A northern California VariEze crashed soon after take off. Several eye-witnesses observed the canopy open immediately after lift off. The pilot was observed to reach up to the canopy with both hands. The aircraft veered to the left and struck the ground 200 feet left of the runway centerline. The pilot did not survive. The NTSB investigator confirmed that there was no damage to the canopy latches and that they were in the unlocked position. They noted that there was no canopy safety catch. See CP #40, Page 4 for more information on canopy opening in flight.
The biggest point is FLY THE AIRPLANE. You can not possibly get back safely if you dont gather your thoughts and concentrate on flying the airplane. A Long-EZ was seriously damaged after the engine failed a few moments after take off in Minnesota. The pilot executed a 1800 turn and attempted to land on the runway he had just lifted off from. Unfortunately he misjudged his glide landing on the last 1/3 of the runway.
A 15 knot tailwind did not help and he rolled off the end, down a slope Into a ravine. The nose gear collapsed, the nose dug in and the airplane flipped. The pilot and passenger suffered only minor cuts and bruises. There was no fire and in fact neither of the fuel tanks was even damaged. An FAA/NTSB investigation failed to reveal any clue as to why the engine had quit. The aircraft had had a similar incident occur just a few days prior to this accident. That time the pilot managed to execute a safe landing. A careful examination of the engine, mags and carburetor revealed nothing.
The airplane was then successfully tested, and in fact had flown from southern California to Minnesota with no problem at all. We talked with the pilot this morning and while driving his damaged airplane home, he had plenty of time to try to think of all that had happened and why it had happened. He came up with a theory that certainly could have been the cause. This airplane had the mag switches (two toggle switches) mounted on the left side of the roll over structure. The switches were not covered or protected inside the roll over structure. Two spiral bound notebooks were stored in the roll over structure.
The pilots theory is that possibly one or both books moved against the terminals of the mag switches and possibly shorted the mags to ground. This would certainly cause the engine to quit. This will be investigated further, but it certainly is something to think about. If you have your mag switches installed in your rollover structure, insulate the back of the switches or install a cover over them to prevent anything from coming in contact with the bare terminals.