Accident - A southern California VariEze headed for Oshkosh flew into trees in a steep box canyon east of Salt Lake City airport resulting in two fatalities. The weather in the mountains east of Salt Lake was clobbered with low clouds. A pilot who departed Salt Lake City just before said that he would not have tried to go east, due to low ceilings and poor visibility. The pilot apparently selected the wrong canyon thinking it was the main pass that would lead him through the mountains.
Accident - The pilot and passenger of a California VariEze were fatally injured in northern California. According to the NTSB, the pilot was giving a friend a first ride, made a low altitude pass over the runway, started to climb and as the aircraft passed over the lake shore began a barrel roll to the right. The airplane only completed about 270 degrees of the roll when it struck the surface of the lake.
Accident - The pilot of a southern California Long-EZ was seriously injured and his passenger suffered a broken hip when the airplane crashed into a dry riverbed. The eyewitnesses to the accident reported that the airplane was doing aerobatics. It appeared to enter the beginning of a loop, did not have enough speed, fell out of the maneuver. The engine stopped. (negative "g" will cause a carbureted engine to suffer fuel starvation) the aircraft nosed over and spiraled down to about 100 feet, where its wings were leveled and it descended until it struck the ground. The aircraft hit a 20 degree embankment almost wings level and slid forward only about two feet. There was no fire, although the right fuel tank was ruptured.
Incident - A VariEze pilot from Colorado reports that his VariEze received extensive damage during an aborted take off. A thunderstorm was located at the upwind end of the runway, so a downwind take off was initiated. Unfortunately the runway sloped uphill in this direction. The pilot aborted at about 3/4 of the runway length, but was too late to stop on the wet runway. The aircraft ran off the end, crossed a ditch, went through a barbed wire fence and down a rocky embankment. The pilot was unhurt.
Incident - Dont allow yourself to be deluded into thinking that you cannot get into trouble in your VariEze or Long-EZ, These aircraft are tremendous confidence builders, but they are still aircraft and unless treated with respect, will bite. A VariEze pilot, trying to fly through a canyon near the Snake River, encountered such a severe down draft, that he only just managed to execute a 180 turn. He lost 2000 feet and recovered less than 300 feet from the ground. He had previously believed that no matter what, his VariEze would get him out of trouble. Dont push your luck. We recently checked what would happen to a Long-EZ with full aft stick, both rudders all the way out, nose gear extended and engine at hard idle. The airplane developed a sink rate that varied between 950 fpm and 1250 fpm. This was also tried with the prop stopped. You cannot expect to walk away from this kind of impact. 1250 fpm is 21 feet per second or 14.5 mph. You must get the nose down and build enough airspeed to have sufficient energy to arrest your descent with a flare.
Accident - A VariEze pilot from Northern California flying from Stockton to Florida, heard a different noise but before he could do anything, one exhaust stack (original style) cracked off and went through the prop removing about 17" of one blade. The vibration was so severe that it broke both mag wires and failed the mixture cable/spring assembly. He pulled the mixture and switched off both mags. When this did not work, he turned off the fuel valve and finally the engine stopped. He made an uneventful landing on a highway near Zuni, New Mexico. He found that the top engine mounts had failed and the engine was lying in the cowling. This pilot stayed very cool, flew the airplane and kept thinking all the way. Dont forget to fly the airplane.
The reason we report accidents and incidents such as these above, is in the hope that someone may benefit by the experiences related. Aerobatics can be fun, but they can also be very dangerous, especially at low altitude. RAF does not recommend aerobatics in either the VariEze or Long-EZ. Apart from the obvious reasons, airfoils, no inverted systems, etc. Both of these aircraft are extremely clean and will build up speed in a dive with frightening rapidity. A competent acrobatic pilot can do some of the positive g maneuvers, however it takes very careful speed control and anyone contemplating such a thing should take a course in aerobatics from a professional.
Because of the excellent flying qualities of the Long-EZ, it is a temptation to do more than that for which we are qualified. Do be aware of this, get the necessary training before going out in your VariEze or Long-EZ and train" yourself.