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ACCIDENT AND INCIDENTSFrom CP55, Page 7 (April, 1988)
We have had an indirect
report of a Texas VariEze that crashed in Arkansas. One witness reported watching the
VariEze take off and disappear immediately into the ..muck" - apparently the
"muck" (bad weather) snared this VariEze a little later on near Little Rock.
This is a particularly tragic accident because it was easily
avoidable. Flying into bad weather in a marginally equipped sport plane like an EZ is a
hazardous business. Our fun-to-fly EZ's were never intended to be all-weather capable. Too
many EZ pilots seem to think that these planes make us into supermen or women. Far too
many EZ pilots are trying to do things in their EZ's they would never have considered
doing in their Cessna 150 or Piper Tomahawks. We are only fooling ourselves. If we
continue to push our luck like this, we will end up paying the ultimate price and it
simply is not worth it.
Used properly, an EZ can be a delightful, economical, high-speed
transportation machine - a machine you and yours ca ri get years of enjoyment out
of. Used carelessly, an EZ can get you into so much trouble you may be incapable of
getting out of it in one piece. Use discretion, good judgement and enjoy.
WEIGHT AND BALANCE
We recently heard of a serious deep stall accident in a
homebuilt plane (not a RAF design) in which the builder pilot had not conducted a weight
and balance! To quote Burt in CP12, April 1977 - "Now hear this, all of you
homebuilders, an inadequate or inaccurate Weight and balance could kill you ! The
final weight and balance you do on your plane before flight testing begins is just as
important as installing the wing attachment bolt! DO NOT NEGLECT THIS CRITICAL FLIGHT
A Pennsylvania Long-EZ builder/flyer was fatally injured
when his newly completed airplane crashed short of the runway on his second flight.
Apparently, the first flight was picture perfect, a flight that
lasted about forty minutes. The second flight lasted about the same length of time. His
engine was heard to be cutting in and out, on his second approach to land. He started a
climbing left turn in an apparent effort to return and land. The airplane spiraled down
from about 100 feet and crashed.
The right fuel tank was intact and contained approximately 8
gallons. The left tank was crushed, but the 1:20 minutes of flight would probably have
used about 8 gallons of fuel. The airplane had 8 gallons on each side when it first took
off. The pilot's shoulder harness was tight for take-off yet was found to be loose after
the accident, so he may have been trying to reach the fuel valve which was reportedly
difficult to turn.
An accident like this is very sad. We have repeatedly given the
advice "FLY THE AIRPLANE",' and this accident brings it home
very7orcefully. No matter what happens, if you run out of fuel on one tank or you have to
shut it down for one reason or another, "FLY THE AIRPLANE". This must be your
first priority. It cannot fly itself, you must maintain control, you must maintain
airspeed. Then, and only then, switch tanks or do whatever else you may have to do, all
the while maintaining control of the airplane.
Check your fuel valves for ease of operation. If yours is stiff,
dismantle it, lap it in with jewellers rouge or a metal polish such as Brasso, using an
electric drill. Clean it thoroughly and lubricate it with a suitable grease such as fuel
lube, etc. Even if you have to do this once every 6 months or a year, do it do not let
your fuel valve get so tight that it becomes difficult to switch tanks.
While we are on the subject of fuel valves, be certain that you
know where your valve handle should point when it is on the left and when it is on the
right tank. Check carefully that the valve is in the detent and that this is, indeed, the
tank you had selected. Clearly mark the position the handle is in when it is switched to
the RIGHT, to the LEFT, as well as to the OFF position. It may be possible to select a
mid-position between both tanks. This would not be good since, if one tank was empty, the
fuel pump would pump air from the empty tank causing the engine to quit. Know your fuel
system. Maintain your fuel vaIve regularly. Calibrate your fuel sight gauges so that you
know exactly how much fuel you have on board. If, in spite of all of your care and
diligence, something goes wrong, FLY THE AIRPLANE, try to correct the problem, pick a
landing site, and execute a normal landing. Don't try anything fancy. A normal landing,
maintaining flying speed and control to touchdown is always your best bet.
A Southern California Long-EZ was involved in a forced
landing resulting in considerable damage to the plane although the pilot suffered only
minor cuts and bruises. The cause of this accident was the use of a molded plastic prop
that came apart a few minutes after take-off. This resulted in a forced landing where
there was no airport.
This is silly, People. Long-Ezs and VariEzes are not good
airplanes to test newfangled props or engines. With a stall speed close to 60 knots, your
chances of making a successful forced landing when (NOT IF), when, the plastic prop breaks
or the engine-quits (because it will, make no mistake about it) are very, very low. If you
are into testing new plastic props or constant or variable speed props or auto engines,
please, please, do all homebuilders a favor, and do yourself a favor (you may even save
your life), use a Piper Cub or at least a factory built Cessna 150 or something with low
wing loading that gives the best chance of making a successful off-field landing when you
have your failures. At least, then this will not result in a blot on the record of
homebuilt accidents but rather, will go down against factory built airplane accidents or
All of us who build and fly homebuilts must have in mind at all
times that it is us, all of us as a group, who have the responsibility of policing our own
actions and making sure that we do not end up as ammunition for those who are against us
and who use every incident against us to shut us down and prevent us from flying and
enjoying our creations.
We are not against experimenting, on the contrary, that is the
business we are in and we encourage it. However, an experiment such as the above accident
was virtually guaranteed to end in failure from the beginning and it should not have been
conducted on an airplane as poorly suited for this type of experiment as a Long-EZ