Al Marsh

World-flight Pipistrel suffers structural damage

March 7, 2012 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

UPDATE MARCH 24: He is now in India.

UPDATE MARCH 19: The aircraft structural damage is repaired and the journey continues. After a five-plus-hour flight, Matevz Lenarcic is on the West Coast of Australia in Broome.

 

Pipistrel says world-flight aircraft is of different construction.

This press release was received from Pipistrel in Solvenia on March 12 concerning the structural failure of the World Green Flight  Pipistrel in Central Australia:

“Follow up on structural repairs during the World Green Flight 2012:

On March 6th, Matevz Lenarcic, flying his Virus 914 Turbo from Jacobs Well to Ayers Rock, Australia encountered severe turbulence, which resulted in airframe vibrations. Matevz commented it was the worst turbulence he had ever encountered in his life. When the vibration settled, the pilot found that the aircraft was still normally controllable, so he continued the flight. After landing, a crack was discovered in the lower vertical tail area on his aeroplane. Upon closer examination and discussion with Pipistrel engineers, it was decided that it was safer to repair the issue before continuing the around-the-world flight through tropical regions of south-east Asia, difficult conditions of Mount Everest and deserts of Africa. 

Pipistrel quickly dispatched a team of two people, a highly skilled composite-technology specialist and an aircraft mechanic to fly from Slovenia to carry out the repair on site at Connellan Airport in central Australia. The team is already with Matevz and together they will also prepare the aircraft for the continuation of the journey through difficult tropical, Himalayan and desert conditions.

The Virus SW 914 Turbo, the aeroplane which Matevz is flying, has a specially modified airframe which is different from the serial-production Virus SW 80/100 aeroplanes. It has a different structure, a completely different fuel system with fuel tanks of 350 litre capacity, avionics with airframe-integrated antennae, turbocharged engine with intercooler and over 100 other modifications and improvements over the standard aeroplane.

Matevž will set off on his flight again sometime during the weekend.”

Matevž Lenarčič of Slovenia is writing a book about his journey west around the world–his third photographic book. Included with this news item are some of the pictures he captured above Australia just before the vibrations started. Click to enlarge.

The Olgas

Here is his description of what happened: “Suddenly, terrible vibrations have shaken the aircraft, and first I thought that it will fall apart – autopilot off, throttle back, pitch up, stop the speed and terrifying vibrations. I carefully checked controls and found out that aircraft is still flyable. I made some pictures with my iPhone through the window to find the cause of flutter. Everything looked like it should be. After short flight over the Rock and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National park, I’ve put the aircraft very carefully down to the runway, because I was not sure in what kind of condition it actually is. I checked everything in details and found two minor cracks in tail section, I sent pictures to Pipistrel and then got an answer that it is probably serious. I soon got instructions to remove rear wing, elevator and rudders. This took me the whole next day on the hot apron, strong wind and with very limited tools.”

Photos by Matevž Lenarčič with permission

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12 Responses to “World-flight Pipistrel suffers structural damage”

  1. Chip Davis Says:

    That last photo is not of Uluru (Ayers Rock). That’s Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), a similar (but not as well-known or visited) rock formation 40 km west of Uluru. You need to correct the photo caption and possibly the text.

    There is a standard VFR procedure http://tinyurl.com/7p3tg7r for the two formations which requires a triangular clockwise tour (YAYE->Uluru->Kata Tjuta->YAYE), specific altitudes, and radio call-outs.

    If hMatevž got a photo of Kata Tjuta, he should have flown directly back to YAYE (which _I_ certainly would have done) when he experienced the vibration. Every time I’ve done the tour, the GA traffic was sufficient to justify having the procedure.

    Of course, he could have been ignorant of the VFR procedure, but that indicates poor flight planning (which I doubt). I suppose it’s possible he was confused about which formation was “the Rock”.

  2. Ken Spencer Says:

    The caption on the bottom photograph says “Ayers Rock.” It is not. Ayers rock is way off in the distance. The formation in the foreground it known as “Kata Tjuta” or “The Olgas.”

  3. Al Marsh Says:

    Thanks, Ken. It was listed on the Greenflight Web site that way. I will remove it.

  4. nestor0 Says:

    So….. would anyone want to buy an aircraft that wants to fall apart ? I think he was really lucky. Pipistrel better figure out what went wrong before someone dies.

  5. Tom Thomason Says:

    Please leave the pictures of the Olgas, just rename it.
    They are visually far more interesting from the air than from the ground. This is a view only those who fly can see for themselves.
    I have named the picture the Olgas. Thanks –Al Marsh

  6. Manoj Aviatior Says:

    Well.. Pipistrel will have to seriously look into the quality of material used and adhere to a strict Quality Control Procedures. Pipistrel has been claiming big about its design and quality, but the very first world-tour in a Pipistrel revealed the truth behind Pipistrel’s claim and boasts. Also, Pipistrel is known to be the manufacturer of Motor-Gliders, the aerodynamics and features of which vary largely from that of an ultralight or a LSA. What Pipistrel has done is that they have squezed the wing span and made it fit into the definitions of Ultralight & LSA. I think they went wrong with this. The whole concept, design, quality and standards of manufacturing will have to be re-looked into again, before reaching out to the market.

  7. Doug Lugthart Says:

    Let’s not be premature with the negatives; it’s like racing: innovating & “stretching the envelop” are where the problems arise, to be fixed in the production models.

  8. Jim Murphy Says:

    As of 15 March 2012, what is the status/progress of Matevz Lenarcic’s flight around the world after his aircraft’s structural/mechanical problems with his aircraft ?

  9. Al Marsh Says:

    Hi, Jim,
    The World Greenflight will resume Sunday. He still plans to circle Mt. Everest, and the airframe has to be in top condition for that. The Web site is here ( http://www.worldgreenflight.com/ ).

    At this moment they are waiting on a sunny day to provide heat to cure the repairs of the cracks in the tail. The aircraft remains in central Australia. There have been serious problems with the Rotax engine starting in South America, and pictures show it is getting some work in Australia, too, although it was also repaired in Tahiti and New Zealand.

  10. Rand Vollmer Says:

    Give me a break – guys. Matevz first circumnavigated the World in 2002 flying solo in his Pipistrel Sinus Motorglider. On this second attempt, he is flying farther, faster, and higher than anyone has ever done in a 700 pound aircraft. Cruise speeds over 160 knots don’t mix well with heavy turbulance in a small aircraft. More than 1,000 Pipistrel aircraft are based around the World, and are safely flying on 6 continents (now 7 that Matevz conquered Antarctica). I challenge anyone who questions Pipistrel quality to just visit the factory in Slovenia – it is a truly a World Class operation.

  11. roman kvaternik Says:

    If you are good you have tousands of jealusis arround you! It is the fact! And Ivo Boscarol, The owner of Pipistrel brand is the man of perfection! He is going higher, better, faster, smarter, lighter, and many more superlatives for the factory. Of course it is a pain in the ass to other traditional aircraft producers such as Cessna, diamond, and more!
    In fact some of those aircraft sleeps on the tradition and on the brand, but they are such more behind the time already taht is redicilous that peple are still buying them!
    So just go ahead with brave and open mind pipistrel Company and youwill fly not the last, cheaper and cleaner!

  12. replica hermes Says:

    hermes belt on amazon AOPA Pilot Blog: Reporting Points » Blog Archive » World-flight Pipistrel suffers structural damage

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