| Home | Articles | CP reprints |

ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS
(From CP35, Page 8, January, 1983)

The CP Newsletter reports accidents and discusses their conditions and causes, for information purposes for all operators. We have always investigated accidents in the interest of determining information that we can disseminate to you to prevent recurrence. It should be recognized in our discussion of accident conditions or causes that generally this information is preliminary since it is published before the availability of the FAA accident report.

From Bruce Tifft, B & T Propellers

     "Bonnie and I have always enjoyed writing articles for the CP and the Hospitality Club newsletter about our wonderful trips and adventures in our VariEze. This article is not fun to write, but necessary. We feel it is very important to share experiences - good and BAD.
     Our VariEze has been destroyed in an accident that occurred on November 20 at Santa Paula Airport.  I was checking out a very good friend in the front seat of the EZ. Al is a top-notch pilot and is retired Navy with thousands of hours in all types of aircraft.  In fact, he checked out both Bonnie and me in different airplanes. As you can tell, he is a very competent pilot and one I did not hesitate to let fly the EZ from the front seat.  Now, as many of you know, Santa Paula is a terrific little airport, but is notorious for its short runway (2500), obstacles and obstructions at the end of the field, and unusual wind conditions at times. We have operated our EZ out of this field for over 4-years and thus far never had any problems.  Burt has always warned about operating out of such a short field with the EZ.  For 4-years we had no problems, however, when we needed that little margin for unusual conditions, it wasn’t there!  On this particular Saturday, we encountered a very severe wind shear. (a phenomenon that Santa Paula is also famous for).  The airplane performed as usual, but we went from a substantial head wind to a tailwind.  Just after liftoff, the EZ fell back to the ground with all three wheels.  Not too many options were available - couldn’t abort and couldn’t gain sufficient altitude to clear the obstructions.   Al navigated us through a very thin "eye of a needle" space.  We went under some telephone lines and barely over a house.  The landing gear clipped the very upper portion of the roof of the house, and the left wing collided with the T.V. antenna.  This dropped the nose just enough to miss electrical wires carrying 440 volts.
     Under the wires, a cable T.V. coax one inch in diameter went over the pitot tube and around the canard and stayed with us turning us around 180.  The airplane impacted the ground on the spinner and flipped almost inverted.  Al remained in the front seat, and I was thrown through the canopy.  Dragging this huge cable slowed the plane sufficiently to allow us to escape with our lives and relatively few injuries.  We also attribute our survival to the incredible strength of the EZ.   We feel sure if we had been in a conventional airplane we wouldn’t be here to write this story.  Also, there was no post-impact fire, a fact that again saved my life since I was saturated with gasoline.  We would also like to pass on our thanks to Jack Hooker at Hooker Harness Company.  Al’s seat belts were intact, and he had to release them to get out of the plane.  I was thrown from the plane on impact, but my seat belts held through all that crashing around and when they did fail, actually pulled part of the fuselage with them.  The shoulder harness attach straps were bent up past 90. Certainly can’t beat that for strength.
     Only one engine mount extrusion failed at a bolt hole, the mount itself let go. The airframe has been demolished, however, the Lycoming rep feels sure the engine is still useable and the front cockpit are pretty much intact. The radio and most of the instruments are still good. Al sustained a nasty cut on the back of his head, cut behind his left ear and miscellaneous cuts, bruises and aches and pains. I cracked my pelvis in two places, broke a rib, bruised a lung, had gasoline burns on my back and under left arm, and a burn on my left hand from pushing away from the exhaust pipe, also a nasty blow to left kidney and shoulder. However, we are feeling very lucky to be here.
     As far as our B & T Propeller customers, I have been slowed down a bit from all this, however, I am back in the shop (with the help of a cane) and will get your props to you as soon as possible.  Would appreciate any time you can give me if your project isn’t ready to fly.
     It was heartbreaking to lose our beautiful little airplane, but we have received so much support and expressions of caring from so many people that it really pulled us through this tragedy.  Bonnie and I have often talked about what a terrific life-style we have enjoyed since having the EZ, and all the wonderful people we have met and made friends through it.  Our very deep appreciation and gratitude goes out to all of you who helped us through this difficult time (especially Mike and Sally Melvill, Les Faus, Frank and Margie Tifft).
     Now, to end on a happy note…..we have made arrangements to buy a very good friend’s Long-EZ project.  Chuck Gardner has modified the fuselage somewhat, but it is still basically a Long.  Chuck has done impeccable work and we are thrilled that he will let us take over his project.  Chuck was sensitized to the epoxy and felt he could not work on the plane, but had put so much hard work and love into it, he wanted to see it finished and flying.  We’ll work together on getting this accomplished.  So, we will have another EZ flying before too long and join in again with all the fun and happiness that goes along with owning one of these terrific airplanes

Comment: EZ builders/flyers operating over normal gross weights and out of short airports, take note!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     A Southern California VariEze flyer/builder crashed into the bay on short final at Palo Alto, during a night approach.  A critical nut and bolt, which had not been installed correctly, came loose, causing the airplane to suffer a pitch control disconnect.  The VariEze was completely destroyed by the impact with the water at approach speed. The pilot suffered a serious back injury but was able to swim to shore.
     A California VariEze pilot was fatally injured when his recently completed VariEze crashed.  Eye-witnesses reported hearing the engine missing, then finally stopping. The aircraft banked into a right turn, which rapidly developed into a tight spiral.  Just prior to impact the engine roared into life.  The aircraft was destroyed by fire after the crash. The accident is under investigation. Cause has not been determined.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A VariEze crashed on its first flight in Southern Indiana. The builder/pilot was fatally Injured. The following report is from the pilot of a chase pilot.
     "He was in no hurry at all to fly.  Did not intend to fly.  Took off, looked good, well under control, climbed to about 300 feet.   Used runway 04. I was in a Luscombe.  The VariEze made shallow turns, when he got on downwind, it was obvious that he was descending.  His turn and descent continued until he clipped the top of a low tree (30 ft) and then hit the ground. he airplane broke up, pilot was thrown out.  Fire broke out about 5 seconds after the impact.  Flight was not erratic and I feel that maybe something happened to the pilot, since he never made any recovery motion at all, did not retard the throttle at all to impact nor did he try to level the wings, nor did he try to pull up. He was about 59 year old.