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.
1) An Illinois VariEze crashed on landing approach, fatally injuring the pilot/builder. The pilot had turned sharply from a low slow downwind and failed to upright the aircraft. Impact was 150 feet short of the end of runway. Weather conditions were low ceilings and strong gusty direct crosswinds of about 25 mph. The pilot was thrown forward through the instrument panel and clear of the fuselage. The seat belt (EON 8000 type 4) was found open. (see CP 24 page 4). This airplane had previously been damaged when landed short of a 5000 ft runway.
2) A VariEze crashed as it entered the downwind leg of the busy approach pattern at the Oshkosh EAA convention. The aircraft was observed to maneuver erratically then turn and dive at very high speed, with high power maintained to impact. Both occupants died immediately. The aircraft struck a concrete street in a near vertical (60 - 70 degrees) dive, at a low angle of attack. A pilot witness 200 feet away observed that it did not appear that the pilot was attempting to pull out of the dive. This points to a possibility of either a pitch control system disconnect or pilot incapacitation. All but two parts of the control system ware found - they did not indicate control system disconnect. The aircraft did not have a rear seat control stick. Thus, pilot incapacitation is the suspected cause.
Destruction of the aircraft was unbelievable, only small parts remained. The engine struck the concrete road at the same point that the nose did. The bow shape of the main gear strut was clearly imprinted on the concrete at the impact point. Initial investigation at the scene of this accident suspected fuel starvation because there was no evidence of fuel and there was no fire. It was determined that the tremendous force of the estimated 200 mph impact resulted in a fuel and oil explosion, however there was no resulting fire. There have been no fires associated with any VariEze accident.
3) A Washington state VariEze crashed on approach while making a series of touch and go circuits. It was observed on a high final when the pilot initiated a sideslip. The airplane then rolled inverted and the pilot attempted to pull out in a reversing direction. Insufficient altitude was available for the pullout. The aircraft struck the ground in a near level attitude removing the landing gear and the bottom of the fuselage. The pilots injuries were fatal. The departure that rolled this aircraft over appears to be the winglet stall discussed in CP # 22 page 7 and 8. While the pilot appears to have disregarded the operational limitations recommended, this still should not have resulted in a departure. We intend to inspect the winglet contours of this aircraft to determine if any variances may have changed its susceptibility to winglet stall.
To prevent possible recurrence of this type of accident we urge all VariEze operators (does not apply to Long-EZ or VariViggen) to again review the information on page 7 end 8 of CP 22. Check your rudder rigging, wing cuffs, and winglet contours. In addition, to determine the actual departure susceptibility of your particular aircraft, conduct the following test at an altitude of 10,000 feet: full rudder sideslip, abruptly applied left and right at speeds of 100 kt. 90 kts, 80 kts, 70 kts, and full-aft stick. Your airplane should yaw, under control, with no tendency to stall or roll off. If your airplane has any undesirable characteristics report these to RAF so we can analyze the causes and the extent of any variations.
4) A VariEze pilot ran out of gas on an extended trip. He selected the fuselage tank, restarted the engine and continued, overflying one airport, attempting to stretch his range to another. Total fuel depletion occurred several miles short of his destination. His forced landing was downwind in a turn. The airplane was damaged extensively and ended upside down. There were no injuries.
5) A Nebraska VariEze equipped with the original 2-ply tires, was making a gross weight takeoff. The pilot began rotation at 85 to 90 mph, (above the normal lift off speed of 75 mph), when the right tire blew. He aborted the takeoff, using left brake all the way to stop to maintain directional control. He reported it was not hard to control even though the right brake bleed failed and the right wheel pant and brake rotor was destroyed. His gear strut was the original configuration, not reinforced. He placed the right wheel up on a dolly tilting the aircraft with most of the weight on the left wheel, then pushed it half mile to a hangar. On arriving, the left gear strut buckled a few Inches above the axle, inside the tightly-sealed, non-vented wheel pant. The cause of the strut failure was heat. The long, continuous high speed braking resulted in a -very hot brake. This heat, sealed in by the wheel pant, slowly permeated the fiberglass strut allowing it to soften and buckle under load.
Lessons learned: Do not use the two-ply tires. Ventilate the top of your wheel pants. If unusually heavy braking is done, set the gear to relieve load or jack the airplane to relieve stress while the strut cools. Glue a piece of your fiberfrax firewall insulation material to the strut (use silicone rubber adhesive) adjacent to the brake disc. Your VariEze and Long-EZ should lift off and land at under 65 kts and 60 kt respectively, unless you have an airspeed instrument error or airspeed position error. Leaving the airplane on the ground above this speed increases tire stresses and reduces tire life.