Birdstrike! Birdstrike!

January 1989

"On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my wife and I departed Inyokern airport (Mojave desert) for a casual Sunday morning flight in our Long-EZ. I climbed out to 5500 feet MSL (approx. 2500 feet AGL), leveled off and throttled back to approximately 150 mph TAS. I looked up just in time to see a bird about 50 feet above my flight path and several hundred feet ahead. I didn't have time to determine its direction of flight or which way I could turn to avoid it. I had probably less than 2 seconds between first sight and impact. Just before impact, the bird winged over and dove down, striking the canopy head on..... instant explosion/implosion?

The canopy was shattered and completely missing from my head forward. From my head back, the canopy stayed intact. The bird and/or plexiglass struck me, knocking my headset off and giving me a fat lip. The bird ended up in the back seat. My glasses were undisturbed. I immediately throttled back and nosed up slightly to reduce airspeed to keep the debris from flying around and anything else from ripping out. I was in control of the airplane at all times and slowly turned for the airport 8 miles away. I reached for my headset microphone, cupped my hand around it and declared an emergency. I was later able to put my headset on while my wife took stick. We proceeded to motor back to the airport at about 100 mph.

The direct wind in the face was no worse than riding a motorcycle at 80 mph. My glasses stayed put with no problem. The plane flew fine and a normal landing was made. The prop was totaled. There was a chunk missing from each blade (approximately I" x 1/2" x 1/2") and one blade had a split from the tip toward the center about 10" long. experienced no noticeable vibration on the flight back or in taxiing. The bird's head was missing and probably went through the prop. The leading edges of the prop were severely chewed up by the canopy fragments. The webfooted bird (Duck??) weighed in at 1-1/2 pounds. My wife was bloodstained but unhurt with a duck in her lap. My canopy was formed from 1/8" thick plexiglass. The manufacturer increased the thickness for Long-EZ canopies to 3/16" a few years ago. Prop and canopy: On order!

Gary Spencer"


Char and Gary Spencer's experience with a birdstrike that broke the canopy is the first reported EZ incident of its kind. Gary remained cool and FLEW THE AIRPLANE and with no further problems, made a safe landing at his home airport. Congratulations, Garyl We have had several reports of birdstrikes on the canopy, as well as other parts of the airframe, but none resulting in a broken canopy. Now we hear from a Texas Long-EZ builder/flyer who inadvertently took off without latching his canopy. His safety catch had been bent so it did not catch as it should have and the canopy opened rapidly, and with enough force to fail the "throw over' canopy stay bracket on the canopy frame.

This allowed the canopy to open beyond its normal position and smash into the right fuel strake, breaking the plexiglass canopy into small pieces. This occurred right after lift off and, to make matters worse, it was raining! Well, our intrepid pilot remembered to FLY THE AIRPLANE,. He ignored the canopy problem, slowed down to cut down some of the stinging effect of the rain and flew a normal pattern back to a safe landing on the same runway he had so recently departed from. Apart from the stinging raindrops, he suffered more form hurt pride than anything else.

His canopy frame was in perfect shape, all the plexiglass was gone, but incredibly, there was no damage to his prop! Presumably, the pieces departed toward the right winglet with enough velocity to completely miss the prop. He reports that the Long-EZ flew OK, he had no trouble maintaining control or in making a normal landing. Now he is faced with the unenviable job of replacing the plexiglass canopy. All of this goes to show that as long as you continue to think and continue to FLY THE AIRPLANE, you can fly away from even this kind of a serious emergency problem. Replacing the plexiglass is tedious, hard work but it can be done, and it's a lot easier than trying to repair a badly damaged airplane - or worse.

1) NEVER fly with your canopy warning system inoperative - NEVER EVER.

2) CHECK YOUR SAFETY CATCH FOR CORRECT FUNCTION BEFORE EVERY FLIGHT, it could save your canopy or even your life. - NEVER ET that there have been several @l accidents because the canopy opened on takeoff or in flight.

3) IF you are unfortunate enough to have an emergency situation such as an open canopy in flight, if you do nothing else, FLY THE AIRPLANE, then, and only when you have the airplane under reasonable control, you might consider what else you could do.

4) When pilots are faced with an emergency, frequently their first problem is realizing (or admitting) that it is an EMERGENCY. That is the first switch that must be thrown. After the pilot accepts that he or she has an emergency, and is FLYING THE AIRPLANE, and has reasonable control, obviously the flight may have become non-standard to some degree or other, depending on conditions, careful evaluation of the situation must then determine the extent of deviation from normal procedures.

You must get back on the ground as quickly and as safely as possible, but NEVER exceed your own capabilities. if necessary, declare an emergency, but get an immediate clearance for any runway (if at an airport). You may have to land downwind, or crosswind, whatever. Keep your cool, watch your speed and make as normal a landing as possible, depending on the circumstances.

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