A VariEze crashed soon after takeoff in Aspen, Colorado. The pilot and passenger were both killed. Engine failure is suspected. The damage to the prop is such that the engine was not running when it crashed. The FAA has not officially come up with a probable cause for this accident, but their investigation is looking seriously at fuel exhaustion or, at least, a fuel stoppage as being the likely cause. This VariEze had been flown for at least 3-1/2 hours since the last time it was known to be refueled. Depending on the power setting and fuel tank capacity, this is very close to enough to have used a full tank of gas. At the last known refueling, this VariEze was refueled while parked nose down. Also, the pilot did not supervise the refueling, rather, the line boy was told to fill it up. First of all, it is not possible to completely fill the fuel tanks of an EZ while parked nose down.
If for some reason you require all the fuel you can get, top if off in the 3-point position. Second, we have had it happen to us, that a line boy failed to top off an EZ fuel tank when using a very high rate of fuel flow due to the baffles in the tank causing the tank to momentarily appear full. Some refueling trucks and pumps have more flow capacity than the baffles in the fuel tank can allow the fuel to drain to all comers of the fuel tank. Don't forget this fact if you absolutely need to have the maximum fuel for a long trip. Most important of all, remember it is the pilots responsibility to check how much fuel he or she has onboard, = the line boy's.
On a VariEze, built per plans, you have a 2 gallon-plus emergency reserve fuel tank in the area above the centersection spar forward of the firewall. Don't forget to check the level in this tank and to fill it if necessary. This is a get-you-home fuel supply, but it will do you no good at all if it has been used or has drained through a leaky fuel valve into the main fuel tanks. Keep this tank full, always - it could save your bacon. We have just received a telephone report of an engine compartment fire in a Long-EZ just after it landed. The fire was apparently caused by a Sport Flight exhaust system failure. Although exact details are not known at this time, the exhaust header broke for some reason and allowed a hot jet of exhaust gas to impinge on the cowling which caught fire. Fortunately, this occurred on the ground and a good quality Halon gas fire extinguisher was available to put out the fire - damage was confined mainly to the cowling.
An exhaust system failure in any aircraft is cause for serious concern. Theoretically, if the pipe breaks off in flight it should not cause an immediate fire due to the high speed air being forced through the cowling and "drowning" the fire. However, as you slow down, like on a landing roll, this feature gets to be less and less of a factor and a fire can result. If you hear a sudden, much louder than normal engine noise, assume you have a problem and that it could be a broken exhaust. Head for the nearest airport but keep your speed up. Land as soon as practical and consider killing the engine as soon as you touch down. The EZ flyer who called in this report promised us a detailed report on what happened once he has had a chance to really look into it. We will report it to you in a future CP.
A Louisiana Long-EZ crash-landed on its first flight. The pilot was not injured. Although we have very sketchy data on this incident, as is our policy, we are publishing all we do know as we do on all accidents and incidents we hear of. Apparently the pilot got behind the airplane on final, got too slow and developed a high rate of sink. The airplane hit hard failing the gear, slid along leaving the runway and flipping over. The winglets were broken, one wing was ripped off and the canopy was smashed. The head rest broke off, but incredibly, when the airplane was lifted, the pilot had only minor cuts and bruises.
As with all accidents and incidents reported in the CP, the reason we print them is to hopefully help someone else and maybe prevent a similar situation by being forewarned. There is no intention of judging a pilot or his or her actions. What can we learn from the above accident? Although our own records do not show it, the FAA says that a high percentage of accidents in, homebuilts occur on the first flight. This is one that did. There is no question that the sight picture out of the front seat of an EZ on final, is not like anything the average low time private pilot may have seen. It is unlikely that he has ever sat on the aircraft centerline before. The EZ must be set up to land a little differently than the "standard" Cessna, Piper, etc. In fact, it is much closer to a modern jet fighter in some respects.
There is no prop in front of the pilot, the airplane does not pitch nose down as a Cessna or other single engine certified airplanes do when flaps a lowered, and it does not have to be rounded out or flared when close to the ground as a Cessna does. Rather, the landing attitude is set on 1/2 mile final by simply slowing to 80 or 90 knots. The landing brake creates no lift, no pitching moment as flaps do, all it does is provide drag to steepen the glide slope a little. The nose high attitude necessary to land is strictly a function of airspeed. Slow to approach speed and the airplane will automatically set itself to the correct touchdown attitude. Now, simply fly it onto the runway. When you have 20 to 50 landings in your log book, you can finesse the touchdown with a tiny flare, but for the new EZ pilot, this is not necessary or desirable. Because of this "difference" in an EZ, whenever it is possible, always try to get at least a back seat ride in an EZ before you attempt your first flight, particularly if you don't have much flying experience. This can easily make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful first flight.
Just as you carefully, even meticulously, prepare your airplane for first flight, so must you prepare yourself if you are to be the pilot. Get yourself current and proficient in at least two different aircraft: A Gruman TR-2 and a Cessna 150 would be excellent, or a Champ or Luscombe and a Piper would be fine. The point is to be as sharp as you can be. Then find someone who will give you a ride in their EZ. A VariEze or a LongEZ, it does not matter. Get a little stick time, maybe even fly an approach, it will make an enormous difference if you have at least flown in an EZ. That is not to say they are difficult to fly - they are not, they are just a little different. Another thing to keep in mind is this - ANY aircraft will develop a high sink rate if you get it too slow, including canard types. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking you can pull the stick all the way back on short final and the airplane, because it is a canard, will look after you! A canard airplane is just like a conventional airplane, it must be at or above flying speed to fly. Get it too slow and a canard airplane will sink just as a Cessna or Piper will.