The CP newsletter reports accidents and incidents and discusses their conditions and causes for information purposes for all operators. We have always investigated accidents in the interest of determining information that we can disseminate to you to prevent recurrence. It should be recognized in our discussion of accident conditions or causes that generally this information is preliminary since it is published before the availability of the FAA accident report.
A French VariEze was ditched off the coast of France when the engine quit while on short final to the Montpellier airport. Fortunately, neither the pilot nor the passenger were injured and, amazingly, the aircraft suffered relatively minor damage. This is the first known ditching of an EZ so we at RAF were most interested to read the report submitted to us by the pilot. We reprint the relevant information contained in his letter with the pilots permission and for the education of those readers who may fly this type of aircraft over water. Pilot took off using the fuselage reserve fuel tank. Failed to notice the fuel valve position due to epoxy covered sleeve of coveralls. (VariEze fuel valve handle protrudes vertically into forearm when set to emergency reserve fuel tank). After 35 minutes of flight over beaches, the engine starved of fuel when the reserve tank ran dry. Pilot attempted to glide to runway, could not make it, so elected to land in the water due to bushes on approach end of runway.
Pilot executed a normal landing on the surface of the water. He did extend the nose gear (but did not say if he extended the landing brake - RAF recommends both.) He touched down on the main gear at near minimum flying speed. The main gear instantly folded aft as the wheels penetrated the surface of the water. (This VariEze was equipped with a Long-EZ main gear strut and mounted similarly to a Long-EZ main gear mount). The nose gear did not collapse, but rather acted as a water "ski", preventing the nose from diving into the water. All of this happened very quickly according to the pilot, and although the stop was abrupt (he estimated less than 100 feet from point of touchdown 'til stopped), it was also gentle enough that he and his passenger did not even suffer any bruising from the seat belt/shoulder harnesses! The fuselage filled rapidly with water and the pilot and passenger evacuated the aircraft after opening the canopy.
The VariEze floated high enough in the water that the magnetos were above the water line and the instrument panel did not get submerged. The aircraft was pushed to the beach, the nose wheel was retracted and it was lifted up onto the beach with minimal damage. The lower cowl was extensively damaged. The upper cowl, less so. Both ailerons were damaged and, of course, the main gear was tom completely out of the fuselage. The small plastic window used to check nosegear-down, was blown out by water pressure in the nose wheelwell. The ailerons have been rebuilt, both cowlings were replaced. The same main gear strut has been reinstalled and the aircraft is once again in flying condition. So, bow could this have happened? In the pilot's own words: he was in too much of a hurry. He had not expected to go flying, he was wearing his epoxy-covered shop coveralls and did not take the time to change.
He raced through his checklist and missed a few important items. He did not climb to the standard pattern altitude, and flew relatively low over the beach. He recommends always taking enough time to do all the things that must be done to accomplish a safe flight. If, in spite of all your best efforts, something goes wrong, keep you head, think about what you are doing, fly the airplane and control it all the way to touchdown, maintaining flying speed withoutfail. After his experience, he believes the VariEze to be an excellent choice for long, overwater flights! He says that if something goes wrong, simply land in the water, stay with the plane, it will provide you with protection and flotation while you wait to be rescued! We certainly appreciate this pilot's candor, and we take our hat off to him for keeping his cool and making a safe landing into the water.
A Long-EZ crash-landed in New Mexico when the pilot suffered a stroke while flying and attempted an emergency landing. The aircraft was considerably damaged, but the pilot sustained no serious injuries. Sadly, less than 3 weeks later, the pilot died after radiation therapy for several malignant tumors.
A VariEze crashed in Kentucky fatally injuring the pilot. The aircraft impacted the tops of trees at high power and finnally struck a large tree trunk. The airplane burned and was totally destroyed. The pilot took off in adverse weather conditions and, at the time of the crash, a nearby airport reported near zero visibility. The pilot was instrument rated, had thousand of hours in his logbook and over 200 hours in type. Although it is difficult to understand how such an accident could happen, unfortunately, this is one of the most common general aviation type accidents. Weather can get you no matter how experienced you may be. If you have doubts about the weather, stay on the ground and try again when the weather gets better.
A Long-EZ crashed in Pennsylvania and the only person aboard was killed. The NTSB has not yet come out with a finding on this accident. All we have is a letter from the builder and a newspaper clipping. We talked with the FAA who assured us that they had found no evidence of an airframe problem and that, for some reason, the pilot was flying low down a river valley and struck an unmarked cable. The aircraft crashed into the river. What we do not know is whether the pilot was deliberately flying low or, perhaps, had a problem and was attempting an emergency landing. The cable has since been repaired and has had three red balls installed on it.