Chris Lord October 31, 2018

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Vance

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"One witness who lives 1.25 miles south reported seeing the gyro "kept going around and around".
That, in conjunction with a closer witness only a half mile away on Hwy. 27 who described a "nosedive from about 200 feet "
seems to portray something looking like a graveyard spiral and then fast vertical fall."

From Wikipedia: "In aviation, a graveyard spiral is a dangerous spiral dive entered into accidentally by a pilot who is not trained or not proficient in instrument flight when flying in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)."

Chris Lord was an instrument trained pilot and conditions were VFR. Graveyard spiral may have a nice ring to it; it is unrelated to anything to do with a gyroplane on a VFR flight.


"The propeller hub remained attached, and the composite blades appeared to be uniformly severed at their roots prior to fire exposure."
"This seems to indicate a pre-crash prop/rotor strike (i.e., rotor flap in those last moments)."

"What this indicates to me is that the propeller was turning when it hit something that broke the blades."

It does not indicate to me that there was a blade flap and the propeller blades were damaged by the rotor.

All it indicates is the propeller was going around when it came in contact with something.

There is a lot more. I am going to give it a rest now.
 

EdL

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Vance;n1140394 said:
"Regarding Chris Lord's N198LT, it seems confirmed from multiple sources that it had previously been rolled over,
and repaired by AutoGyro USA in Maryland. The obvious question is whether some control system parts were not prudently replaced.

Furthermore, rumor has it that after the repair N198LT still had a bad rotor shake, and that Chris was trying to reduce it.
It is unknown if he had succeeded doing so."

...this accident aircraft I understand was an accident re-build and was known to be a pig to fly & called a "death-trap"
by many who spent a few minutes in it - landed & vowed ...never to fly it again! ....YES ...that IS hearsay! ..... but from more than one source!

"This jives what I've also been hearing.
Certain people out there in Florida know the local reputation of N198LT.
This issue needs to be aired out, along with detailed repair records of that Cavalon."

"I.e., was it flying on older parts which may have been damaged in the rollover yet not replaced?
The rumored bad rotor shake seems connected."

In my opinion if Kolibri heard the rumors Chris Lord likely heard the rumors.

I would not take a friend on a 64 nautical mile flight at near VNE in a Cavalon that had crashed and been badly repaired; that flew badly and had excessive rotor shake and I don’t know anyone who would.

This pretty well fits my definition of demonizing the pilot of the accident aircraft and AutoGyro USA.

This appears to me to be based on gossip.

It doesn't matter who said it first, he posted it; it is his gossip.
Some truly head-scratching stuff here. Glad you’re planning to give it a rest, per your next post. Good idea.
 

chrisk

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Vance;n1140395 said:
"One witness who lives 1.25 miles south reported seeing the gyro "kept going around and around".
That, in conjunction with a closer witness only a half mile away on Hwy. 27 who described a "nosedive from about 200 feet "
seems to portray something looking like a graveyard spiral and then fast vertical fall."
.
When I read descriptions like this, I think of a typically maneuver for an engine out landing, as observed by a novice. Circle an area at low speed to loose altitude, then nose down to stay on the right side of the height velocity curve. I couple that with observations about the engine. And I think of what would happen if the gyro clipped a power line. -This scenario seems to fit the facts just as well as a control failure. I for one will never know what actually happened. What I will do is elevate my awareness of power lines if/when my gyro has an engine issue.
 

EdL

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Hi Chris

When you hear the Mayday (on LiveATC) it sure seems you can clearly hear the engine going at the first Mayday call, so I’m not sure this was strictly an engine-out situation at its start. Plus, with all the practice we do for engine out and Chris’ extensive experience teaching that, pure speculation here, but A) I’m not sure Chris would have made a Mayday call at that point for that and B) I suspect he would have handled it well and avoided power lines - and a trailer park - if he could. Pure speculation, I realize.

For those of us he left behind, especially those flying Cavalons or Caliduses, ruling out a control failure or other issue related to the craft seems important. For me that hasn’t been done yet.

Personally, when I learned it was Chris, I really pondered if it was worth continuing in gyros; if he can be killed like that, well ...
 

Kolibri

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Vance, I merely wrote "seems to portray something looking like a graveyard spiral" as a visual metaphor for what the witness described.
I did not claim that Chris had actually entered a graveyard spiral, much less that IMC was present.
Forgive me for momentarily forgetting that nuance often escapes you.



"The propeller hub remained attached, and the composite blades appeared to be uniformly severed at their roots prior to fire exposure."
I'll stick with my current belief that the most likely scenario to produce that (pre-crash) effect was prop contact with the rotor blades.
You're free to offer a countering theory.



I would not take a friend on a 64 nautical mile flight at near VNE in a Cavalon that had crashed and been badly repaired;
that flew badly and had excessive rotor shake and I don’t know anyone who would.

This pretty well fits my definition of demonizing the pilot of the accident aircraft and AutoGyro USA.
It's a pity that you refuse to recognize that I've already clarified in post #29 that Chris seemed to have been satisfied
with the flying condition of N198LT before taking Brugger on that trip. I'm not the one demonizing another here.

Nonetheless, something mechanical seems to have failed in the control system.
We don't know if such an imminent failure was discernible during preflight inspection, or could have been caught in its annual condition inspection.

Speaking of its annual of 4 October, I wonder if the builder/seller performed such?
If not, who did?

Regards,
Kolibri
 

Vance

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In a graveyard spiral the angle of bank and speed increase. In my opinion what is described appears nothing like a graveyard spiral.

The idea of the Cavalon going straight down from 200 feet also seems unlikely. It would be more likely for the Cavalon to have gone straight down after it hit the pole and most power poles are not 200 feet high.

Writing in the most general terms for a rotor blade to contact the propeller blades at the root the rotor blade path would need to become extremely divergent. This would be very unusual at flight rpm.

It seems more likely to me that the propeller blades being severed at their root was part of the crash rather than pre-crash or pre impact.

In my opinion there is not enough information to assume something mechanical failed in the control system.

The surging of the engine heard in the radio transmission seems to me an unlikely part of a control system failure.
 

loftus

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Vance;n1140458 said:
The surging of the engine heard in the radio transmission seems to me an unlikely part of a control system failure.
We are of course all speculating with the hope of learning something. Could the surging that was heard in the radio transmission not have been some type of compensatory throttle input by Chris in response to pitch control instability rather than an engine problem?
I'm not confident that we will learn much more from the FAA. I would hope that the Autogyro team may be forthcoming at some point, though I am not too confident of that either. I do not know for sure, but I think it's quite possible that they were in Sebring after the accident, as they were scheduled to be exhibiting at the Deland Light Sport expo, where I am based, the next day and the days after, and they did not show.
Personally I would still put my money on a control system failure, simply because knowing Chris's skills and viewing the surrounding environment I think Chris would have most likely been able to put the aircraft down safely if it were an engine problem.
Anyway, it would be some small, small compensation in Chris's memory, if the cause is somehow determined. With the amount of damage and the FAA's usual limited detail in these accidents I'm not expecting we will ever know for sure what happened; but unless I learn something definitive to the contrary, a control issue and not engine problems would be my considered guess.
 

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Brent Drake;n1140460 said:
Rememeber it hit a pole and wiresbefrore it hit the trailer.
Yeah, but knowing Chris's skills and looking at the environment nearby, still seems unlikely that he would have tried to put the aircraft down anywhere near the trailer and the poles if it were an engine out. Chris was not only very skilled, he was one of the calmest pilots I ever flew with. Do most gyro pilots, particularly those with Chris's skills, make Mayday calls for engine outs, or at least when making the call would we not expect them to state that they have an engine problem? Again all speculation, but the scenario just puts an engine out, low down on the list of possibilities in my assessment of the info we currently have. Of course I am not ruling out an engine failure, just seems to be the least likely of the scenarios. Remember, if it was an engine out, we know it was not on takeoff, the accident occurred about 8nm from the airport, so one would expect that Chris would have adequate time and altitude to make a well considered engine out landing particularly looking at the options in the area.
 

Kolibri

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"The propeller hub remained attached, and the composite blades appeared to be uniformly severed at their roots prior to fire exposure."
It's an odd facet of the crash. My thinking about it is this:
Since the impact caused a near instantaneous explosion and fire, the prop blades severing (without fire exposure) seems to have happened in the air.
I don't see the likelihood of the prop blades fully striking either the power pole or the wires, which, to me, leaves the rotor blades as what sheared off the prop blades.
We don't know what the rotor rpm was in those last seconds.



The idea of the Cavalon going straight down from 200 feet also seems unlikely.
Perhaps, but that's what two or three witnesses reported seeing. Estimated altitude varied from 150-300' AGL.


In my opinion there is not enough information to assume something mechanical failed in the control system.
Well, you're nearly alone on that.


The surging of the engine heard in the radio transmission seems to me an unlikely part of a control system failure.
Even if were turbo wastegate surging, Chris could have easily shut off the engine over the lakeshore and landed safely.
If it were such surging, which I'm not convinced it was.

Regards,
Kolibri
 

loftus

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Kolibri;n1140463 said:
It's an odd facet of the crash. My thinking about it is this:
Since the impact caused a near instantaneous explosion and fire, the prop blades severing (without fire exposure) seems to have happened in the air.
I don't see the likelihood of the prop blades fully striking either the power pole or the wires, which, to me, leaves the rotor blades as what sheared off the prop blades.
We don't know what the rotor rpm was in those last seconds, so they could have been coning significantly.




Perhaps, but that's what two or three witnesses reported seeing. Estimated altitude varied from 150-300' AGL.



Well, you're nearly alone on that.



Even if were turbo wastegate surging, Chris could have easily shut off the engine over the lakeshore and landed safely.
If it were such surging, which I'm not convinced it was.

Regards,
Kolibri
Agreed, a surging engine would not likely have been an uncontrollable event, particularly in Chris's hands. Also the words 'lean back' in his transmission would also be evidence of a control issue with an attempt to control the aircraft by weight shift, something that would not be necessary or even considered with an engine problem. Much more likely any surging was purposeful throttle input by the pilot to help control airspeed in an unstable situation in conjunction with trying to shift weight. When I had my loss of control in my MTO at about 700 feet, I was fortunately able to maintain the aircraft in a controlled glide to land with the stick fully back as far as it could go. Holding it in a normal position resulted in a sharp nose down pitch with little or no control of roll unless the stick was fully back as well. Fortunately I was in the pattern at a grass strip. Had I been anywhere else over a built up area I would not have had any possibility of pulling off a safe controlled landing. Possibly I could have tried to control altitude with throttle input, fortunately I did not need to try.
 

Vance

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Based on my experience flying a Cavalon it would seem unlikely to be able to manage the pitch by the passenger leaning further back.

I had a friend have a stroke and he collapsed forward unable to control his body. It was much worse than just dead weight and was difficult to straighten him out. If someone was having a medical emergency and collapsed forward on the cyclic I might ask them to lean back and I might have difficulty controlling the aircraft. I know it would reduce my situational awareness.

I have had a surging engine and it made the choice of landing zones difficult. I wondered if the engine would keep running or quit altogether.

In my opinion an emergency landing in a gyroplane is not as simple as people make it out to be. As the ground rushes up to meet me I see things I didn't see from higher up.

Wires have brought down a lot of rotorcraft.

I am not suggesting I am as good a pilot as Chris; I am only sharing what I have learned from experience.

I do not have enough information to know what happened and am not suggesting I do.

I feel a little short of information to assume it was a control system failure.

The maneuvering Chris was doing seems elaborate to me for a gyroplane with a control system failure.

Radar contact was lost at nine hundred feet so we have to rely on witnesses for pre-impact track and speed. I would have a lot of trouble estimating the height and speed of a gyroplane.

I don't know how tall the pole they hit was but it seems unlikely it was a hundred fifty to three hundred feet tall.
 

Kolibri

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Chris's "back, lean back" seems to me directed at his passenger who was somehow in the way.
I didn't have the sense that it was for auxiliary pitch.


Nobody is suggesting that mobile home park power poles are 150+ feet tall.

However, if N198LT had somehow lost cyclic and pitch trim, the rotor would have dumped forward. Thus, the witnessed nosedive from 150' AGL.
In the Cavalon, is there a common bracket, bolt, or part which if failed would have severed or catastrophically compromised cyclic authority and pitch trim?



The maneuvering Chris was doing seems elaborate to me for a gyroplane with a control system failure.
From the totality of witness reports, and in conjunction with the Mayday call, my sense of it is that the failure proceeded gradually at first, and then fully failed in the last seconds. I.e., for maybe 30-60 seconds he had some control, although it was decreasing.
 

Vance

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Every gyroplane rotor control system I have seen has several points of failure that would severely compromise rotor control except for an overhead stick.

A Cavalon is no exception.

In my experience when a gyroplane is trimmed properly; it needs no rotor control input to fly straight and level at whatever airspeed is desired.

A Cavalon is no exception and has a particularly good trim system.

I take off without trim in a Cavalon and it does not nose dive (rotor dumped forward?) and flies with very little cyclic back pressure.

The trim on a Cavalon is right at the top where the FAA reported things were still connected.
 

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FWIW; when I had my control failure, I was alone, and I had to pull the stick all the way back into the seat, possibly Chris had to do the same and the passenger was obstructing this effort. Of course the control mechanism does not use cables in the MTO, but with a failure of the pitch connection between the stick and the head at some point, I imagine the tendency to pitch down would be the same, and the instinctive attempt to correct it by pulling back on the stick would be the same. My ability to retain some control in my case was only because the horizontal control rod only partially came out of it's retaining bracket. The rear bolt holding it had become completely loose but was prevented from falling out completely by the lower part of the vertical mast.
 

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loftus;n1140480 said:
My ability to retain some control in my case was only because the horizontal control rod only partially came out of its retaining bracket. The rear bolt holding it had become completely loose but was prevented from falling out completely by the lower part of the vertical mast.
I am curious what method was supposed to be in place to prevent that evidently critical bolt from coming loose.
 

loftus

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Tyger;n1140483 said:
I am curious what method was supposed to be in place to prevent that evidently critical bolt from coming loose.
The bolt was supposed to be torqued during the build, I can't be sure that was done. That is the only requirement in the MTO build manual. The standard bolt is a hex drive with very little working room between the head and the base of the mast - which actually saved my life as it did not fall out completely. It was very difficult (impossible actually with my tools) to access and torque with standard tools. I replaced the bolt with a standard flat head bolt that was easy to tighten properly and I of course made sure it was torqued, The bolt had the head drilled and a safety wire to the frame as well.
 

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loftus;n1140487 said:
The bolt was supposed to be torqued during the build, I can't be sure that was done. That is the only requirement in the MTO build manual. The standard bolt is a hex drive with very little working room between the head and the base of the mast - which actually saved my life as it did not fall out completely. It was very difficult (impossible actually with my tools) to access and torque with standard tools. I replaced the bolt with a standard flat head bolt that was easy to tighten properly and I of course made sure it was torqued, The bolt had the head drilled and a safety wire to the frame as well.
It seems ludicrous that the only requirement for an essential bolt in something that vibrates as much as a gyro was a certain torque spec. Even had it been correctly torqued, vibration could be expected to loosen it eventually, absent some other method of keeping it from spinning. You're smart to wire in a new, drilled bolt.
 

Vance

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The FAA way to do thing (AC43.13-1B) is if it pivots it needs a secondary form of retention. Safety wire or a castellated nut and a cotter pin are preferred because these methods are easy to inspect.

"Do not use self-locking nuts on parts subject to rotation."
 

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On controlling the aircraft in the pitch axis with throttle: Pilots with failed control systems do try it (who wouldn't?). AFAIK it has never worked. One example from years ago is LeRoy Hardee, who had a failure of his Brock-style joystock system while flying a passenger in a tandem Snowbird. Witnesses described throttle "cycling," as I recall the story.

A "graveyard spiral" as such is most unlikely in a rotorcraft. FW planes generally have spiral instability to some extent: In a turn, the outside wing goes faster, lifts its side of the plane and tightens the bank in an uncommanded way. Hence the need for "high sticking" FW craft in turns. Our flapping hinges eliminate this issue -- or, really, turn it into extra rotor flapping in a turn. No need to "high stick" a gyro to hold a given bank angle.
 
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