Fatal AR1 crash 12/16/2020

rdalcanto

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Feb 20, 2017
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98
Location
Salt Lake City
My father had 40 years of flying experience. CFI, Commercial, Multiengine, and still current in IFR. He has been flying gyros for several years. Was turning 77 next month. He sold his Cavalon about a year ago and has been flying with me in my Magni M24 while he waited to get a new gyro. I did not like letting him do take-offs in my gyro, but let him practice anyway. He was unable to keep the stick back until the nose wheel came up, and catch it to balance on the mains. If he tried, the nose would stay too high and we would take off with too high an angle of attack and too slow an airspeed. So he would let the stick go forward as we accelerated and he would keep the nose wheel on the ground until 50-60 mph. We would have HUGE arguments over this, but he said that on the forums and other gyro "schools" they were no longer teaching balancing on the mains. Yesterday was his first solo flight in his new AR-1 with closed canopy and 915 engine. The rudder is HUGE. We don't know exactly what happened yet, but we have crash pictures and video of the crash. (Edit: This turned out to be wrong: My theory is that he developed some rotor flap on the takeoff role which damaged the rudder (edit: full video further down in this thread shows this was not the case). I believe the rudder came off in flight (I don't see it in the crash photos), causing complete loss of directional control (gyros can't fly in reverse). Edit: They did find the rudder 5-10 feet from the wreckage, so it did not come off in flight). We need to teach that balancing on the mains is the only safe technique, and if the pilot can't do it without letting the nose get too high, they shouldn't be flying solo.

Edit: Full video in later post. His take off looked ok.

AR1.jpeg
 
Last edited:

JETLAG03

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france
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Sad beyond words. Thank you for having the courage to share such painful pictures and videos. I hope the investigations will give you some further information.

philip
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
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Nipomo,California
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Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience Richard.

You are still at the top of my list of favorite clients.

Hopefully your words will help people to learn from this tragedy.

This understanding about takeoff technique is not unique to your father.

I am sorry for your loss.
 

Philbennett

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Aug 17, 2014
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477
Location
London
My father had 40 years of flying experience. CFI, Commercial, Multiengine, and still current in IFR. He has been flying gyros for several years. Was turning 77 next month. He sold his Cavalon about a year ago and has been flying with me in my Magni M24 while he waited to get a new gyro. I did not like letting him do take-offs in my gyro, but let him practice anyway. He was unable to keep the stick back until the nose wheel came up, and catch it to balance on the mains. If he tried, the nose would stay too high and we would take off with too high an angle of attack and too slow an airspeed. So he would let the stick go forward as we accelerated and he would keep the nose wheel on the ground until 50-60 mph. We would have HUGE arguments over this, but he said that on the forums and other gyro "schools" they were no longer teaching balancing on the mains. Yesterday was his first solo flight in his new AR-1 with closed canopy and 915 engine. The rudder is HUGE. We don't know exactly what happened yet, but we have crash pictures and video of the crash. My theory is that he developed some rotor flap on the takeoff role which damaged the rudder. I believe the rudder came off in flight (I don't see it in the crash photos), causing complete loss of directional control (gyros can't fly in reverse). We need to teach that balancing on the mains is the only safe technique, and if the pilot can't do it without letting the nose get too high, they shouldn't be flying solo.

View attachment 1150152

As we have exchanged on my own channel - first of all very sorry about the death of your father above all else.

On the accident. First of all the video you post shows a pretty nice take off - I don't link the take off and the subsequent accident [you don't see an impact, you don't hear an impact] so aside from having an academic debate about take off technique it seems irrelevant to the accident. What doesn't seem so irrelevant is experience...

Yesterday was his first solo flight in his new AR-1 with closed canopy and 915 engine.

What was the total time on the aircraft outside of this first solo? By some margin the common thread that links [what is it 5 fatal accidents in the last month??] is inexperience.
 

rdalcanto

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Feb 20, 2017
Messages
98
Location
Salt Lake City
As we have exchanged on my own channel - first of all very sorry about the death of your father above all else.

On the accident. First of all the video you post shows a pretty nice take off - I don't link the take off and the subsequent accident [you don't see an impact, you don't hear an impact] so aside from having an academic debate about take off technique it seems irrelevant to the accident. What doesn't seem so irrelevant is experience...



What was the total time on the aircraft outside of this first solo? By some margin the common thread that links [what is it 5 fatal accidents in the last month??] is inexperience.
The video only starts after he is already airborne, so we don't know if there was blade flap with rudder strike prior. I recorded that video with my phone off the television news. I'm trying to get my hands on the entire video, which hopefully shows more. I can tell you that having done 50+ take offs with him in the last year, he would not hold enough back stick pressure. With me helping enough to ensure adequate blade acceleration and the design of the Magni, he got away with it. He was not so lucky flying solo in the AR1. Video shows complete loss of control during the flight. There is no way that part was pilot induced. Something came apart, and the lack of rudder at the crash site, and what I know about his preferred take off technique is what I am going off of at this point. We will see what NTSB determines as well.
 

GyrOZprey

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My heartfelt empathy & condolences Rick.

I REALLY appreciate your painful detailed sharing of pictures and your analysis!

You are doing great service to our very frustrated community trying to improve training and safety protocols to prevent ...JUST THIS from becoming such an un-necessarily frequent occurrence! ...trying to help us understand what goes wrong & why! (in our supposed-to-be safest of flying machines in an emergency!)

I (as much as anyone) understand how hard it is to deny a loved-one of realizing an often hard-fought "DREAM" ( When rational consideration ...tells one ...they should not really be flying!!!).
I see this time and again ...some medical contra-indication - often just an inability to "get-the necessary techniques" ...to safely fly our unique mode of flight"! So hard to say NO ...you really should NOT pursue THIS!

My prayers & sympathy ...as you navigate your grief & loss ...SO VERY SORRY! RIP.
 

rdalcanto

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Messages
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Location
Salt Lake City
I should add that level flight, steep turns, gyro turns, turns around a point, etc., were all things we did together all the time and he did well. The only think I noticed as he got older was a decline in the ability to do precise, quick reacting feel tasks like catching the nose when it popped up and balancing on the mains with the nose wheel a few inches off the runway.
 

rdalcanto

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Feb 20, 2017
Messages
98
Location
Salt Lake City
My heartfelt empathy & condolences Rick.

I REALLY appreciate your painful detailed sharing of pictures and your analysis!

You are doing great service to our very frustrated community trying to improve training and safety protocols to prevent ...JUST THIS from becoming such an un-necessarily frequent occurrence! ...trying to help us understand what goes wrong & why! (in our supposed-to-be safest of flying machines in an emergency!)

I (as much as anyone) understand how hard it is to deny a loved-one of realizing an often hard-fought "DREAM" ( When rational consideration ...tells one ...they should not really be flying!!!).
I see this time and again ...some medical contra-indication - often just an inability to "get-the necessary techniques" ...to safely fly our unique mode of flight"! So hard to say NO ...you really should NOT pursue THIS!

My prayers & sympathy ...as you navigate your grief & loss ...SO VERY SORRY! RIP.
Thank you. He was a very healthy guy. Still ski racing, and was training gates all morning. However, I know of three life-long pilots who all crashed around age 75 (two of them multiple times) before they finally listened to their families and gave it up. He had done many touch-n-goes with an experienced AR1 pilot on Sunday, and went back to the hangar a few times for "pilot briefing" and then additional training. In the end he was deemed "safe," although I was still nervous for him to fly alone given my time with him over the last year.
 

GyrOZprey

Aussie in Kansas.
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My father had 40 years of flying experience. CFI, Commercial, Multiengine, and still current in IFR. He has been flying gyros for several years. Was turning 77 next month. He sold his Cavalon about a year ago and has been flying with me in my Magni M24 while he waited to get a new gyro. I did not like letting him do take-offs in my gyro, but let him practice anyway. He was unable to keep the stick back until the nose wheel came up, and catch it to balance on the mains. If he tried, the nose would stay too high and we would take off with too high an angle of attack and too slow an airspeed. So he would let the stick go forward as we accelerated and he would keep the nose wheel on the ground until 50-60 mph. We would have HUGE arguments over this, but he said that on the forums and other gyro "schools" they were no longer teaching balancing on the mains. Yesterday was his first solo flight in his new AR-1 with closed canopy and 915 engine. The rudder is HUGE. We don't know exactly what happened yet, but we have crash pictures and video of the crash. My theory is that he developed some rotor flap on the takeoff role which damaged the rudder. I believe the rudder came off in flight (I don't see it in the crash photos), causing complete loss of directional control (gyros can't fly in reverse). We need to teach that balancing on the mains is the only safe technique, and if the pilot can't do it without letting the nose get too high, they shouldn't be flying solo.

View attachment 1150152

This very problem in training take-off-procedures in new-generation gyros was the focus of our MASTER THE GYROPLANE symposium with Phil Harwood - last year!
A "too-small" group of USA CFI's & enthusiasts ... spent time & $s ..in October 2019 to collaborate with Phil Harwood on THIS VERY TOPIC ..trying to improve the training standards among our USA CFI's ...sadly the ones who blew-off our "call-to-action" ...to improve the increasing accident rate ... before it turned into this increasing fatality rate among our transition-to-gyro pilots ... seem to be the ones who are training the ones now having problems! ( & DYING)
This makes me so very sad & angry! ....WE TRIED ...& continue to hammer out this message about training to Gyropedia standards ..ESPECIALLY for pilots with high time in other flight-modes! Take-off routines ...SO IMPORTANT!
 

GyrOZprey

Aussie in Kansas.
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Thank you. He was a very healthy guy. Still ski racing, and was training gates all morning. However, I know of three life-long pilots who all crashed around age 75 (two of them multiple times) before they finally listened to their families and gave it up. He had done many touch-n-goes with an experienced AR1 pilot on Sunday, and went back to the hangar a few times for "pilot briefing" and then additional training. In the end he was deemed "safe," although I was still nervous for him to fly alone given my time with him over the last year.
It sounds like you & he did all you reasonably could to get the time-in-type & extensive training.
When a pilot ...just cannot ..reliably-repeat an essential procedure .... ???? (- SO HARD to say "You should NOT do THIS!")
I know of couple of rare sensible CFI's ..who WILL say ...NO ...you are not getting this ..DO NOT continue training! ...and in case of those (not your Dad -evidently very healthy!) - with medical issues - NO "you must NOT pursue further training!" (I am sure was the case with an AR1 fatality in MN last year!)
 

XXavier

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Madrid, Spain
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ELA R-100 and Magni M24 autogyros
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Thanks for sharing, specially at this difficult time. Please accept my condolences.

At second 5-7, I see two or three rapid oscillations in pitch. They might be due to unintentional swaying of the stick by the pilot, alarmed by the vibration caused by the blades hitting the flapping stops. This has happened to me at least once, fortunately without bad consequences...
 

MyTech

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Oct 31, 2014
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Location
Columbia, SC
My father had 40 years of flying experience. CFI, Commercial, Multiengine, and still current in IFR. He has been flying gyros for several years. Was turning 77 next month. He sold his Cavalon about a year ago and has been flying with me in my Magni M24 while he waited to get a new gyro. I did not like letting him do take-offs in my gyro, but let him practice anyway. He was unable to keep the stick back until the nose wheel came up, and catch it to balance on the mains. If he tried, the nose would stay too high and we would take off with too high an angle of attack and too slow an airspeed. So he would let the stick go forward as we accelerated and he would keep the nose wheel on the ground until 50-60 mph. We would have HUGE arguments over this, but he said that on the forums and other gyro "schools" they were no longer teaching balancing on the mains. Yesterday was his first solo flight in his new AR-1 with closed canopy and 915 engine. The rudder is HUGE. We don't know exactly what happened yet, but we have crash pictures and video of the crash. My theory is that he developed some rotor flap on the takeoff role which damaged the rudder. I believe the rudder came off in flight (I don't see it in the crash photos), causing complete loss of directional control (gyros can't fly in reverse). We need to teach that balancing on the mains is the only safe technique, and if the pilot can't do it without letting the nose get too high, they shouldn't be flying solo.

View attachment 1150152
I am so sorry you lost your father. A sad day indeed.
 

Tyger

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The rudder is HUGE. We don't know exactly what happened yet, but we have crash pictures and video of the crash. My theory is that he developed some rotor flap on the takeoff role which damaged the rudder.
That rudder does look huge, but even so, looking from the side, with the enclosure it seems like there is way more surface area up front. Given just a little bit of initial yaw, with a diminished rudder, it seems like it would quickly become very hard to control.
Are the rudder/vertical tail surfaces on the enclosed version very much bigger than on the open version?
 

AgentCheese

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De Soto, Missouri
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I am also extremely sorry for your loss, but also very grateful you have shared this with the community for the benefit of all. It took a lot of courage to do so. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
 

Illini85

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Richard
Condolences to you and your family. I wish there were words to help. I believe that should I have had the privilege to have met your father that I would have recognized an enthusiasm for life that permeated his whole being, that inspired those around him to claim a better life for themselves just for having known him. May peace somehow find you during this season of hope and renewal.

Steve Greenwell
 

Sv.grainne

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Kerrville, Texas
The video only starts after he is already airborne, so we don't know if there was blade flap with rudder strike prior. I recorded that video with my phone off the television news. I'm trying to get my hands on the entire video, which hopefully shows more. I can tell you that having done 50+ take offs with him in the last year, he would not hold enough back stick pressure. With me helping enough to ensure adequate blade acceleration and the design of the Magni, he got away with it. He was not so lucky flying solo in the AR1. Video shows complete loss of control during the flight. There is no way that part was pilot induced. Something came apart, and the lack of rudder at the crash site, and what I know about his preferred take off technique is what I am going off of at this point. We will see what NTSB determines as well.
Sorry for your loss, hard to have to watch it happen!

I agree that it appears that something happened to cause the sudden drop
 
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