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Last flight of N220EZ and Roll over structure crash test.
On Sept 5, 2005 at about 4:00 PM I lined up on Runway 26 to depart on a normal test flight. I added a Com. Antenna, the gear leg antenna worked but not well enough. I was also having transponder issues that I found linked to a bad connection. I think I corrected it. I also changed my bottom set of spark plugs and harness to automotive plugs like the ones I was running for 40 hours on the top. They seemed to foul less with the new engine.
I was cleared for take off as requested for a closed left pattern for 30 with option. I took off. Eze 220EZ really liked the new plugs and with the 9 to 1 pistons she really scoots. I was at pattern altitude and called my down wind for a low pass and was granted the request. The tower guys know me pretty well because I have been testing this and other aircraft and they know this is going to be a fast one so at 182 kts. Nose down; I did my thing.
Climbing out, I contacted the tower and requested a south departure. Leveling off at 2500 ft the Tower voiced their approval by saying, ďLooking good EZ 220EZĒ. Five miles out, I was pulling back on the power. The engine instruments were in the green. I started to adjust the mixture. Just then, tower called and said I was leaving the TRSA and resume VFR. At that time the engine began to run rough. I richened the mixture and it got worse. I radioed the tower and said I had a rough engine and was returning to the field. I was at 2300 ft and 5 miles out.
I realized I was probably not going to make the field. We EZE owners know what the survival rate is in these wonderful machines. With that sinking feeling in mind, I pressed on. I continued doing my checks. I tried everything carburetor heat, pumped the throttle, tried the mixture. I thought maybe the spring broke and she just wasnít making RPM.
The RPM was just above idle and I was loosing altitude. Looking around yeah there are some good fields but maybe I can make this oh the engine comes to life a bit then dies off again. The freeway is not an option to many cars. I didnít want to endanger others. I advised the tower that I did have an emergency they cleared me for any runway and advise the other aircraft to hold until I landed. The other aircraft was a Cessna and he reported me in sight and my direction of flight and said he would stick with me. I was still trying to nurse every bit of altitude I could out of the plane I could see runway 8 straight ahead but just over the hill.
I knew there was no place to even think about landing from that hill on and I wasnít going to make the hill. I radioed the tower I was going to land in the field 2 miles south of runway 8. This was the only patch of green left. I was at 1000 ft and could see that this wasnít going to be good. There were barbed wire fences every 300 feet sectioning off the pasture and it was hilly and rocks and trees and this really sucks. The only control I had was to fly the plane. I lowered my nose gear then shut the fuel and master off. There was no straight in approach I just circled her in dropping as much airspeed as possible. I was desperately looking for any reasonable place to land. I was beginning to loose the flight controls the nose was high and the terrain was really bad. I said aloud or to my self this is not good David you are going to die. I was full aft stick and 220EZ hit on the mains, caught the wingtip pitched me into the nose causing the nose wheel to collapse and the nose to break. It pitched me over on my back and sliding backwards and to the side with the wing still attached.
I was not optimistic at this point. The next thing I was sliding upside down dirt so close to my face but I was alive. God just keep away from the dirt. I shrunk upside down into the cockpit to protect my head and neck. Generally speaking the fatal blow in these crashes is from a broken neck.
Then it stopped, gas was all over. I was alive there wasnít any pain. I was under the plane. It was upside down. I pulled my safety harness and tried to push, lift or move the plane. The canopy was gone. I couldnít lift the plane. I was afraid of fire. I had to get out. My feet were tangled up. I kicked my shoes off and could move my feet. There was about six inches of daylight under the longeron I just squirmed my way out cutting my hands on the shards of Plexiglas from the demolished canopy. I was out free and clear, no shoes. I quickly took a survey of body parts they were all there. I didnít have any bad pain my hands were cut and I had blood dripping from my face.
I pulled my shoes from the wreckage and the plane didnít seem like there was a fire issue. So, I got my head set and turned the radio on and could hear the plane above me talking to the tower. I waited till the frequency cleared and I radioed to the plane that I was ok. They confirmed my transmission. People started to arriving cell phone, cameras, police, EMT's, and the FAA. I was pumped full of adrineline and not able to sit down in a state of shock. As a barrage of questions were being asked of me.
The rest isnít too important. The FAA has a job to do for the most part, I am alive and I owe it to my roll over structure. It is the first crash test proven structure that I know of. Although it deformed in the upside down impact and skid it did not break off or separate from the longerons and kept the plane off of my head and neck.
I must admit I built it more for its looks and practical reasons. With it I was able to look at my fuel gauges and it made a dandy place to hang my head set. I know I would be dead now if I didnít have it in the plane. As far as not breaking my legs off which I thought would happen for sure it was all luck. The plane broke up on impact as it should have the composite structure absorbing all those forces the fire issue was minimal because it is a composite and the plane absorbed a lot of energy. From the first point of impact the mains touching down to the final resting spot was only 250 ft if that. One wing broke off beyond the main spar cap the other wing stayed on the plane but kept it from flipping again and the canard ripped off taking most of the f22 bulkhead with it. The canopy was demolished and because I was sliding upside down and sideways and backwards the shards of plexi-glass were going way form my face. I was extremely lucky.
I built this plane for my brother Mark in Seattle. He has been waiting two years for it. He was the first person I called. He is a cancer survivor this year and telling him I destroyed his plane was hard. He was more concerned about me. If anyone knows of a Vari EZ airframe let me know.
I just heard a preliminary report from the investigators they found dirt and mud in my fuel screens in the fuel strakes in both tanks they were caked over the screens restricting fuel. It would appear that the plane was kept in a secured field for a number of days, not my home field. Someone put dirt in the tanks. The plane is not equipped with locking gas caps. It appears that the plane was sabotaged. The FAA found cups of gasoline soaked mud restricting the filters in both main tanks. I have not heard if there will be a criminal investigation into this matter. The information is all very new.
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