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Pilot Error? Is it Mr. Damron?

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Old June 20th 04, 01:48 AM
Badwater Bill
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Default Pilot Error? Is it Mr. Damron?

C.D. Damron writes:

For example, if I build a plane that is impossible to fly or a
helicopter that cannot be auto-rotated, it is still very possible that
an accident report could conclude that I was at fault for not avoiding
a stall or not successfully performing an auto-rotation. Why?
Because the FAA makes certain assumptions about experimental aircraft
that are not supported by any basis in reality.
__________________________________________________ _______

BWB writes:

Very astute Sir. Let me give you an example of pilot error.

On a test flight of an experimental RV-6 an ATP rated pilot lost all
oil due to the blowing of the front main seal. All the oil was
ejected out the front of the engine and the oil blew back to cover the
main windscreen in the front and the sides of the airplane. The pilot
and his one-pax were about 10 miles from the nearest airport as the
oil pressure went to zero. The PIC opted to land the airplane in a
flood control basin rather than motor along under partial power with
no oil to an airport surrounded by civilians and children at play.
The PIC felt the engine would probably seize and force an emergency
landing in a densely populated area if they were to try to make it to
the airport. The mixture was pulled and the fuel shut off.

Gliding to an open area in a flood control basin the PIC noted to
himself between the squawking radio calls from ATC demanding how many
souls and how many POUNDS of fuel were onboard that there were many
rocks in the basin, the temp was 112 degrees (July in the desert) and
the tanks were full. Frustrated by the radio calls, he called ATC and
told them to get the police helicopter out, plus EMT, then shut the
radio off, but continued to squawk 7700 for ATC to get their best fix
on him. The PIC kept the speed up and arrived over the target a good
thousand feet high. This required the PIC to S-turn to get down to
land. The altitude of the flood control basin was about 4000 msl
putting the DA at about 6000 or so. The RV-6 was at gross and
therefore required a good 100 mph indicated airspeed on final

The approach was good considering the S-turning that was required to
even see the landing area out the side windows through a sheath of
oil. Considering all factors, 100 mph wasn't enough airspeed for
these conditions because of the high DA the temp, the load and the
high angle of glide with absolutely no thrust from a dead engine.
During the round out, the airplane's right wing stalled (at about 90
mph). The right wing dropped and a rock bashed in the right aileron.
The airplane's main wheels were only about two feet off the ground
when this stall occurred so the landing was a success. The airplane
careened along over rocks and brush until it came to a rest with both
occupants unscathed. They threw open the canopy and walked away from
the airplane.

Later that day, some self serving FAA prick was dancing around the
scene and claiming pilot error for the tiny damage that occurred to
the airplane. It was good luck and maybe even some "miracle" that
things went as well as they did and both occupants walked away
unharmed. However, the FAA called the broken aileron the result of
pilot error. They felt that the 5000 hour pilot who had test flown 20
or so homebuilts, who was rated in all categories, (lighter than air,
rotorcraft, airplane) and had many hundreds of missions under his belt
in the government arena had made the mistake of using too slow a final
approach speed and had caused the stall to occur, resulting in the
minor damage to the aileron.

Dave Munday from RAH weighed in with his two cents citing the
incompetence of the pilot also. Even though Dave was 3000 miles away,
he evidently felt he had all the necessary information to evaluate the
incident in depth and self appointed himself to evalutate the
emergency. IIRC he indicated that pilot made many mistakes and
infered he was incompetent.

Later, the PIC was exonerated by a letter of commendation for doing
what he did. However, this may give you an idea of the mind-set of
the FAA or the NTSB in accident investigation. In this case the
builder had plumbed a Christen Eagle oil separator can incorrectly
and when the pilots rolled the airplane inverted, doing a barrel
roll, a shut off valve flopped and connected the lower engine breather
with the upper engine breather with no way for crankcase gasses to
vent to the atmosphere correctly. A new engine with blow-by before
the rings properly seat will immediately pressurize the case and cause
the front seal to blow. So the real problem was poor building. It
could have easily been poor design or millions of other mechanical

What happens can be due to poor design, or poor construction. No
matter what, the machine fails. Then the pilot is put into a
situation where all of his emergency skills come into play. These
times are hard times. You have to make calls instantly rather than
have the option to sort things out like you do when your engine is
running. It's like being on fire.

Take if from a commercial helicopter pilot, in a rotorcraft, the
times are short when things "tank" on you. You have a glide ratio of
about 4 to 1. You are coming down about like an anvil in free fall.
I fly a Jet Ranger most of the time now and I'll tell you, if that
turbine quits, I have about a third the time I do in an airplane to
sort things out and pick my spot. The experimentals I fly and the
P-210 all have a 10 to 1 glide ratio. That's all the difference in
the world.

Now back to the report: If you do anything wrong, the NTSB report is
"Pilot Error" if you are an experimental pilot flying a homebuilt and
garage assembled aircraft. It doesn't matter if you have a Chevy
engine powering the airplane, or a Rotax. The mismatch or poor design
has nothing to do with the final report. That report simply talks
about your skill to handle the emergency, and when you have a real
emergency, I don't care who you are, we are all on an equal playing
field. Allen Barklage had 32,000 hours in helicopters and he died
just as easily as Gil Armbruster died when that Rotax quit them. If
you read the accident report on Allen or Gil, you'll see the
pontificators of the government gauging and evaluating their piloting
skills when they (the government worms) weren't even there.

Pilot error...yeah right. I guess it's pilot error if I tie 10 helium
balloons to a lawn chair, take a ride. Then three pop on you and you
end up in a 600 ft/min sink rate until impacting on a rock. YOU
should have untied the chair and thrown it away to reduce YOUR load.

No matter who you are, from student pilot to astronaut, if and when
you get your ass into a jam in a flying machine, you'll be called upon
to do all that you can to bail it out. What we need is to avoid that
situation by good design, good testing and acceptable building
materials and practices. That is what I feel is lacking in some of
the homebuilts that I have seen throughout the years.

I feel this way esspecially about helicopters because of the nature of
the beast. Rotorway, or the Helicycle or the Mini's. They are all
complex machines and I feel they are all dangerous. I personally will
never fly an experimental helicopter again, in my life. Hell, my
gyrocopter scares me. I have unproven, uncertified stuff all over
that machine. I wonder about it everytime I fly it. Even it, is
probably a stretch when it comes to safety.



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