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ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS
From CP76, Page 5, (July, 1993)

     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.
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     A California Long-EZ struck a pine tree on short final. The airplane pitched down and crashed. The pilot was killed and the passenger was seriously injured. It was late in the evening and the runway lights were on. The pilot had not flown this airplane at night although he had night experience in certified aircraft.
     The NTSB has not yet completed their investigation, but we feel compelled to point out that a night approach over trees to a fairly short runway (3600 ft.) can be very tricky. The "black hole" effect on short final can be very deceptive with little or no visual cues as to altitude. Practice night landings (if you must fly at night!) at airports with clear approaches and long, well lighted runways. Always aim to touchdown about 1/3 of the way down the runway. Do not try to hit the numbers at night.
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     A VariEze crashed on departure from the Kansas City GIG on June 13, 1993. Since there were a lot of EZ builders and flyers on the field at the time, a rather extensive investigation was conducted on the spot, not only by FAA/NTSB personnel, but also by several EAA members, all of whom are very familiar with EZs. Tragically, two people died in this accident.
     By all accounts, the airplane was refueled some time prior to take-off. The fuel caps on this particular VariEze were not the plans recommended Brock-type fuel caps. They were the "Thermos" expanding 'O' ring-type. This type of fuel cap requires regular lubrication of the 'O' rings at 25 hour intervals. If this is not done, the 'O' rings will crush and crack and, even though you may have the locking tab down and "locked", the cap in fact will not be locked!
     Shortly after take-off, the engine was heard to surge and loose power. The airplane began a 450 bank turn to the left. After completing 900 of the left turn, the nose began to drop and the aircraft impacted in a ploughed field, 300 nose low in a 450 left bank.
     The investigators located all airframe parts except for the tip of one blade of the prop and the right fuel cap. The next day, parts of the fuel cap and pieces of the wood prop blade were found near the center line of the runway on the airport. This verified the theory postulated by the investigators that a fuel cap had come off and gone into the prop disc, breaking the prop. The resulting heavy vibration probably caused the pilot to pull the power back. For some reason, he elected to try to turn back to the runway. With little or no thrust, a heavy airplane in a steep bank (which causes high inducted drag) simply got too slow to fly and descended to the ground at a high sink rate.
     It is too late for the couple in this VariEze but it is not too late for all of us who fly to learn from this tragedy. If you are flying a RAF design and have not complied with the CP advisories recommending you chain your fuel caps to the filler neck - do not fly again until you have corrected this omission. If the fuel cap on this VariEze had a chain to retain it, this accident would not have occurred Please check your back issues of the CP for more information about chaining the fuel caps to the filler neck. See CP28, pg. 7&9; CP 31, pg. 5; and CP50, pg. 5&7.
     Another lesson we should all learn from this accident is the problem of trying to make a 1800 turn back to the runway while low and slow. A landing straight ahead into the wind (which was 15-20 knots that day) even if near the end of the runway, is much more likely to be survivable than a landing with a 15-20 knot tailwind. Think about it. Assume 100 knots airspeed. With 20 knots of headwind, your ground speed would be 80 knots. Downwind, it would be 120 knots! The kinetic energy in a downwind landing, in this case, is 2.25 times as high as it would be in a upwind landing. This could turn a survivable 15 "G" impact into an unlikely-to-survive 34 "G" impact! This assumes that you have not caused a higher sink rate due to the extra drag in the steep turn!
     Please read this accident report and never forget the lessons learned. It is much, much better to land long, into the wind, and roll off the end of a runway at slow speed, even if you have to negotiate obstacles, than to land off field, downwind, at high speed.
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     A California Long-EZ experienced an engine failure while flying level at approximately 10,000 feet. The ensuing emergency, off-field landing, attempted on a California "dry" lake that was not all that dry, resulted in the nose gear collapsing, the nose digging in, and the aircraft flipping over onto its back. The pilot suffered only minor injuries but the aircraft was badly damaged.
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     An Indiana VariEze departed after refueling. The control tower operator noticed a fire on the wing trailing edge and notified the pilot, suggesting an immediate return for landing. The pilot put the airplane into a high speed dive while returning to the airport to land - and succeeded in putting out the fire. The left aileron, wing trailing edge and engine cowling were slightly damaged by the fire. The fire was caused by the fuel cap being left off during refueling and fuel syphoning out of the fuel tank onto the hot exhaust system.
     There were no physical injuries to the pilot, only his pride was hurt. The airplane required considerable repair before it could be flown again.
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     A California Long-EZ descended into the ocean at cruise speed without any apparent effort to slow down or flare for a minimum speed touch down. The pilot, the sole occupant, was killed. It is uncertain at this time what caused this tragic accident.
     Remember, if a water landing is imminent, put down the nose gear and the landing brake. Touch down under control, wings level, at minimum flying speed. Do not attempt to "stall" it in or to touch down on water at high speed. At least one VariEze has conducted a safe, successful water landing with no injuries and only minor damage to wheelpants and lower cowling.
     We will report further on this accident as more information becomes available to us.
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Editor's note: In the last 2 newsletters, we did not reported a single accident or incident. Now, in this newsletter, we are reporting five! I know it is summer and the good flying weather is upon us but, please, don't lower your guard. Conduct thorough preflights, check the weather, and fly carefully. Almost all of the above accidents and incidents would not have happened if it were not for a few moments of carelessness - don't let it happen to you!