"I had a totally unnecessary off-airport landing the
other day. I pulled the airplane into an exceptionally nose high attitude while bleeding
off speed from cruise to do some stall tests. As I pushed over to recover, the carburetor
became unported and the engine quit. This wasn't altogether a surprise, but when the
engine would not start right away after speed and "G" forces were returned, it
was a definite surprise!
I went through all the emergency procedures (several times!), switched tanks, boost pump on, pumped the throttle, tried carb heat, talked to ATC, all to no avail! I was over distinctly unhealthy terrain but, fortunately, there were a couple of fields in gliding distance. I made the decision to lower the nose gear on short final , to absorb some of the landing shock and minimize nose-over possibilities. At about 25 feet, I noticed, for the first time, the tach was resting on zero! Too late to hit the starter, I went ahead with the landing. A very short landing roll in very sandy, loose soil. I am sure happy I decided to put down the nose gear. The only damage was some paint damage and the loss of one vortilon while loading it onto the wrecking truck which got stuck 4 times getting out of the field!
Obviously, checking the tach has now become VERY MUCH a part of my personal engine-out procedures. The prop had stopped in the horizontal position and may not have been noticed, even if I had looked back."
Canopy/Nose Gear Experience
"Less than 6 hours into my test flight period, I failed
to lock the canopy before take-off. Everything went perfectly normally through rotation
and until the mains came off the runway. Suddenly, the canopy slammed open against the
safety catch. The noise level immediately went up from wind and engine noises. 1, also
immediately, thought of all the stories I'd read about control problems with the canopy
open. I reached to grab the canopy with my left hand and my right hand subconsciously
followed, driving the nose gear smartly back into the runway. I reacted almost as quickly,
raising the nose again but, alas, the nose wheel was no longer there. What a strange
looking thing that nose gear strut is in the bare state when you look at it through
the little plexiglass window.
Naturally, the nose wheel assembly had found the prop, so now I also had a lopsided prop to add to my problems. The nose wheel and fork assembly came through the whole affair quite nicely (and is still doing well with 200-plus hours). The only damage was the four bolts having failed as described in CP51. I retracted the nose gear strut and landed with minimal skin damage in the nose area. LESSONS LEARNED: 1) fly the airplane! 2) the airplane would have flown quite nicely with the canopy open against the safety catch. 3) the airplane is distractingly noisy with the canopy partly open. 4) the canopy won't lift against the safety catch until just at take-off speed and altitude. 5) wooden props will keep going with quite a lot of damage. 6) FLY THE AIRPLANE, STUPID!"
We received this information third hand. We have not had
any contact with the Long-EZ pilot. Apparently, after a flight in his Long-EZ, a Norwegian
builder/pilot landed at an airport in Norway and requested fuel. As the attendant started
to fill one of his tanks, a static spark jumped and ignited the fumes around the fuel cap
a rea. Fortunately, a fire extinguisher was available and the fire was extinguished.
The above is all the information we have. We are endeavoring to find out more about this incident and we would appreciate any information anyone may have about this or any other similar incident.
This is the first time we have had a report of a fire while fueling an EZ. We have, of course, fueled many composite airplanes here at Mojave, literally hundreds of times, and we have never even seen a static spark. That is not to say it could not happen but of all the places it should happen, Mojave, with its extremely dry climate, would seem to be a likely candidate.
What can be done to prevent such an incident? If you built a ground strap into the tank connecting the fuel cap ring to the aircraft ground, and you grounded the aircraft during a refueling operation, this should not be able to occur. However, if your airplane was ever struck by lightning, the ground strap would conduct the charge. It would become red hot and melt, which may cause an explosion/fire! Not a good alternative.
The most practical thing to do would be to always touch the fuel truck's ground cable to each fuel cap BEFORE you open these caps. This would discharge any static build-up on the aircraft skin/strake area. Another suggestion was made in EAA's Sport Aviation Magazine and that is to make up a length of brass bathroom chain with a small clip on one end. Clip it to the fuel nozzle and drop the chain into your fuel BEFORE Pumping fuel into the tank. The idea is to discharge any static that may build up due to the friction of the fuel running out of the nozzle into the tank. This would be in addition to the first suggestion.
We are not experts in this field at all. During fueling we, ourselves, have never taken any special precautions other than the normal grounding of the exhaust pipe (which my or may not do anything at all!) We have been fueling composite airplanes here at Mojave and, indeed, all over the United States for more than ten years without any evidence of a problem. We simply present the report of this incident as food for thought. if anyone has any suggestion as to what could be done to prevent such a thing, we would be pleased to hear from you