The POH is just like a buffet. You pick what you want to follow, right?
It’s the best present ever. Three days after Christmas, the time has come for the first flight of his homebuilt Long-EZ. He has waited a 63-year lifetime for this dream to come true. He knows the plane inside and out. He built it, after all. Uh oh. See “homebuilder’s syndrome” on page 40 of the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH).
Getting ready for the holidays and putting the finishing touches on his dream haven’t left much time or money for flying other planes. His 185 Total Flight Hours surely make up for only flying 2 hours in the past three months and the POH says there is no minimum number of flight hours required for check out in a new aircraft. Keep reading, my friend. It also says, “. . . best pilot qualification is variety . . . should be current in more than one type of airplane” on page 25.
Weather is great for flying in Hammond, Louisiana, on this December day. It’s CAVU to the moon, 22 degrees C, with wind from 220 at 12 gusting to 18. The duty runway is 18, so there’s no math required to confirm we are within the crosswind limits of 15 kts for takeoff and 20 kts for landing. Don’t stop reading now, the section entitled “Pilot Experience Requirements, Pilot Checkout,” starts on the next page (p 25). You will find good advice there like, “Checkout should not be done in gusty wind, particularly crosswind conditions.”
Hold on. What’s this about a “checkout?” Well, the POH provides more than a little detail on preparing to fly the Long-EZ. Highlights include . . .
- at least one backseat ride
- only moving to the front seat after showing proficiency flying in the back
- “. . . minimum of 10 hours each in at least two type aircraft in the last 4 months (5 of which in the last 30 days) . . .”
At least his runway is longer than the minimum 3500 feet and the preferred 4000 feet.
And from the Flight Test Procedures section beginning on page 40 . . .
- “The safety record of homebuilt aircraft during first flights is not as good as it could be if the owners and pilots would follow cautious procedures . . .”
- Calm or wind aligned with the runway
- “Smooth air – Check turbulence in another airplane”
- “. . . see pilot experience requirements (page 26) . . .”
Back to our story . . . Let’s get this show on the road. Takeoff and cruise flight apparently went well enough. This is all he dreamed it would be. All those hours of work and money spent has created a fast and responsive flying machine. All that’s left is a smooth landing. A quick check confirms the winds are still in limits. For someone checked out in the Long-EZ, that is. Approach is good. On glideslope. Crossing the threshold. Pull power. Flare. Touch . . . touch . . . WHAM! “Occasionally a new Long-EZ pilot will tend to make a “full stall” landing or flare too high.” The “hard to severe” landing results in a bounce to the left and off the runway into soft soil, where the nose gear collapses and the plane does a half somersault onto its back.
Long-EZ N77NW was destroyed on December 28, 1989. The 63-year-old pilot survived with minor injuries, but I’m guessing he did not build another Long-EZ.
No, the POH is not like a buffet. Every word in it is there for a reason. Further, building a plane does not qualify you to test fly it.
How do you prepare to fly a new aircraft?
Findings in Brief of Accident FTW90DRD01:
- (Cause) Aircraft handling – Inadequate
- (Cause) Recovery from bounced landing – Inadequate
- (Cause) Directional control – Not maintained
- (Factor) Lack of familiarity with aircraft
keywords: Long-EZ, test flight, FTW90DRD01
Brief of Accident FTW90DRD01 Search for “FTW90DRD01” in the Accident Number field at http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/index.aspx
Long-EZ Owner’s Manual obtained via Cozy Midnight www.cozy1200.com
SaferAviator exists, in part, to encourage healthy discussion on aviation safety matters. Comments should be respectful and relevant to the current topic. SaferAviator’s detailed Comment Policy can be found on the Legal Matters page.