The Lancair IV, unsafe at any speed??

Discussion in 'Home Builders and Sport Pilots' started by Capt.Crash'n'Burn, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. Capt.Crash'n'Burn

    Capt.Crash'n'Burn Cleared for Takeoff

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    The Lancair IV caught my attention because it's quite a hot rod so I started to look up some info on it. AT the bottom of the Wiki page, it says that according to the NTSB, there have been 19 crashes resulting in 17 fatalities.

    I'm guessing this is an unusually high number.

    Does anyone know the reason for this? Does the Lancair IV have some nasty handling characteristics? or does it just not protect its occupants very well in a crash?

    Is there a site where more info can be found?
     
  2. jesse

    jesse Administrator Management Council Member

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    It's slick and fast and not forgiving of mistakes. Fly it in a thunderstorm, get too slow down low, or take on ice, and you'll become another NTSB report.

    Personally I'd love to own one.
     
  3. bigred177

    bigred177 Line Up and Wait

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    Sounds like quite a few of the other super high performance planes out there. If I didn't know for a fact I'd be 100 miles behind it trying to fly it I'd definitely love the opportunity to have one.
     
  4. jhausch

    jhausch Cleared for Takeoff

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    +1 for me, too.

    Unfortunately, during a crash, you immediately catch-up !
     
  5. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    And Jesse has nailed the typical reasons why it's crashed.

    It's actually very safe if you fly it in the correct speed range. but flying at Vne through turbulence is a bad idea. I've also heard that an autopilot is a good idea for any actual IMC, as the controls are pretty touchy.

    Problem is that you end up with a plane that is most efficient in the flight levels and is a serious go-places plane, without the typical accessories for such things like de-ice, radar, and a strong frame that can handle turbulence well. So people fly where they want to rather than where the plane ought to be flown, and wonder why wings fall off.

    Me too.
     
  6. N801BH

    N801BH Touchdown! Greaser!

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    As we were taught in school early on. Speed kills.......

    And this plane is fast.. Very fast.

    Oh yeah.. I would LOVE to own one, especially the kerosene buring one. :fcross::cool2:

    Ben
    www.haaspowerair.com
     
  7. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    No dog in this hunt, I wouldn't fly one. No need for me to fly in the levels. But if I'm reading this correctly, the aircraft is designed to fly in the flight levels without the accouterments to fly in the flight levels. That sounds pretty dang inherently dangerous to me. I think that saying an airplane is safe because it can pottle around at 8K feet on a sunny day is disingenuous when the aircraft is designed for major cross country flight in the levels.
     
  8. fgcason

    fgcason En-Route

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    In the school of hard knocks they teach something completely different:
    Speed doesn't kill. Decelerating abruptly against hard objects (like the Earth) kills. Don't crash.
     
  9. sba55

    sba55 En-Route

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    And as has been shown many times - speed doesn't kill anymore than the other many factors involved in a crash. Sorry, I really have something against that phrase as it isn't rooted in reality.

    Do we know how _often_ Lancair IV's crash compared to other airplanes? Maybe the fatality rate is higher, but the accident rate is lower?
     
  10. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    I understand your point that you wouldn't want to fly an aircraft like that without the accoutraments (and that is part of the reason why I wouldn't buy one personally), but that doesn't mean an unsafe aircraft. Look at the number of Barons and 310s out there without any de-ice or radar. Both are also serious cross-country aircraft. Like any other aircraft, what it means is that you need to look at its capabilities and plan your flights accordingly.

    You may have an icing layer that goes from FL200 down to the ground. However if you're clear on both sides, there's no problem with going up to FL250 in pressurized comfort and being on top of the weather for the whole trip. If you're taking off into that same layer, though, obviously the Lancair is a no-go, but a FIKI twin might also be a no-go.

    I don't see it as being disingenuous, I just see it as a plane that has fewer capabilities than, say, a King Air, and that makes sense to me.
     
  11. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Barons and 310s are built like brick ****houses, and even without the deice are not likely to be brought down by a bit of turbulence, which one does often find while flying.

    I may be utterly wrong, I genuinely don't know the accident rate of the IV versus other aircraft with similar capabilities. I have the feeling its pretty high, since there can't be that many of the things flying. They're somewhat less than easy to put together.
     
  12. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    I'm not aware of any L-IVs that have been brought down by "a bit of turbulence." It's more like "Flying into a thunderstorm."

    Now granted, a Baron or 310 could probably survive flying through most thunderstorms because they ARE built like brick ****houses, as you point out, but in either case it is an aircraft being operated well outside of its design limits.

    Like with anything, taking examples of bad pilots who assemble their aircraft poorly and saying that means the plane itself is bad I think is disingenuous. I've seen plenty of certified aircraft that, after enough years of neglect and abuse, are unsafe to fly and then flown by bad pilots. I wouldn't hesitate to fly in a IV/IV-P that was built by someone who knew what he was doing and knew how to fly it. But, much like a Mooney, I wouldn't take one into icing conditions.
     
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  13. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    But if I may pursue this a bit further, most kits can be built by most people, or so their builders and manufacturers say (quite emphatically for the latter). If it takes above average building skills to build a IV, but the kits are sold to average builders, again it can be an inherently dangerous aircraft. I suspect you're right Ted, you have a bunch of pilots getting in over their heads. But there have been inherently dangerous experimental aircraft, and I for one wouldn't necessarily rule out the IV out of the club.
     
  14. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    Well, I think you and I have different definition of "inherently dangerous." To me, something that expects you know what you're doing when assembling and flying it is not inherently dangerous. One that falls apart despite proper building and piloting, however, would be. I've yet to see any evidence that the IV-P sits in the latter category, only the former.
     
  15. Everskyward

    Everskyward Administrator Management Council Member

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    We could argue about that forever. Look, two quotes from the same web page.

    I think the reason that pilots run into trouble with the Lancair is that it is a cute little airplane and they don't give it the respect it deserves. Not all airplanes are as docile as trainers, even if they are small.
     
  16. Dave Siciliano

    Dave Siciliano Final Approach

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    I haven't compared the Lance IV to other aircraft, but the first thing that comes to mind for me is the builder/pilot. Why are they building the experimental and what experience do they have?

    I think I'd look more to the pilot: his skill and training.
    The insurance limits on experimentals are different: usually much lower with coverage limits. I'm required to go to annual recurrent training in the 58P; are those pilots? Haven't seen any experimental pilots at SIMCOM; maybe, they go elsewhere.

    It's a very capable plane: goes high and fast and is much more affordable to run than may factory planes. Who does that attract? If it attracts someone more cost conscious, will they do the required training to stay proficient? If the plane's systems are not as complete and it's more difficult to handle, wouldn't that require higher levels of proficiency? With the plane's capabilities, it can go far, high and fast; that means it can put the pilot in more challenging conditions. Is the pilot trained and proficient in dealing with those conditions in a 'slick' plane?

    I don't have the answers, but this is where I'd focus.

    Best,

    Dave
     
  17. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Final Approach

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    I ain't built no Lancair, but I have been involved in the construction of two plans / scratch build homebuilts - A T-18 and a Pitts clone. Looking at the pictures on the Lancair web site, I would suspect that the skill level required to assemble the basic airframe is probably lower for the Lancair than a more traditional homebuilt. The Lancair appears to be pretty much a "glue pre-fabricated pieces" process as opposed to actually forming parts from sheet stock, welding, riveting, building ribs from sticks / gussets, etc.

    On the other hand, I would suspect that the "systems" in a Lancair would typically be much more complex than most "traditional" homebuilts.
     
  18. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Cleared for Takeoff

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    This is the one that I've had a major itch for as a traveling bird:

    http://www.lancair.com/Main/legacy.html

    Over 270 mph on a piston engine ain't bad even if it does stall at 65 kts dirty and best glide is something like 165 kts.

    Any plane can be more or less dangerous depending on how well your use matches its capability and it's requirement for skill matching what you bring to the cockpit.
     
  19. EppyGA

    EppyGA Final Approach

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    Fixed that for ya.
     
  20. RMCN172RG

    RMCN172RG Pattern Altitude

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    The only problem I see with the Legacy is it can carry one person, fuel and luggage. Unless the person is heavy.

    I'm not a really heavy person 170-180 or so. With full fuel, my flying a kit, normal extra things and a 50 LB bag I'd be right at Max Gross.

    Or am I reading something wrong?
     
  21. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Cleared for Takeoff

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    It's 700 lbs useful load. That's my wife and I and 40 lbs of bags and 50 gallons of gas. At 270 mph we can get downrange 600 miles with reserves on that. If you want a fast heavy hauler with long legs buy a Conquest. For running one of my kids back and forth to college, I think this is a pretty darn snappy solution. I had a '05 Columbia 400 and 200 kts was great. I'll haul less and stop more often for my mission at 240 kts in the Legacy and be grinnin' all the way!

    But back to the OP's question - I certainly think some aircraft are "safer" than others but there's a bunch of different dimensions to determine how safe any particular aircraft is for you, your skills, and your use of it. I've got 400 hours of Pitts time over the last 5 years and I'm pretty sure that airplane won't hurt me. I might let my skills atrophy and not bring enough to the cockpit to fly it safely someday but it won't be the airplane that hurts me.

    When someone asks which airplane is safer, what they're probably saying which is safer for me at this point in my experience for such and such a mission and with this or that go/no-go rate on the weather. I think it's when those parameters get mismatched is when folks end up the subject of an NTSB report.
     
  22. Bob Noel

    Bob Noel Touchdown! Greaser!

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    um, from the lancair site, the estimated completion costs of the IV-P
    are $350,000 to $550,000. It seems to me that kind of money is
    on the high end of the homebuilt market. The cost conscious builder
    would be looking at aircraft that cost a few 10's of thousands to build.
     
  23. Dave Siciliano

    Dave Siciliano Final Approach

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    Thanks bob. Didn't realize those were that much.
    Dave
     
  24. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    For me, the issue with the Lancair IV is the high wing loading which in turn leads to a high stall speed and/or anvil like glide characteristics if you get slow. This is an airplane with a low speed envelope more reminiscent of a WWII fighter than of your typical GA type. An inattentive pilot could get behind this airplane very quickly and have a bad day.
     
  25. N801BH

    N801BH Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Just like I said...... Speed kills, or the lack of it...
    Anything with a best glide speed of 165 mph has to be a hoot to shoot across the skies in.

    I would fly one in a New York Minute..

    Ben.
     
  26. Hiperbiper

    Hiperbiper Line Up and Wait

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    Speed doesn't kill.
    Bad piloting, bad building,bad decisions, bad luck...these things CAN kill (but don't always).

    After WWII people bought WWII heavy metal 'cause they had a pilots licence and a wad of cash. Lots of bent metal and funeral arrangments ensued.
    Fast forward a couple of years

    Walter Beech came up with a hot (for the time) little V-tailed bird and lots of people who had a pilots licence and a wad of cash bought one. Again the casket manufactures got a bump in revenue.

    Fast forward a couple of years

    Next up was a quick & slick plastic airplane with a safety parachute and TV screens for instruments. Lots of people with a pilots licence and a wad of cash bought one...

    Being behind the learning curve of whatever you fly (or drive for that matter) can be lethal but it ain't all about speed.

    A hot-shot race car driver learned to fly an R22 helicopter, got his ticket and went out and bought an Hughes 500 because he could afford it. Though it didn't go very fast he still killed himself in it...

    Pride can write checks your skills can't cash...

    JMPO

    Chris
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  27. wanttaja

    wanttaja Pattern Altitude

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    I'm currently writing a series of articles for KITPLANES magazine, looking at the accident statistics for various homebuilt types. Lancair was covered in the August issue. The article was based on my assessment of NTSB accident reports for homebuilts from 1998 to 2007, inclusive (ten years).

    A general summary of results:

    1. Pilot Error rate for Lancair IVs was fairly typical for high-performance homebuilts. Lower than the Glasair, RV-6, and Kitfox, higher than Velocity.
    2. The Pilot Error results include a much lower rate of pilot judgment errors (fuel exhaustion, VFR into IMC, etc.). When you look just at stick-and-rudder issues (overshoot/undershoot, stall/spin, etc.), the Glasair is a bit better and the RV-6 is about the same.
    3. Lancair IV stall/spin rate is about average, for homebuilts. However, the Lancair IV saw a greater percentage of accidents that were *triggered* by a lack of airspeed control. Lancair pilots tended to stall less when the accident was triggered by a mechanical fault.
    4. Of the accidents where pilot error was *not* involved, almost 50% of Lancair IV accidents were triggered by either an engine mechanical failure or "undetermined engine failure." My speculation is that this might be driven by the fact that it's much more difficult to make a no-damage forced landing in a Lancair after an engine failure than, say, a Zenith. The Lancair IV has a performance envelope about the same as a Curtiss P-40; the options are just NOT going to be there.
    5. Of the homebuilts I've examined, the Lancair IV has the highest fatality rate (percentage of accidents resulting in a fatality)...about 41%. Homebuilt average is around 25%.
    6. Based on average fleet size during the study period, the Lancair has the second- or third-highest accident rate of the homebuilts I've looked at. About 1.5% of the fleet per year, vs. about 0.9% overall. However, this is skewed by the number of inactive homebuilts, which does not affect Lancair as much (one must assume that people don't just shove a $200K kitplane into the corner of a hangar and abandon it...).

    Ron Wanttaja
     
  28. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    I watched a NOAA pilot take off into a thunderstorm in a T-28. When he returned, the aircraft was destroyed, there was not a square centimeter that hadn't been pummeled by hail. The only reason the canopy stayed together was because both sides had been covered in a high strength film as it was modified with the intent of flying into thunderstorms to collect data. Any lesser of an aircraft with less horsepower would not held together much less have made a survivable landing, I was amazed it did. I don't fly anything through thunderstorms and don't fly in IMC around them in anything without a radar. I own a 310 and had a Travel Air and I don't agree with your assessment, I think they'd get you killed in a t-storm as well.
     
  29. bigred177

    bigred177 Line Up and Wait

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    Aside from destroying a perfectly good, beautiful airplane, that sounds like an interesting (fun?) job.
     
  30. bbchien

    bbchien Final Approach

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    You're supposed to bail out of the P40, not ride it down. :eek:
     
  31. colohan

    colohan Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Given the target market of the Lancair (and how many of them you see in the Reno races), I'd imagine that these planes often have engines run closer to their limits than most planes. Did you have any stats on if these planes suffered more frequent engine failures (with or without accidents)? If the engine failure rate was much higher in general this might also help explain this stat...

    Chris
     
  32. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Cleared for Takeoff

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    I bet Scott Crossfield thought he was flying a pretty durable aircraft also and I agree with Henning's statement. Though I don't know much about the Lancair kits and how they're made, just speaking about the strength and manner of construction of the Columbia/Cessna Corvalis "plastic airplanes" - I'd put that airframe up against anything in terms of durability and ability to withstand abuse. The wing has two composite spars and to perform the testing to failure, they had to take one spar out and saw partially through the other one before the wing would fail before the test rig. I've also seen the video of the 19G seat test done at Langley where they bashed the airframe into the ground at a 45 degree angle at a velocity to subject the crash test dummies to 19G. The cockpit area stayed completely intact and all of the dummies in approved seats "survived" the test.
     
  33. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    Funny, it was Steingar's initial assessment, not mine.

    Still, I know people who've flown light twins through thunderstorms and survived. I've flown the Aztec and 310 through a lot of weather (stay away from the thunderstorms, though, flying into one intentionally is just not smart), and I would not want to fly a Lancair through the same conditions that I'm comfortable flying those twins in.

    From my exposure around both aircraft, the Lancair does not have as good inherent construction as light twins.
     
  34. taters

    taters Pattern Altitude

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    I cant speak from experience on the Corvalis, but I can from a Cirrus of similar construction.They are crap in turbulence, stiff as a board and it seems like you and the passengers are the shock absorbers. I was actually quite disappointed with the overall durability of the airplane, we had cracking at the wing root and a host of other problems with the "plastic " that were plain unacceptable. I don't dispute the stuff isn't strong...but Ill take aluminum any day...especially "over engineered" aluminum construction.
     
  35. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Cleared for Takeoff

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    There's not much comparison in the strength and quality of the two airplanes mentioned. Cirrus has gotten a lot better in the last few years but the early ones where pretty low budget built. I've met a lot of Cirrus owners with opinions similar to yours.
     
  36. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    So the first statement is that they're as solid as any of the older planes out there, and the second statement is that the early ones may not have been good, but the new ones are?

    No thanks. Give me an old plane any day of the week.
     
  37. Bob Noel

    Bob Noel Touchdown! Greaser!

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    um, the first statement was, I believe, talking about the Lancair.
    The 2nd statement was referring to the early Cirrus aircraft.
     
  38. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Cleared for Takeoff

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    Right on.
     
  39. taters

    taters Pattern Altitude

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    Our was a 2006 GTS FWIW, we put 1000 hours on it, the owners started getting worried about the durability of the plane so we went to a FIKI Bonanza( and now probably adding a twin commander 900), never looked back.
    Every time we get into turb, I hear the owners muttering about how glad they aren't in that Cirrus.

    Lancair IV good looking plane though, I take mine with a turbine
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  40. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The accessory it most needs for IFR is real protection against a lightning strike.

    Ernie