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ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS
From CP64, Page 3 (July, 1990)
How do you know what you are getting when you buy a complete,
or even a partially complete, composite aircraft?
RAF gets this question more often than we care to relate. It's a tough question and we honestly don't know the answer. Perhaps the most logical approach would be to look at one with plenty of hours on it. At least, the structure is proven.
The other thing to look at is the structural weight. Beware of an unusually lightweight EZ (might have some lay-ups missing, also, watch out for an excessively heavy airplane. It will probably fail at a lower "G" than a normal weight EZ).
We recently heard of a nasty accident in a Vari Eze that really drives home the point we are trying to make here.
The buyer purchased a structurally complete VariEze. Most of the contouring was done but not the engine installation or the wiring/instrumentation. This person spent a couple of years of hard work and lots of dollars until he was finally ready to try out his new bird. On the first high speed taxi run, with the nose wheel off the ground, he started to get it light on the main tires when suddenly the left wing folded. The right wing was lifting quite strongly and, without the left wing to balance the lift, the airplane abruptly rolled over and left the runway. It slid to a stop inverted, and although the damage to the airplane was fairly minimal, the pilot was seriously injured and spent several months in the hospital recovering.
Close examination of the wing attach area disclosed the fact that the wing fitting attach screws had never been installed! Since the micro used to contour the wings was already installed, the buyer had no way of knowing. This is just one way you could get in trouble when you buy a composite homebuilt. RAF has always been a strong advocate for build-it-yourself. If you want an airplane, build it yourself. Follow the plans as closely as you can. Have your friends or fellow EAA chapter members look at it over your shoulder as often as possible. Be conscientious and accept only your very best workmanship.
There are currently somewhere between 1200 and 2000 Rutan designs flying. By far, the majority fly well and safely because their builders took care to build their creations as perfectly as they were capable of doing. By all means, build it yourself, but if you decide to buy one, keep this true story in mind, you cannot be too careful.
A Long-EZ based in Oregon crashed on take-off and the pilot was fatally injured. The cause is not known at this time but, as always, RAF publishes all accident reports we know of in the hope that these reports and analyses may help others to avoid the same problems.
The Oregon EZ bad been flying for just over a year. It was reported to be a "work of art", a potential show winner. The pilot was in the habit of flying locally at least once or twice a week so he was very current. He was known for his steep climb-outs after take-off, so it was no surprise to the eye witnesses on the day of the accident when he climbed very steeply. However, at about 300 feet above the ground, the engine quit and the Long-EZ nosed over and crashed. There was no attempt to flare or land, it simply flew a parabolic arc and crashed nose first. The forward fuselage was heavily damaged but the wings, fuel tanks and center section were essentially undamaged.
We may never know exactly what happened here, but the lesson that comes to mind is, as always, "Fly The Airplane". If you are still physically able to, you must maintain flying speed and you must contact the ground wings level, nose high at, or slightly above, minimum flying speed. Try to aim between any obstacles to minimize damage to the fuselage/cockpit area. You have an excellent chance of surviving any landing if the aircraft is under control when it touches down. Above all, never give up! Continue to fly the airplane right to the ground and then brake as required to guide the plane to a stop.