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ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS
From CP59, Page 8, April, 1989

     A Washington Long-EZ was circling low level over a sparsely inhabited area when the pilot felt/heard a creaking sound and immediately smelled gasoline. There was obviously a major gasoline leak as he picked out a relatively smooth area and executed an emergency landing. The pilot got out and on his way out thought he saw a hole in the fuel gauge area but right then the fuel caught fire and, unfortunately, the entire aircraft was consumed. The pilot was not injured but the cause of the fuel leak/fire is unknown. There is a highly speculative theory that the aircraft was hit by a bullet! This pilot was a Vietnam war helicopter pilot and highly experienced in such events and is sure that is what he felt/heard just before he smelled the gasoline.
     Not much we can learn here except, perhaps, to refrain from flying low over what could be someone's property - someone who may not want your flying over them and may take action against you. Keep in mind, this is speculative theory, not proven, but a strong possibility. An experienced pilot, well known to RAF and respected by all who know him as a man of integrity.
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     A Los Angeles Long-EZ pilot/builder installed a breather system from his engine to one of his exhaust headers, similar to the system developed, tested and sold by Wes Gardner and similar to one Mike and Sally have had on their Long-EZ for over 5 years now (with excellent results). The only difference was the fact that an anti-backfire valve (one directional check valve) that Wes calls out and that MIke and Sally have installed, was omitted. On top of that, this aircraft was known to have one cylinder pumping oil (turned out to be a seized piston ring). Oil consumption was very high and this pilot had filled it with 8 quarts prior to taxiing out for take off. Just prior to taking off, the tower informed the pilot that smoke was coming from the engine. His rear seat passenger looked back and saw flames coming from the cowlnear the wing root. The tower dispatched a fire truck and the fire was quickly extinguished.
     The Long-EZ was seriously damaged, all engine compartment wiring was burned and the foam was melted out of the wing root. It will take several months of hard work to fix.
     What caused this fire? Well, this pilot and Mike, at RAF, don't fully agree. The builder feels that the breather tube welded into the exhaust header cracked, allowing oil onto the outside of the hot exhaust, which caught fire. Mike believes, based on his own experience, that without the anti-backfire valve, the hot exhaust gases went into the breather line, melting or burning it off. Since the engine was burning excessive amounts of oil, this line probably had oil in it and when the rubber hose caught fire, it also ignited the oil which then turned into a hot fire causing lots of damage including melting the rudder cable pulley and bracket. Mike speaks from experience! When he first installed his breather system, he also tried it without the check valve, or an anti-backfire valve. He was lucky, he ran it on the ground and, when the hose melted through, he saw it before any more damage could occur. There was no fire in his case, probably because his engine was not using much oil, but the hose from the crankcase to the tube welded into the exhaust was melted/burned beyond recognition in a matter of minutes!
     If you are planning on installing a breather system such as Wes Gardner's, be absolutely certain you do it right! He has lots of experience with this, so contact him, better yet, buy his kit and install it exactly per his instructions, and you will have an excellent breather system that does not throw oil all over your cowling.