We have had an indirect report of a Texas VariEze that crashed in Arkansas. One witness reported watching the VariEze take off and disappear immediately into the ..muck" - apparently the "muck" (bad weather) snared this VariEze a little later on near Little Rock. This is a particularly tragic accident because it was easily avoidable. Flying into bad weather in a marginally equipped sport plane like an EZ is a hazardous business. Our fun-to-fly EZ's were never intended to be all-weather capable. Too many EZ pilots seem to think that these planes make us into supermen or women. Far too many EZ pilots are trying to do things in their EZ's they would never have considered doing in their Cessna 150 or Piper Tomahawks. We are only fooling ourselves. If we continue to push our luck like this, we will end up paying the ultimate price and it simply is not worth it. Used properly, an EZ can be a delightful, economical, high-speed transportation machine - a machine you and yours ca ri get years of enjoyment out of. Used carelessly, an EZ can get you into so much trouble you may be incapable of getting out of it in one piece. Use discretion, good judgement and enjoy.
WEIGHT AND BALANCE
We recently heard of a serious deep stall accident in a homebuilt plane (not a RAF design) in which the builder pilot had not conducted a weight and balance! To quote Burt in CP12, April 1977 - "Now hear this, all of you homebuilders, an inadequate or inaccurate Weight and balance could kill you ! The final weight and balance you do on your plane before flight testing begins is just as important as installing the wing attachment bolt! DO NOT NEGLECT THIS CRITICAL FLIGHT SAFETY ITEM.
A Pennsylvania Long-EZ builder/flyer was fatally injured when his newly completed airplane crashed short of the runway on his second flight. Apparently, the first flight was picture perfect, a flight that lasted about forty minutes. The second flight lasted about the same length of time. His engine was heard to be cutting in and out, on his second approach to land. He started a climbing left turn in an apparent effort to return and land. The airplane spiraled down from about 100 feet and crashed.
The right fuel tank was intact and contained approximately 8 gallons. The left tank was crushed, but the 1:20 minutes of flight would probably have used about 8 gallons of fuel. The airplane had 8 gallons on each side when it first took off. The pilot's shoulder harness was tight for take-off yet was found to be loose after the accident, so he may have been trying to reach the fuel valve which was reportedly difficult to turn.
An accident like this is very sad. We have repeatedly given the advice "FLY THE AIRPLANE",' and this accident brings it home very7orcefully. No matter what happens, if you run out of fuel on one tank or you have to shut it down for one reason or another, "FLY THE AIRPLANE". This must be your first priority. It cannot fly itself, you must maintain control, you must maintain airspeed. Then, and only then, switch tanks or do whatever else you may have to do, all the while maintaining control of the airplane.
Check your fuel valves for ease of operation. If yours is stiff, dismantle it, lap it in with jewellers rouge or a metal polish such as Brasso, using an electric drill. Clean it thoroughly and lubricate it with a suitable grease such as fuel lube, etc. Even if you have to do this once every 6 months or a year, do it do not let your fuel valve get so tight that it becomes difficult to switch tanks.
While we are on the subject of fuel valves, be certain that you know where your valve handle should point when it is on the left and when it is on the right tank. Check carefully that the valve is in the detent and that this is, indeed, the tank you had selected. Clearly mark the position the handle is in when it is switched to the RIGHT, to the LEFT, as well as to the OFF position. It may be possible to select a mid-position between both tanks. This would not be good since, if one tank was empty, the fuel pump would pump air from the empty tank causing the engine to quit. Know your fuel system. Maintain your fuel vaIve regularly. Calibrate your fuel sight gauges so that you know exactly how much fuel you have on board. If, in spite of all of your care and diligence, something goes wrong, FLY THE AIRPLANE, try to correct the problem, pick a landing site, and execute a normal landing. Don't try anything fancy. A normal landing, maintaining flying speed and control to touchdown is always your best bet.
A Southern California Long-EZ was involved in a forced landing resulting in considerable damage to the plane although the pilot suffered only minor cuts and bruises. The cause of this accident was the use of a molded plastic prop that came apart a few minutes after take-off. This resulted in a forced landing where there was no airport.
This is silly, People. Long-Ezs and VariEzes are not good airplanes to test newfangled props or engines. With a stall speed close to 60 knots, your chances of making a successful forced landing when (NOT IF), when, the plastic prop breaks or the engine-quits (because it will, make no mistake about it) are very, very low. If you are into testing new plastic props or constant or variable speed props or auto engines, please, please, do all homebuilders a favor, and do yourself a favor (you may even save your life), use a Piper Cub or at least a factory built Cessna 150 or something with low wing loading that gives the best chance of making a successful off-field landing when you have your failures. At least, then this will not result in a blot on the record of homebuilt accidents but rather, will go down against factory built airplane accidents or incident statistics.
All of us who build and fly homebuilts must have in mind at all times that it is us, all of us as a group, who have the responsibility of policing our own actions and making sure that we do not end up as ammunition for those who are against us and who use every incident against us to shut us down and prevent us from flying and enjoying our creations.
We are not against experimenting, on the contrary, that is the business we are in and we encourage it. However, an experiment such as the above accident was virtually guaranteed to end in failure from the beginning and it should not have been conducted on an airplane as poorly suited for this type of experiment as a Long-EZ