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.
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