muskegan Tower frequency for vectoring. Weather at the surface was a variable ceiling ranging from 500 scattered to 1500 broken to 4000 overcast.
     It is not known whether the pilot became disoriented in clouds during the descent. The last call heard by the wingman was a very upset voice repeating 'engine quit, going down’. Flight service received a call of ‘shoreline in sight’ with no further communication. The aircraft crashed while in a turn in a down-wind direction at the far end of a 150 foot long clearing, immediately cart-wheeling into trees. There was no way to survive a landing where the aircraft impacted. There was no fire. It is not known why the pilot selected the small clearing when the shoreline with alignment into the wind was apparently available to him.
     Investigators determined the cause of engine failure to be oil loss through a broken oil pressure sender line. The line was aluminum tubing, flared with an incorrect automotive flaring tool. It fractured at the fitting sleeve where it had been previously bent 45 degrees.
     The purpose of us printing details of this kind of tragedy in this newsletter is to alert those flying other airplanes to conditions that might cause another accident so that recurrence can be prevented. If you are flying an airplane that may have an engine installation that has not been inspected by a qualified A.I., ground it until it is adequately inspected for aircraft-approved installation materials and workmanship. All plumbing of oil and fuel lines must be of components approved for a certified installation. If you have aluminum tubing installed, replace it with approved flex hose before flight.

Canopy Emergency

Joan Richey, Los Cruces, NM experienced a canopy emergency in her VariEze. As is generally the case, she forgot to lock it due to an unusual break in routine. Her full story follows:
     "Charles,. and my instructor, Joe Gold, had started the Eze and said he’d like to fly it a little, too. So - I took off, flew over town and up the valley some, came back, landed, taxied up to where Joe was waiting, got out, he got in (engine still running), a friend came up and asked for a ride. Joe shot a landing, came back, jumped out, ran around the plane sniffing - smelled something burning. Took up the passenger, came back, changed passengers, said the radio had burned up. Took off, flew a short time, came back and I decided to fly again. "OK" says he "but don’t even fool with the radio because it’s not working". Didn’t turn off the engine. in, said I’d shoot 3 landings and take it to the hangar. I always fly with earplugs under the headset - didn’t take time to put them in. That’s #1. Engine hadn’t been stopped — didn’t do my standard check with run up. That’s #2. Took off and did not bring up the gear since I was just going to shoot landings. On turning downwind to base, the sound in the cockpit changed but I could not identify it (no earplugs). Base to final, the canopy popped up to the full throw of the safety latch. I panicked! All the stories Charles had told me and I had read of canopies coming open, all of a sudden, seemed to have culminated in funerals. My initial thought was "I’m dead’. Tried to hold the safety latch down, tried to latch the canopy. After the initial panic, I remembered some words of wisdom in a CP that Charles and I had discussed. FLY THE AIRPLANE! Next thought — "Climb, gain altitude and latch the canopy". Third thought — "Land it!" By now, the panic is gone, I’m a little high and a little fast. Have not managed to trim it to landing speed. After all, a girl’s only got two hands and both are holding down the canopy! Actually, I manhandled it down, long and hot - luckily 12/30 at Las Cruces is 7500 feet. Let it roll to a stop and then drove it to the departure end of the runway. (Furthest from buildings and people Stopped - knees weak could not latch the canopy. Opened it completely, latched it. TURNED ON THE MASTER - CHECKED THE SAFETY LIGHT AND BUZZER - turned around and took off on 12. Shot two more landings, took it to Las Cruces Aviation, met on the ramp by Joe Gold,. illustrious flight instructor, and my brother who was about to go up in his Citabria. NO ONE EVEN NOTICED! but to me it was scary".