Chris Lord October 31, 2018

Kolibri

FW and Gyros
Well true. They do point to an ethical disregard and thus indirectly to other possible things but keep in mind whose ethics are we pointing to here? Is it the owner who was trying to sell it?
Yes, fara, the owner/seller (presumably also the builder/mfg), since he placed the ad.

He might have been told by the dealer that Phase-I is flown off or being flown off. He might have no first hand knowledge that it was not. Not saying that is what happened but it could have been.
Perhaps, but you earlier posted that the builder has responsibility for the quality of his work (I agree),
separate from any of AutoGyro or the assisting dealer. But he can shrug off the Hobbs discrepancy
with a "
I thought ______ flew off that time"?

In my opinion, if the owner/builder/seller places two public ads that the 40 hour Phase One fly off has been done,
then it's on him that such is the truth. He's the one controlling the repair logbook.

If by, 6 October 2018, N198LT did have a total of only16.6 flight hours, then how in the world c/would the owner
claim weeks earlier that it had 40?

Also, as Phil asked aloud, we're still not sure about any previous damage/repair history.
Even if it had been tipped over and then fixed on the sly (without logbook entries), people there would know.
(I'm not alleging that happened, btw.)
 

Philbennett

Junior Member
Yes, fara, the owner/seller (presumably also the builder/mfg), since he placed the ad.


Perhaps, but you earlier posted that the builder has responsibility for the quality of his work (I agree),
separate from any of AutoGyro or the assisting dealer. But he can shrug off the Hobbs discrepancy
with a "
I thought ______ flew off that time"?

In my opinion, if the owner/builder/seller places two public ads that the 40 hour Phase One fly off has been done,
then it's on him that such is the truth. He's the one controlling the repair logbook.

If by, 6 October 2018, N198LT did have a total of only16.6 flight hours, then how in the world c/would the owner
claim weeks earlier that it had 40?

Also, as Phil asked aloud, we're still not sure about any previous damage/repair history.
Even if it had been tipped over and then fixed on the sly (without logbook entries), people there would know.
(I'm not alleging that happened, btw.)
I completely agree and actually im not sure why we need to tip toe around the issue. Again in this thread its been claimed that this aircraft was a "death trap" and so it proved.

It seems utterly incredible that 8months on there is no clarity on the situation with this aircrafts history.
 

Kolibri

FW and Gyros
The forum owner ToddP seems to prefer no posting of rumor, even if it's qualified as rumor.
So far, all we have of any previous damage to N198LT has been unsubstantiated, hence not postable here.

Those who know, or know those who know, are encouraged to air out these facts. Please.
 

Kolibri

FW and Gyros
OK, with all the information and data accumulated, I think I can roughly plot out his flight path over the last 25 seconds.
The map scale is 1" = 500'.

North up, the yellow track is directly to KSEF, along about 285°.
However, Chris seems to have been more along the lake shoreline, track in red.

Assuming an average speed of the radar's 90kts (151.8 ft/sec), with the below times of transmission and lost radar contact, here is about where he was throughout the radio call:

N198LT radio call timeline.png

According to the NTSB witness, just as the nose dropped, the gyro apparently ruddered to the east and then back to the north.
This seems to have been Chris's last observed control input.

Note that the nosedive track portion is west of the highway, corresponding to the pilot witness account.
 
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Kolibri

FW and Gyros
I'm revising my math for a much slower groundspeed, and will post a new diagram later today.

I think as soon as he felt a problem (an involuntary pitch down, and/or very heavy or locked stick), he reduced speed to slow flight, which I'll call for now 30kts (and it could have been slower).
 

loftus

Active Member
So are we now saying that this aircraft had poorly installed controls and was in the procrss of repair?? But that repair wasnt with new controls complete just adjustment of the old??

And aircraft get a ticket to fly, and take a passenger that way in thr US??
Phil, in the US experimental category, the build sign off essentially relies almost entirely on the integrity of the builder. A builder can design and build an aircraft from scratch and actually does not even have to demonstrate that it can fly initially. The initial sign off by the examiner usually consists mainly of an overall review of the paperwork and the build logs of the builder. The examiner may do a cursory examination of the aircraft itself particularly if it is an established kit such as the non-certified Cavalon kit in the US. He essentially relies on the builder to have followed the construction manual in detail. Once this initial approval is obtained, it is then up to the builder/pilot to do the initial 40 hours flight testing in a constrained geographic area and establish flight characteristics - say stall speed for a fixed wing - and make these part of the Operating Manual for the aircraft. There is no further check by any inspector, it is up to the integrity of the builder to do things as required. It sounds like a very loose system, but it is what allows us to have our wonderful world of experimental aircraft in the US. If you have ever attended Oshkosh, you would know what I mean. Further maintenance and repairs are beyond that completely at the discretion of the owner/as he essentially becomes the repairman for that specific aircraft, no sign offs of these repairs are required except that the owner /builder is supposed to document and sign off these repairs in the aircraft log unless another certified aircraft mechanic does work on the aircraft in which case he has to do the sign off. So even though the Cavalon is sold as a certified aircraft now in the US, this particular aircraft was not a certified factory built aircraft and therefore was subject only to experimental aircraft rules with little more legally required than the owner / builder approving any repairs. It's a little more complicated if the aircraft is sold to another owner etc, but suffice to say the rules are very lax and depend completely on the owner/ builder no more than if this was a homebuilt Bensen. It's easy to blame companies like Autogyro, but it's really the nature of the experimental beast, they are really just providing a kit. Once an experimental kit aircraft is sold in the US, the rest is up to the owner builder. Various manufacturers may give more or less support, and those aircraft that exist in numbers will usually develop strong owner group for example Vans Aircraft.
 
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fara

AR-1 gyro manufacturer
Occam's razor comes to mind here doesn't it?

You could spin this a dozen ways and likely given the damage perhaps the actual cause will always remain subject to question but here is an aircraft built partly by someone with unknown qualifications to do so, with questions about the control system that subsequently becomes subject to a total loss where control seems to be at its root cause.

I hear you on the US build/permit system but some questions. On page 1 of this thread the view is that the aircraft had been rolled at some point in its life. Is that true or not? I ask because who looks over any rebuild process in the States?

As an aside back in the winter of 2016/2017 (i.e. Nov 2016-early 2017) I trained a helicopter instructor from the US to become a gyroplane pilot who was working with the guys in Florida who had some interest in Auto-gyro products (i'm not sure if for that region or the whole of the US) but as I understand things that was a shambles and the knowledge that existed was very poor. I'm unclear who Cavalon Gyro LLC is but if it was the same people it would ring alarm bells.

On the 40hrs perhaps the intent was to sell it with those hours flown? The guy I trained as a pilot had that kind of task as something his employer wanted him to do - making the aircraft more easily / readily saleable.
Cavalon Gyro LLC is just the owner of that single Cavalon. A lot of people do that to own aircraft in the US. I am sure its not the guy you trained. If that Helicopter instructor you trained to fly gyroplanes was from South Florida, it might have been someone from Cloud 9, who did become the AutoGyro dealer in South Florida and they supposedly were also trained by AutoGyro for assembly in their builder's assist program. Cloud 9 was the selling dealer of the Cavalon in question here. I don't know any other Florida Heli school who went and did anything with AutoGyro
 
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All_In

Gold Supporter
Do you actually have the specific numbers - what is the US Cavalon fleet number and exactly how many have tipped over?
No, we do not have the exact numbers because at least 1/4 are not or have not been reported to the F.A.A only those with insurance seem to report them. The pilot, the repair person I learned of them from the repair people, not the pilots. One of those who will share that he has repaired several is Desmon Butts. But if you are keeping track as I am it is about 1/2 the fleet in the USA all piloted by new pilots. They need more training for the Cavalon!!!!
 

Smack

Re-member?
... but it is what allows us to have our wonderful world of experimental aircraft in the US.
AMEN !!! I do NOT want our system of 'freedom to aviate' to become that of Britain and the EU.
It is incumbent upon all gyroplane builders/flyers (all pilots, in general) to maintain this RESPONSIBILITY to build/fly safely lest we be overburdened with European restrictions !
Brian
 

Philbennett

Junior Member
Thanks for the colour loftus - yeah that freedom is very different from uk. I am surprised there is no requirement to note repair works but there you go. It would certainly seem therefore that anything could have been lurking within the aircraft and as I meantioned Occam’s razor... with rumour of prior accident, pilots who flew it claiming it was a death trap, hardly any hours flown and the PIC working on the aircraft that day....what could possibly go wrong? As someone once said there is a price for freedom.
 

loftus

Active Member
Thanks for the colour loftus - yeah that freedom is very different from uk. I am surprised there is no requirement to note repair works but there you go. It would certainly seem therefore that anything could have been lurking within the aircraft and as I meantioned Occam’s razor... with rumour of prior accident, pilots who flew it claiming it was a death trap, hardly any hours flown and the PIC working on the aircraft that day....what could possibly go wrong? As someone once said there is a price for freedom.
There is actually a requirement to log repairs etc, but it's really not something that can be effectively policed, and really completely up to the owner builder, and there's really no assurance as to the quality of the repairs. I probably should not have said that the rules are lax, they do exist on paper - an owner / builder is essentially supposed to follow the rules, it's rather that enforcement is something that is impossible in practice. I agree with Smack, as with most things in the American way, the rules as they are, give us much more freedom. But freedom requires responsibility. I've always felt that was something that our founding fathers should have added to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, but thats another matter. For those who choose to act responsibly, it's a wonderful system - it's the reason for example I can buy non-certified electronic flight instruments for my experimental aircraft at a fraction of the cost of identical but certified systems. But it also means caveat emptor. Personally I would not have it any other way.
 
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Tyger

Active Member
It seems to me that the vast majority of our laws/rules cannot effectively be policed; to be effective, they rely mainly on respect for the law from the people to which they apply. It is when something unusual occurs to draw the attention of authorities that most enforcement actions then, belatedly, take place.
 

GyrOZprey

Aussie in Kansas.
Had it recently been sold? The FAA still shows it as registered to the corporation that built it, whoever that actually is.
It was my understanding that Chris Lord had purchased it to try & sort out the issues "that made it such a pig-to-fly" that all who took it off the ground ...couldn't land soon enough & never wanted to fly it again!
My source tells me the builder struggled with getting it put together right & no one wanted to fly it ...thus the low hours! (for the time since Airworthy inspection!)
Chris Lord, bless his generous heart was probably trying to turn it around into a nice machine ... but did not know of the deep underlying build flaws!
I expect the FAA /NTSB will find the discrepancies in the true hours claimed flown from the logs!
 

Kolibri

FW and Gyros
After previously plotting the diagram based on an average speed of 90kts, something jumped out at me: the required descent rate to match the lateral distance traveled would have been impossibly high, i.e., some 68 ft/sec (4091 ft/min).

Regardless of average speed, the average angle of descent from 900' AGL and 2212' out is 66.9 degrees.
That's roughly a 2.2 slope (distance/descent).

There are only two ways a gyro can descend at 67 degrees: in high-speed dive, or in a very steep nose-up descent with very slow AS.

While we don't have the exact timestamp of the radar lost contact at 900' AGL and 2112' out from the crash site, we do have pretty solid idea that the nose-dive occurred at 150' AGL and ~432'. (Since that final dive would skew the average, I'll omit it from this interim calculation.)

Thus, between those two positions is a 750' elevation difference with 1680' distance difference, which is a descent angle of 65.9°. (This does not mean the gyro was pitched over 65.9°, but that gyro's overall descent was 65.9° in nose-up attitude.) I plotted several average rates of descents and their related groundspeeds which would have closed that 1680' distance while dropping 750' of altitude. What must have generally happened between 900' and 150' AGL could not have been a high-speed dive, but a nose-up slow-flight with steep descent at ~1000 ft/sec.

We're fortunate to have such a variety of interlocking clues: a radar fix, radio call, and two witnesses.
While I was working on this, it felt similar to an algebra problem, solving for "x".

Figures are rounded up/down for visual clarity:


N198LT average descent rate.png

How long did that take to travel? We don't know, but we can conclude a feasible block of time.

We can logically rule out the 20 seconds scenario for having too low a GS for the 2250 ft/min descent.
Neither does the 30 seconds scenario make mutual sense.

We can also rule out the 70+ seconds scenario as not likely engendering such fear heard in the radio call, and, besides, the descent rates seem too slow for such slow flight. Even 60 seconds is probably unworkable.

The only feasible block of time is between 35-55 seconds, and such would not be possible with a nose-down gyro (the speeds would be too high), but it would be possible with a very high Angle of Attack, i.e., a near vertical descent. This is vaguely corroborated the NTSB witness statement that the gyro at about 300' AGL "
entered into autorotation".

I chose the 40 second scenario (average 1125 ft/min descent, 28.5 mph GS), and it lines up very well with the radio calls.
It also places the 150' AGL nose-dive west of the highway, as viewed by the pilot witness, an important congruity.
Highlighted in yellow is what was reported by radar or witnesses. The rest is interpolated. There are slight rounding errors of about 1%.

It portrays the likelihood of Chris's first
Mayday! call about 22 seconds after lost radar contact at 900' AGL.
Presumably, the problem began at 1000' AGL, during the last few seconds of radar coverage:

N198LT estimated flight path for last 25 seconds-e.png


N198LT timeline.png

His first Mayday! was at about 500' after working the problem for 22+ seconds.
His second and more urgent
Mayday! was at about 300'.
(At about that altitude, the NTSB witness stated that the gyro had
"entered into autorotation". This fits well here.)
3 seconds later Chris urged Brugger
"back, lean back! " at about 245' AGL.
5 seconds after that came the verbal response to what must have been the nose-over. (They'd been nose-high, settling, since 900' AGL.)

As far as the figures during the nose-dive from 150' AGL for average rate of descent, average speed, and terminal speed , those are merely my estimates which fit well enough with the other data.

Considering all this, remember, all seemed well at ~1000' AGL and ~100 kts cruise, and then the gyro slowed down to 90 kts and dropped to 900' AGL. (Had the rotor pitched forward, it'd have gained speed.) So, imagine you're at 1000' and 100 kts cruise, and all of a sudden you feel a control issue with the stick. You'd slow it down at once by chopping power, but to retain altitude you'd have to increase pitch. During his descent from 900' to 150' AGL, Chris must have pitched up considerably to allow a steep descent — the math proves that.

The power modulations heard on air throughout were almost certainly from Chris seeking some pitch/power equilibrium.
Such could also have caused power/yaw coupling issues, which may explain the NTSB witness statement about the nose turning east then north when the nose dropped at 300' AGL.

Now, after this rapid descent at slow forward speed from 900' to 150' AGL, the remaining riddle is why did N198LT suddenly lurch into a nose-dive? I think something at 150' AGL gave way or broke from the extreme nose-up control force over the preceding 35+ seconds. The trim pressure holding back the rotorhead could have suddenly released, or the pitch cable jumped free inside the sheath, or a pitch cable bracket broke. But something at 150' AGL happened quickly enough for the nose to drop "
immediately" according to the NTSB witness.

Tragically, had nothing additional happened at 150' AGL, they may have survived by merely pancaking in (where, was apparently not within their control) by significantly arresting the 1125 ft/min descent with a last burst of power just above the ground. All they needed was another several seconds of the control system partially holding itself together as it had for nearly a minute.

Regards,
Kolibri
 
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Kolibri,

From the witness you interviewed :

"When he then saw it, it had already cleared the highway to the west, was at his 1-2 o'clock, at 150-200' AGL, in "at least a 60 degree angle, maybe more ".
(When I questioned him about the steepness, he mentioned that he could see the topside of the rotor blades.)
From its angle of descent, low altitude, and speed he instantly judged it to be unrecoverable."

From this statement it appears the gyro had rolled nearly onto it's side and was descending, so the term a "nose dive" does not seem appropriate.
 

Kolibri

FW and Gyros
Alan, maybe the wording left open the reader's interpretation of the gyro rolling on its side, but that's probably
over-reading into his seeing the topside of the rotor blades as being nearly perpendicular to the witness, when it was not.

These events are difficult to nail down in prose.

He termed it "
nose-dive" and described it as going straight in without deviation:

I can only say that his apparent path at the time of my observation appeared straight and without deviation towards the impact point.
It also would have been flying significantly straight at him, although tracking slightly from his left to his right.
Even with the quartering angle of flight, the nose-down was steep enough to see on the topside of the rotor.

Here's a revised overhead of the flight path, with the pilot witness in yellow.
He apparently first saw it a split second after it had already entered its nose-dive (black circle).

N198LT witness from two blocks away-1b.png
 
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fara

AR-1 gyro manufacturer
Thanks for the colour loftus - yeah that freedom is very different from uk. I am surprised there is no requirement to note repair works but there you go. It would certainly seem therefore that anything could have been lurking within the aircraft and as I meantioned Occam’s razor... with rumour of prior accident, pilots who flew it claiming it was a death trap, hardly any hours flown and the PIC working on the aircraft that day....what could possibly go wrong? As someone once said there is a price for freedom.
You spelled color wrong :).
No there is definitely requirement to log any repair or maintenance to the aircraft in the aircraft logbook. However, people do not always follow regulations as in the Experimental category anyone (for example, your aunt) could work on the aircraft as long as at the annual condition inspection time, the work is inspected by a certified mechanic or the designated Repairman for that aircraft (usually the Builder of the Experimental aircraft).

Chris was a good pilot and instructor but that is the point. There is a difference between that and being a great mechanic and even more so between that and being an engineer capable of properly evaluating a serious condition flaw like this and its impact on airworthiness and safety. I think he was a bit over his head in this particular situation and did not realize the extent and depth of the problem. Not the first I know to put himself in such a situation.
 
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Kolibri

FW and Gyros
Chris was a good pilot and instructor but that is the point. There is a difference between that and being a great mechanic and even more so between that and being an engineer capable of properly evaluating a serious condition flaw like this and its impact on airworthiness and safety. I think he was a bit over his head in this particular situation and did not realize the extent and depth of the problem. Not the first I know to put himself in such a situation.
Yes, and I think you've made an important, valid point.

This would be especially poignant if N198LT had any kind of previous damage from a rotor strike, which could have compromised control system parts that were not subsequently replaced.
 

Kolibri

FW and Gyros
There have been several great observations above about our comparative freedoms in the USA with our E-AB system.
The flip-side to the "coin" of individual freedom is . . . individual responsibility.
Most regulations (for mala prohibita, vs. mala en se) arise from people behaving irresponsibly.

The gyro community, in my opinion, should continue to "grow up" and behave with ever increasing professionalism.
Cutting maintenance corners, shabby build jobs, schlocky business behavior, and jackass flying must be winnowed out.

Silence isn't always golden; sometimes it's just yellow. I think it's healthy for us to air out that N198LT may have been built poorly, and that Chris wasn't the optimal fellow to sort that out. It's not done to bad-mouth anyone, but to improve the flying safety of us all. Painful as it may be, let's continue to get to the bottom of why N198LT went in. I thank and admire those who have just begun to speak up.


We need to "police" ourselves, else the FAA may feel obliged to do it for us.
There will always be "government" — it's only a matter of whether it is government from within, or government from without.
I think we'd all prefer to self-govern but we must daily re-earn our right to do so, with ethical and responsible behavior.

(Or, for Phil, "behaviour".)

Regards,
Kolibri
 
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