Lancair Mishaps

July 10, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

The Lancair experimental aircraft: beautiful, fast and having what the FAA calls a “disproportionate” number of fatal accidents. There have been 7 fatals since February including the most recent, which occurred this week. Here are some preliminary FAA statistics running from October of last year:

Lancairs make up just over 3% of the amateur built ( AB) fleet yet have over 10% of the fatal AB accidents. Keep in mind, however, that they also tend to fly significantly more than the typical AB local flights. These are cross country machines.

Over half the Lancair accidents in this small sample were fatal while the rest of the AB fleet is just slightly above the overall GA fleet fatal accident ratio of 1 fatal mishap for every 5 accidents. Here’s what’s interesting – unlike the typical high performance aircraft that have fatal weather encounters, the Lancairs are generally in VFR conditions and involve loss of control – i.e a stall/spin.

A couple of observations: High performance aircraft may be squirrelly in stalls but not always. The certificated Columbia ( now Cessna) 350/400, which has ties to the Lancair early in its history, has a good stall/spin safety record. “Experimental” means that aircraft handling is left up to the designer and the extent of flight testing is entirely at the designer’s discretion. It may be very thorough or not. Factory built aircraft must meet specific construction and performance standards and are FAA tested for compliance. That’s one of the reasons for the cost differential.

There may also be variability in the building process. The designer suggests that it be built this way and the builder thinks he has a better idea or just isn’t adept at putting the machine together.

A few aerodynamic realities: Small wings and big engines make for very fast aircraft with high wing loadings and glide ratios not much better than the proverbial brick. If the engine stops for whatever reason, the crash dynamics are often not very good.

I believe that pilots should be able to build and fly their own aircraft. Extra training is one way to compensate, although not always successfully, with “hot” aircraft. There’s lots of history on that. Comparative statistics on any aircraft model’s safety are complex until you’ve accumulated enough accidents to say there’s a problem – the hindsight approach – and the denominator (exposure) factor is always squishy. Government crash testing, as done on automobiles, just doesn’t seem feasible for aircraft.

Your thoughts?

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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49 Responses to “Lancair Mishaps”

  1. Dave Fogarty Says:

    While certainly a high performance and complex aircraft, the Lancair mishaps that seem so frequent and memorable are not stall spin but more weather related structural breakups. I guess that is due to the fact that these are serious X-C machines that can encounter frontal wx systems on a typical mission. I don’t think the accident rates are higher due to the fact that they are homebuilt. I agree with Bruce – the answer is most likely better and more frequent training and better wx avoidance tools and skills. The accident numbers don’t lie. Major mistakes are rarely tolerated well in high performance / complex a/c regardless of type and the Lancair owners owe it to themselves to perhaps be even more mindful of their profciency levels than the “average” G/A driver. Just my 3 cents worth (adjusted for inflation and oil price speculation). Stop – Think – Do.

  2. Trey Higgins Says:

    Bruce,
    It is not often that I submit an editorial to any publication. In fact, as I plow through distant memory, I recall only once pursuing such action. However, after seeing the blog on Lancair aircraft and the disproportionate number of fatal accidents attached to these extraordinary machines, I feel I must present my personal views and feelings on the matter.

    From the beginning, you need to understand that I am a loyal and passionately devoted proponent of Lancair aircraft. I make this statement because I purchased a completed Lancair 320 on 18 Mar 1999 and have since flown more than thirteen hundred hours in the machine. Over the years, the aircraft has been to every corner of the country, from San Diego to Seattle, Key West to Maine and all points in between. I’ve literally flown it cross country (from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back) nearly seven times. In fact, I recall flying from Fallon Nevada (where I was an Adversary instructor pilot for the US Navy) to Virginia Beach, VA in one day. Only weeks ago I took the aircraft on a business trip from my home town of Raleigh North Carolina to Wichita. The return to NC was an easy journey for that machine encompassing just over four hours in the air. (N320TH….check it out on Flightaware.com) Though it is well equipped with avionics, and I do devote a rigid and disciplined attention to all maintenance details and responsibilities, my Lancair is not some gleaming, ultra-pampered, immaculate hanger ornament that gets rubbed with a baby diaper. This airplane is a working man’s machine.

    But make no mistake: these machines can be extremely unforgiving and they will kill the inexperienced or those lacking in attention to detail. Leap out of a C-172 and into the cockpit of one of these aircraft without acquiring proper training and practice, and you are asking for a one way trip to the mort locker. I’m not trying to sound dramatic, though it will unquestionably comes across that way, but pilots need to understand the differences between how these aircraft operate in comparison to the standard fleet of Cessna’s and Pipers. Leave your egos at home and look at the reality of the situation. As you mentioned, these are “go-fast” machines that are designed to cover a lot of ground in a little bit of time.

    I’ll not even address the demands these aircraft place on a pilot when flown in serious IFR.

    But my god, are they wonderful to fly. My ship is beautifully responsive. Though no where near as harmonized as say, an RV-4, it’s a “fly with your finger tips” machine. They just don’t like to go slow. That may sound ridiculous, but think about it for a moment. The most dangerous time for an inexperienced (or experienced, for that matter) Lancair pilot is when they find themselves in the landing pattern. If your attention is drawn away, say you are aggressively looking for traffic, or something else captures your concentration and the airspeed slips out of your scan, when this airplane stops flying, it is going to eat up a great deal of altitude before Bernoulli starts to function again. The bottom line: don’t get slow and you’ll be okay.

    I simply love my airplane. Should it ever shut me up in Davy Jones’ locker, it will not be a failure on the machine’s part, but of the decision maker at the controls.

  3. David Jones Says:

    I fly a Lancair IV, which I completed in1996. I have followed the accident reports for Lancairs for about 15 years. An extremely high percentage of accidents were judgement issues, pure and simple, and many of these involved many pilots who were professional and had high time. Some of the examples boggle the mind. Example–Four 300 lb men with luggage flying over a mountain in Mexico. Example-Pilot and passenger go sightseeing up the Columbia River gorge in rain and fog. Example–an ATP rated high time pilot on a cross country trip runs out of gas 8 miles from the airport. Example–a fully loaded LIV attempts a misalighned landing on a very narrow private uphill strip and kills all four. Example–two Australian test pilots go on the first flight of a turbine modified LIV and stall it on takeoff. Example–a father takes his son up for a first flight after an experienced mechanic grounds the plane because he has installed aluminum oil fittings on the turbos. Thefittings melted and turned the plane into a fireball in five minutes. I could go on and on. Judgement calls, pure and simple, by people with lots of money, lots of exerience in some cases, and in all cases, a disregard for safety. I call it the DUH FACTOR…
    David Jones

  4. Richard Reiley Says:

    “glide ratios not much better than the proverbial brick”? Lancair’s 13:1 glide ratio is at the high end of propeller driven general aviation aircraft. Planning ahead in the pattern is everything in these very slippery aircraft. Re bricks, perhaps you were thinking of a Piper TriPacer which can be flown to short final at pattern altitude and still land on the numbers.

  5. Robert M. Simon Says:

    There is a comparison made in the article between the Lancair IV and the Columbia300/350/400. There is actually a dramatic difference between those two aircraft. A closer comparison to the Columbia is the Lancair ES and ES-P. The wing of the ES and the Columbia differs greatly from the IV – 40% larger in the case of the ES, and the horizontal stabilizer and elevator are likewise much larger. Those differences make the Lancair ES and ES-P easy to fly even low and slow, although the pilot does give up about 10% in air speed compared to the tuck-gear smaller winged IV. My ES-P cruises at 260 kt TAS at FL250, yet handles in the pattern at 80 kt like a docile spam can. Robert M. Simon, Lancair ES-P N301ES

  6. Gene Ellisor Says:

    Althought I am sure your article is well intended. I believe your type of article tends to bring additional regulations on the aviation community. Things happen.

    FREEDOM IS THE RIGHT TO FAIL. We learn from our mistakes. People should be able to built and fly their dreams. We have become too obsessed with taking away the rights of many for the protection of a few.

    It is ok to provide accident and background data for people to learn from, but the best training is doing. We need to accept the responsibily for our own actions.

  7. Mark Steitle Says:

    Bruce,
    Good article, but I think that if you check the stats again, you’ll find that you’re really talking about the IV and IV-P. As Robert pointed out, the ES has a much different wing and is therefore a much more forgiving airplane to fly. Personally, I am not aware of a single ES fatality (although there was a Columbia 300/400 that crashed due to ice accumululation). This is the primary reason I chose the ES over the IV-P.

  8. Tom Pecht Says:

    Thanks for heads up . . . fast planes in the hands of low time pilots with the urge to fly beyond their capabilities spells disaster from the get go. Perhaps the owners should spend a few hours reading “The Killing Zone,” published by McGraw-Hill before taking off across country.

  9. James Douthit Says:

    I am not an expert on Lancairs, but I do know a little bit about people, so I would speculate that the accident rate tells us alot more about the type of folks who are likely to want and fly a Lancair. Certainly not all, but I would estimate that there are many owners who are marginal pilots “drivers” who are attracted soley to the speed of a Lancair. How many of the acciddent pilots had recurring training in the last year? How many were commercial rated? How many hours had they flown in the last 6 months? How many were viewed by there peers as “by the book” kind of guys? How many cut corners in flying, maintenance, and in other areas of their life? These are probing questions that are more about the individual than about the aircraft. Unless there is a structural flaw that is discovered about the Lancair, I will continue to believe that pilot error is to blame. My heart goes out to the families of those in the accidents. My hope is that the guys that need more training or need to get out of the Lancairs will realize it and do something about it.

  10. Lynn Farnsworth Says:

    I fly a Legacy with a TSIO-550 engine. It is ,indeed, a very fast aircraft!

    Glide ratio of a “brick”? I don’t think so. I also have a fearthering prop on the plane. A descent rate of 600 FPM (in the failed engine mode) is a pretty slow falling brick.

    My flying background: Air Force – F-100, F-105, F-4.
    Airline – B-727, B-757, B-717, DC-9, A-300.
    Civilian – Cessna 120, 140, 172
    Piper – J-3, Cherokee 160, TriPacer

    I was very impressed with the Legacy the first time I flew it. I don’t think it is an especially difficult aircraft to fly. I think you will find that most of the accidents are not caused by the flying characteristics of the Lancairs, but by pilot error (flying into thunderstorms, running out of fuel, ect).

  11. Don Arnold Says:

    When Audi was pilloried for bogus “unintended acceleration” events, the numbers were no worse than Toyotas’. What was different was the type of owner attracted to the Audi. (and targeted by Audi salemen). The Lancair attracts the type of pilot who wants to move up and be challenged by a serious XC tool. Some are ready with both skills and judgement, some not. When the Audi situation was explained by pointing out slight differences in pedal position compared to Cadillacs, the pubilc yawned. They’d rather see cars teetering on diving boards. Those bad, bad cars!! Are any of the Lancair crashes on YouTube yet? Wow! Fortunately, the aviation community has a longer attention span. I am glad to see no rush to judgement here.

  12. Bruce Landsberg Says:

    Let me clarify a few points – and thanks very much to the Lancair pilots who know their machines better than anyone:

    Perhaps I did not make it clear that the Columbia (Cessna) 350/400 do NOT have the same wings as the IV and IV-P and I suspect the ES is doing quite well in the stall spin area – it is a also different wing.

    One other point, on statistics – which is really a slippery slope – what is noticeable from the very short time that FAA looked at this (February ’08) unlike other XC aircraft, there is a noticeable uptick in stall/spin. That is an unusal profile.

    Great comments – thank you!

  13. Scott Baker Says:

    Adding weight to Landsberg’s words, “A couple of observations: High performance aircraft may be squirrelly in stalls but not always” … Velocity aircraft have outstanding speed, climb, and altitude performance – and at the same time offers safe stall characteristics. The canard wing stalls prior to the main wings – which allows the nose to drop while the main wings continue to develop lift. It is unusual to find a high performance aircraft with mild stall characteristics that does not spin.

    I admire the Lancair-IV design – however the facts remain, stalls in Lancair IV’s and IV-P’s are a very real concern. Some Lancair pilots are comfortable with the full range of flight dynamics of their aircraft – however I have questioned a number of Lancair IV and IV-P pilots about stall behavior and most reply that they simply “do not go there”. They are frightened by the stall characteristics of the aircraft, which explains why many fly at approach speeds 1.4 to 1.5 times Vso.

  14. Joe Bartels Says:

    Bruce:

    There were certainly too many accidents involving Lancair kit aircraft this year. However, in your article, you stated that weather was not a significant factor. My recollection of those accidents reported to me include an ES which was at 13k feet, in icing, that of course stalled and spun in, a IVP coming from Alaska who was given weather advisories of thunderstorm activity which he penetrated, and a IVP which picked up icing on the East Coast and spun in. Those other accidents include a Legacy which was flown by an elderly individual who had only recently completed his aircraft , turned base to final and stalled and spun it in, a IVP which was flown by an individual who was informed by a tower operator that smoke was coming from his exhaust, which individual immediately executed a hard bank to return to the field…it stalled and spun in, a Legacy which experienced a canopy which came open in flight, a IVP whose engine lost a cylinder in flight, and most recently, a person who installed a Chevy V-8 derivitive engine in his IVP. While some of these individuals had received training from High Performance Aicraft Training, Inc., others did not. Even those who receive the training react to emergencies differenly and forget that training (executing a 180 to return to airport while at low altitude). BTW, let me comment on one accident that stands out in my mind (not that they all don’t). Approximately 2 years ago, the pilot of a IV-PT, with over 500 hours of jet time, and after receiving the mandatory HPAT, Inc., training, which included restrictions against acting as PIC in IFR and night time conditions without first accumulating 50 hours of operational time in this new aircraft, took off from St. George, UT, experienced incliment weather enroute, cancelled his IFR flight plan 10 miles out of Provo, UT and the attempted to bleed his speed by circling. On his second revolution, he impacted the lake. The Chelton flight system recorded this information for all. Of course he and others aboard were killed.

    In order to intice AIG into providing insurance coverage for our customers, I offered to initiate a program which would mandate 1) an initial inspection by Lancair of the aircraft to be insured; 2) training through HPAT, Inc. initially, followed by another training session 6 months later and then 6 months following that one and finally annually thereafter; 3) the aircraft cannot have dual electronic ignition nor should it be other than based on a certified engine; 4) Should the insured aircraft become sold, the “insurance inspection” would have to be repeated. This has helped. Cost though is a factor. Many pilots refuse the training. What neither HPAT, Inc. nor Lancair can do is mandate psychological testing to eliminate those who are susceptable of making bad judgments.

    Most recently I instituted another policy change whereby upon Lancair being advised of a change in ownership of an aircraft, the new owner, before being able to receive Lancair support or the ability to purchase parts, must submit to training through HPAT, Inc. I am looking for anyway to coerce the owner/pilot to receive initial and recurrent training through HPAT, Inc. This is a controversial change in policy which we hope will make those secondary owners understand the seriousness of training and our committment to safety.

    While it is true that the Lancair IV(P) is a very high performance aircraft, it is one which can be flown very safely. I have 1,050 hours on my IVP. I fly at 120kts in the pattern or on approach. I’m over the fence at 100kts and I land at 80kts. If I ever experience an engine failure, I hope I will remember the training I have received and land straight ahead. I will not go into thunderstorms. I will not go into icing conditions and I will maintain my aircraft as if it were certified.

    Finally, let me suggest that our new Evolution is an aircraft which was designed specifically to have flight characteristics equal to or better than that which is mandated by Part 23. It is to be equipped with the BRS recovery chute and AmSafe inflatable seat belts. Evolution, powered by the PWC PT6A-135A, with two persons and 100 gallons of Jet-A, stalls at 54 kts and has roll control in the stall. It is also capable of TAS’s above 330kts. Let’s hope that the new FAA comments on the “51%” rule do not unduly burden Lancair, and our new Evolution builders, by making the builders fabricate a disproportionate percentage of the airframe parts.

  15. Ron Rounds Says:

    The Lancairs are not inherently dangerous as a group but suffer from fps syndrome. At the feet per second these machines travel, inattention or hesitation eats up hundreds of feet horizontallly and vertically. Currency also rears it’s ugly head for some, the faster it is, the more hours are required to stay in front of this type machine. RV’s have the same problems, look at the NTSB reports. Add glass to that and you have pilots flying into brick buildings they didn’t see while scanning the screens. Beware the glass…..

  16. Dale E. Scholz Says:

    Bruce: I completed and started flying my IVP in 1997. I have just over 2000 hours on the airplane and I’m on my second engine. Over the last ten years, I’ve observed numerous Lancair pilots. I believe there are a dispropotionate number of “type A” personalities represented. I believe the “I can do anything” attitude may be a large part of the accident problem.

  17. Bill Reister Says:

    Bruce,

    Your observation that Lancairs have “glide ratios not much better than the proverbial brick” is not only incorrect, they actually have BETTER glide ratios than many aircraft on the market. I personally lost a propeller (wood prop split) over the ocean on my way from the Bahamas (see http://www.bahamavilla.com/update.html for my passenger’s story) and we glided over 20 miles starting from 8500′ to an uneventful landing. Try doing THAT in a Cessna!

    The issue isn’t glide ratio, it is that the Lancairs are simply “hotter” planes than most. I have personally talked over a dozen people OUT of buying a Lancair after flying them. There is no room for ego in dangerous activities, and the fact is that not all people were born with the right combination of skills to fly ANY aircraft, let alone a Lancair.

    Does that mean that Lancairs should be grounded? Absolutely not. A skilled pilot with the discipline to do the “boring” work of actually PRACTICING emergency procedures is going to be safer in a Lancair than your average 30 hour per year Cessna sightseer. But, that is the rub – no one is looking over your shoulder to see that you actually spend that time practicing emergency procedures, and too many people just say, “I’m too busy for that.”

    Several of the recent Lancair fatalities reported loss of power followed by loss of control. This can ONLY happen if a) the control surfaces become mysteriously damaged, a theory for which I have heard no supporting evidence, or b) the person just gets scared and does the wrong thing.

    One of the advantages of military flight training is that they drilled into us that “the plane is paid for – if you need to, give it back to the taxpayers.” The act of consciously deciding before you even get into the airplane that the aircraft is expendable but YOU AREN’T is, I believe, a mind-set that civilian taught pilots are not consistently drilled with. Yet, the truth is that even a fully loaded Lancair IV can land in only about 500′ if you are willing to fly it to the ground and land gear-up. Don’t have 500′ clear, not even a subdivision street? Land straight ahead between two trees / houses, and the wings will absorb the velocity. Sacrifice the airplane, save your life.

    I think we may have to start requiring that pilots of high-performance aircraft get simulator training where they practice power-out landings, intentionally preparing for a “survivable crash landing.” Whatever the fears are that people have that lead them to sacrifice themselves thinking they are saving the airplane, or whatever else it is that is going through their heads in those few critical moments – it is happening because they are not properly prepared.

    Best Regards,

    Bill Reister
    Atlanta, GA

  18. Ashley Palmer Says:

    Bruce:

    This seems to be a little bit hysterical in tone. The Lancair series suffers from the same malady that the Bonanzas (and Cirrus) have. Namely, pilots that get in over their head because of either lack of proficiency & training. This should NOT be taken that Bonanzas, Cirruses or Lancairs have any more design issues than the Cessna 172. Any airplane has its share. However the speed of these three aircraft will bite an untrained or unsuspecting pilot.

    If you want to fly high performance, get high performance skills.

  19. Dennis Collins Says:

    Most of the accidents seem to be Lancair IV’s, while there are plenty of us with Lancair 235/320/360 models that are not having such trouble despite having similar high wing loading and speed ranges.

    They used to call Beechcraft Bonanzas the “Doctor Killer”, because pilots with more money, more aggressivness, and less time for training tended to buy them and soon kill themselves. I think the Lancair IV is the modern “Doctor Killer”.

    I’m not sure how this publicity will affect the value of my aircraft or my ability to get insurance, but no doubt it won’t help.

  20. Bruce Landsberg Says:

    We haven’t had this much excitement since the traffic pattern discussion awhile back! I stand corrected on the glide ratio – after doing a bit more research it is true that the IV-P has a better ration that the Bonanza.

    I notice a recurring theme in the comments – high performance aircraft require an equivalent level from the pilot. Joe, it’s a courageous stance you’re taking on the parts availability – I understand that Eclipse is doing the same thing.

    Again, thanks to all.

  21. Gerhard Paasche Says:

    I am building a Lancair Legacy. I chose it for its XC abilities and accepted the limits at the lower speeds. Though more important is to be prepared in your mind for anything that can occur in flight. You can do it through brain jogging (running through the possible scenes in the computer between the ears). Emergency procedures training are a must and can be adequately addressed through instruction even with a simulator. I learned to recover a glider in a winch tow at 100 feet altitude even though the glider is drilling in to the sky at 45 deg attitude angles. Getting PC-12 flight simulator training and recurrent training at Simcom is mostly about understanding the limits of you and the AC in emergencies. Put the aircraft data into a flight simulator and go to the limits to see how fast things go kaput. All this can be done fairly cost effective and give you an understanding of what kind of AC you are dealing with and weather you are up to speed for it.

  22. Doug Knight Says:

    Hey Guys,
    I love Lancairs and Columbia’s, and Cirrus’s too…. and describing the Lancair IV as the modern “Doctor Killer” is unjust.

    The bottom line:
    All GA, single engine, not-certified for known ice, cross country, high performace, TAA, high wing loaded airplanes should have a BRS recovery chute. The chute will float the airplane in less than 400′ AGL …Think how many lives would have been saved in all of scenarios discussed today if they had all been all equiped accordingly. The trick, however, is to fly the airplane and make your decisions as if you’re in a bird that doesn’t have one. Also, why not fly that high-speed no flap landing occasionally or practice MCA at altitude? Remember those from your first-ticket training?

    Enjoyed It. -Doug

  23. John McMahon Says:

    Bruce and others,
    A lot has been said about the various accidents but I believe it is important NOT to lump all Lancairs together, as is usually done. There is a large disparity between the various models in performance, wing loading etc.. While it is important to emphasize the importance of proper training, initial and recurrant, for all, please note the relatively excellent safety record of the ES model.

    I agree that it seems to be, at least in some cases, Type A personality and the overconfidence in their ability to handle anything and a reliance on ‘black boxes’ rather than good flight planning and good decision making at the root of a lot of these accidents.

  24. Phil Stitzer Says:

    Sounds like the statistics show mostly poor judgment calls on the part of the pilots, so I’m wondering why construction methods (amateur built) were even brought up? If the statistics don’t point to construction or engine malfunctions, then let’s validate the construction and building method, not bring it into question.

  25. Carl LaVon Says:

    I am not a Lancair pilot, and never will be. I am destined now to remain in the LSA category for the rest of my flying life due to medical conditions. However, I am often amazed how many pilots kill themselves and their passengers every year because of poor decision making. When I first started flying and began reading about accidents in GA, I actually thought about quitting. My reason? If pilots with literally thousands of hours logged, every rating known to the aviation world, and the best airplanes money can buy get killed, then what real chance did I have of being successful? Granted, I am not IFR rated nor do I fly at night.

    Before I decided not to renew my medical, I flew C172s and the occasional C150. My personal limits exceeded anything the regulations stipulated and I worked with my instructor periodically. I didn’t start flying until I was fifty plus years old and it has always been strictly for fun. Yet always, in the back of my mind, there has remained a type of ‘fear’ whenever I pilot an aircraft. Perhaps fear isn’t exactly the correct word, but it’s the best way for me to describe it here. I’ve always thought about the things I’ve read concerning GA accidents, their causes, and what made very experienced pilots do some of the foolish things they did so that maybe I could remember that even the best get caught in tragic accidents that could easily be avoided.

  26. Bob Young, Says:

    Bruce, this is a very timley discussion conidering the increased crash frequency of late. However, Lancair IV crashes are not new. This is the reason I can afford only liability insurance only on my IV. I finished my N32BY in April 2000 after 5 years lapsed time and 6000 hours of work on kit #58-not a “fast build”, I got my check-out with Charlie Kohler in about 5 hours. Since I already had over 2000 hrs in complex (Trinidads) and had, as a CFII, instructed for over 12 years, the transition was mainly the extra 70 kts. The point that many are making is that thouough TRAINING is a must to properly use this aircraft to utilize its full potential, as is true for many other aircraft.

    Since 32BY is used mainly for travel a lot of attention is paid to ensuring that it is maintained at the highest level. Partly for this reason, I got my A&P, IA and Teledyne Continental (IO550, among others) schooling at the Mobile, AL factory..

  27. Fred Goldman Says:

    I read Carl’s reply about high time, highly qualified pilots that screw up. In that vein, I always see my go, no go decisions as they would appear in “Aftermath” and that makes me think again about what I am doing. Personally, I settled for a Mooney Rocket instead of a Lagacy and I am still kicking myself. You can’t get the feel of a sporty airplane in a cruiser despite the speed you’re going. It’s allways a compromise.

  28. Robert Froelich Says:

    I am one of the year 2000 Lancair accident statistic pilots. After 4300 hours civilian flying time and 300 hours flying the Lancair IV, It was pilot error that put my plane through 5 rows of power lines, through two farm fences, wheels up in a farm field, after engine fuel exhaustion, with 54 gallons on board. No one ever taught me the 3 steps to do when the engine quit: 1- change tanks, 2 boost pump on high, and if it fails to start, pull the mixture off since the continental engine is flooded.
    What was the pilot error, unporting the gas pickup in a side slip to loose altitude.
    Incidentially, the plane was a total uninsured loss while not a window was cracked. I walked away after releasing the door seal.
    As a retired psychiatrist, pilot, I object to blanket rules. I treated each patient as an individual, just as pilots should be evaluated and treated. Rules have only one function — that is to avoid thinking through the question or issue in decision making.
    We have enough legal rules, we do not need more of them.
    Incidentally, the Lancair designated pilot that trained me to fly the Lancair, an ex-military pilot, killed himself in a Lancair.
    I have recently reviewed all of the Lancair accidents posted on the LML website that go back to the early 90′s. Now the boost pump will be spring loaded in the high position.

  29. Kent Tarver Says:

    Trey Higgins prettty much said it all. I can only add that you will find the same kind of statistics in any really high performance airplane. If a pilot isn’t up to the task then he is a dangerous pilot.

    It’s a little like a going from a Cub to a turbo’ed Bonanza. There is a big gap one has to fill in with the right kind of thinking.

    BTW. High wing loading doesn’t automatically mean the glide is like a brick, it all depends on the proper speed. You need to think “High wing load – High speed”.

    I had an old timer USAAF pilot that just loved the Martin B-26 (Widow maker). His take was “All you have to do is fly it fast”.

    I flew with Tray in his Lancair. It is a sweet machine.

    Kent Tarver
    Fallon, NV.
    aeromatic.com

  30. Chuck Boland Says:

    Just imagining with a short note
    A SLIGHTLY INCREASED VERTICAL TAIL SURFACE ANGLED FORWARD SOME WHAT LIKE LIKE THE LEAR AND
    WINGLITS TO INCREASE GLIDE RATIO

  31. Giffen Marr Says:

    Bruce
    I reviewed the Lancair statistics when I was looking for a kit. I agree, there is a disproportionate number of stall/spin accidents for the LIV series. If you do a weight and balance, the retraction of the gear moves the CG aft almost two inches. Almost everything that goes in the aircraft moves the CG aft. While building the aircraft, I have tried to move the CG forward as much as I can, added small stall strips to the inboard section of the wing and adding lower ventral fins to the tail. All of this is my attempt to enhance the stability of the aircraft and keeping the CG forward.

  32. John Halle Says:

    I helped build and have been flying a Lancair Legacy. It first flew in 2002 and has over 600 hours. I have never stalled it, intentionally or otherwise (even though I have stalled the factory demo Legacy. I don’t stall it because there is not nearly enough data on the stall/spin characteristics of the Legacy to make me comfortable doing it. It’s not real hard to avoid stalling. My dirty stall speed is 59 kts. (that is, it was still flying at that speed but seemed about ready to stall the one time I tested it.) I never for any reason fly less than 85 kts. unless flared out over a runway. That gives me a minimum of 26 kts. cushion.

    I also don’t fly in thunderstorms, which can produce unavoidable stalls from windshear. If you look at the Lancair accidents, a staggering number result from CB encounters. No one knows what happened then but it is reasonable to guess that there was a stall and spin and it is probable (no one still alive actually knows) that neither the IV nor the Legacy has good spin recovery properties.

    Many of the rest of the accidents either result from poor flying skills or outrageously bad judgment.

    Bottom line is that, if you understand and avoid stall situations, the Legacy is a really safe airplane. (Don’t know about the IV because I have only flown it once.) It’s the pilots that are unsafe. I suppose that, to believe that you can build a high performance airplane, you have to be a bit of am optimist. Doing it successfully makes your head swell even beyond the original inflated size. You start thinking you are a test pilot because you did your own first flight but you don’t begin to resemble a professional test pilot. Ultimately, you conclude that you and your aircraft can do stuff that other GA aircraft can’t do. As happened a couple weeks ago, you fly staight at a level 5 CB that you are clearly aware of and make a premature landing in bits.

    Lancairs are not the right airplane for someone without solid basic flying skills, and they are definitely not for pilots with delusional assessments of their or their aircraft’s capabilities, but they are not unpredictable or unsafe. All that is necessary is pilots who fly them within the envelope defined by the capabilities of the pilot and the aircraft.

  33. Russell Steiner Says:

    I am building a Lancair legacy and getting close to completion. I am a low time pilot and concerned about the recent losses of these aircraft. Recently, I flew the factory legacy for training and I learned that low and slow is not good! On final approach at about 120 mph or less it feels like there is no elevator behind me. It is an eerie feeling.

    I felt the training with HPAT was a good start on learning this aircraft. The required 10 hours duel by the insurance company does not make you a proficient pilot in this machine. From my research there is only one Legacy available for training and one organization for the training. With the lack of resources how can pilots of these type of aircraft get proficient without taking huge risk by learning it yourself in your own unproven aircraft.

    To further compound the problem as in my case and others when the aircraft is completed one cannot receive dual training until after the aircraft has flown its required 25 or 40 hours for the final signoff. In my case I will bring in a professional to do the first flight and flight testing. Once all flight testing is completed and the required time is flown off the aircraft then I will be able to receive further dual training in my own aircraft. I believe this is the only way to get proficient at minimal risk for me.

  34. John Duby Says:

    With over 2500 flying hours – most in complex single engine aircraft, when my flight instructor offered me training in and use of a Lancair IVP that he built – I jumped at the chance – having always wanted to get into a high performance machine. After over 60hrs of dual I still did not want to solo in that aircraft. Mostly because you could get into a lot of trouble so fast. True you could get out of it just as fast, IF AND ONLY IF – you had the judgement and decision making discipline that comes with lots of experience. Our cross country experience included two trips across the US and back and several trips over the Rockies. Subsequently my flight instructor took a job with Lancair to train new Lancair pilots. In one year he had to make six forced landings. All were successful to paved surface runways – mostly because of my instructor’s extensive pilot proficiency. He is a former corporate pilot, an A&P and very safety conscious. The spring after he quit flying for Lancair in 07′ – a partner to the shop owner I use for my 210′s maintenance crashed a IVP and was killed. Later a Columbia Crashed at my home base (PDX) attempting a third IFR approach to minimums.

    I loved flying the IVP. My fligtht instructor was confident in my abilities to solo in it. It just felt like too much. I own and operate my own contracting company and have had several partners that I shared aircraft ownership with over the last three decades. My Cessna 210 has a bad safety record, but is extremely forgiving by comparison to the Lancair. Moving up because you can afford it is dangerous without the commitment to training. I think its a combination of the demands of the Lancair – combined with the lack of experience and proficiency of the person who can afford to own one.

  35. Roger Cable Says:

    I read with interest Bruce’s article on Lancairs and it brought to mind my first flight in the demonstrator IV turbine with their instructor pilot. We had purchased a IV turbine kit and I was getting familiarized with the aircraft so when ours was finished I could do the required flight time. The instructor was very hesitant to do any slow flight or stalls even though we were at altitude. After some coaxing we finally did some air work. The aircraft performed extremely well but did not have a well defined pre stall buffet. This was to be later improved with stall strips at the wing root. After completion of our IVPT I spent 40+ hours flying the plane in our defined area making many take offs and landings from all types of airports and elevations. I found the aircraft handling to be excellent and it had a great glide ratio. One of the biggest challenges was properly planning pattern entry and getting the speed down so you could land at your selected point on the runway, the plane wants to fly. Unfortunately, we sold the plane soon after completion of the required flight time and I was not able to really enjoy it’s true mission of getting you from point A to point B fast and comfortable. I currently fly a Bonanza A-46 and it is certainly more docile than the Lancair, but from my limited experience with the Lancair it is a great plane. As with all complex aircraft you need to know what the parameters of the flight envelope are and fly it accordingly.

  36. Peter Steeger Says:

    Often solutions can be as simple as a stall warning horn, or an oral AoA (Angel of Attack) warning device. I guess many of the Lancairs have neither.

  37. Jerry Says:

    Joe B forgets to mention that the Lancair 4PT/s fuel system is just outright dangerous. I wonder how many people over the years have needlessly died because of that fuel system .

  38. Gary Barnett Says:

    I beleive this is a similar situation to that which developed with the V tail Beachcraft Bonanza in the 40′s and 50′s. At that time it became known in pilot circles as the “forked tailed doctor killer”. That name was earned when it was purchased by intelligent, highly motivated people with strong financial resources and a desire to get from point A to B quickly. Unfortunately a portion of those individuals lacked the time or desire to become truly knowledgeable and proficient pilots. The Bonanza was and is a fine aircraft but you must be proficient to fly it safely. I am sure that applies to Lancair’s as well.

  39. Louis Lyon Says:

    2004 to ’08 400 hours in a Legacy. Prior experience was 325 hours in a 172. 4 hours of factory training for myself and a friend instructor. Then 8 hours of dual and learn, learn, etc. No, I did not build this extraordinary airplane. If your starting to fly a Legacy read John Halle’s 7-14 comments and stay alive. He’s very accurate and correct on stalls and speeds. fly smart and safe.

  40. George Welch Says:

    I have owned 3 Lancairs in the past 6 years. A 360, a IV, and currently fly a IVP. They have all been great flying airplanes if you follow the rules. As you can see from the many comments, don’t go slow, stay out of ice, keep clear of thunderstorms, and have good maintenance. I don’t know that I agree with the comments about a great glide ratio. My IVP POH says 7.75-1. I personally know one pilot who successfully dead sticked a IVP onto a highway, and he said it came down like a rock. I don’t have a full feathering prop, and I’m sure that would help a lot. As for stalls, I stalled each plane one time and simply see no need to keep going there asking for trouble. For anyone thinking of owning a Lancair, if you love speed and feel really comfortable with it, get some training and go for it. It is hard to beat as a cross country airplane, and is a real pleasure to fly.

  41. John Boogaert Says:

    I have 6500+ hours in almost anything with one engine. I have owned four planes over 35 years of flying – most recently before the Lancair a T206) I have owned/flown a Lancair 360 with a big tail, (N460JB) for 4+ years. What an amazing aircraft. It is, undoubtedly a great performer. However, this plane also deserves a good bit of respect. I took the required 5 hours of instruction on the plane but it only brought me to the place where I was ready to fly it in a very conservative fashion. I now have about 300+ hours on it and I still treat it with a great deal of care not to get close to max/min performance numbers. I have found that my 360 is both reliable and predictable in flight. While I have an IFR rating but I don’t fly it IFR as it is just too easy to over speed or stall if you leave the autopilot on and encounter much up and down weather and take even a quick look at paperwork or a map. I would certainly recommend that a prudent pilot would avoid any hard IFR or T storms. Having flown it this way has brought me hours of pleasurable flying without mishap.

    I did not build my plane. My 360 was built by a very skilled professional builder – Emerald Aircrafters in Troutdale, Oregon. If you do not build the plane yourself be SURE that the person that did was either a professional builder or one with documented extensive, quality building experience. Poor construction can cause unending headaches. Be sure you know the history of the plane you buy from day one. (Actually, I think this is good when you are thinking about buying any plane)

    Please note that I have no experience with the Legacy, IVP, IVPJ or the other Lancair models – just the 360 with a big tail. These are the “high performance” big brothers of an already high performance aircraft. They may be excellent aircraft for tougher applications. I do understand from Legacy builders/owners that the Legacy is an excellent IFR platform if you don’t mind the consequences of a static “shock to the avionics” on occasion.

    My advice regarding a 360 would be: fly by the numbers, take it easy, get good training, take it to a first class mechanic and enjoy one of the fastest and most efficient aircraft ever built. You can make this plane a consistent pleasure to fly or a moderately hazardous experience – it’s really up to you not the plane.

  42. John Says:

    I have a Lancair 360 MK II that I purchased completed 3 yrs ago.
    I am a current corporate pilot typed in the Cessna Citation and routinely fly the Kingair 200, 300 and Cessna 414. I am a CFII MEI ATP and have found the Lancair to be a great plane to fly. As stated in the previous blogs it is fast and slippery. I fly very conservatively, mine is strickly VFR no fancy bells or whistles. It is a joy to fly. I have instructed other pilots to learn to fly Lancair 320′s and 360′s safely. They do have a better glide ratio than a brick. Energy management, training and currency is the key. They are as safe as the pilot that flies them. Poor decisions have poor results no matter what you fly. They do require additional training for those pilots that are low time or unfamiliar with the flight characteristics of this aircraft. I started out after training flying only to those local airports with longer paved strips, until I was comfortable and familiar with my Lancair. After that as my experience increased so did my confidence. This is a great airplane. I use it to commute to and from my corporate job when the weather is right, it is fast and economical.

  43. Jim Bradburn Says:

    I had a Lancair IVPT. Lost the engine at 26,000 feet over the mountains of Utah. Lost pressurization immediately. Emergency descent to 13,000, then feathered the prop. I can tell you that the plane can glide!! We were shot back in our seats with a descent rate around 600 fpm. Landed on a short, high altituded field, high and a little hot and was unable to get it stopped before crashing off the end of the runway through a fence and ditch. The cause of the engine failure is still unclear. The most prevalent thinking is that the air vents iced on climb out preventing fuel from getting to the belly tank (there was no precipitation in the area and no ice on the wings). One attempted restart was unsuccesful. I am personally aware of 3 other engine failures in IV P’s, one just after lift off, and two on climb out. I can tell you that there is a problem with fuel getting to the engine in some of these aircraft. John Cook has apparently figured this out, but I am not aware of how he is modifying the engines. My wife and I are grateful to be alive, and we now fly a King Air.

  44. R Fleck Says:

    A Lancair just went down a few hundred yards from our ranch. No survivors. I heard their engine cut out, a couple of backfires, a very short interval, then the unmistakable impact sound.

    The pilot was way under FAA ceiling, not uncommon around here where looky lous like to get down way too close to the deck to see the pretty horsies and green pastures. Expensive scenery, as it turned out.

    It’s 103 fahrenheit here today.

  45. Sung Hanlon Says:

    Let me start by saying nice page. Im not sure if it has been addressed, but when using Explorer I can never get the entire page to load without refreshing many times. Maybe just my computer. Appreciate your work

  46. J Singleton Says:

    2000 hrs in a Mooney, 300 in my IVP. This is not complicated folks- get the training that is required, maintain the plane like your life depends on it, and don’t push your luck. Failing this, the IV’s and IVP’s will kill you. Simple as that.

  47. Dave T Says:

    The reason the accident rate is so high is simple:

    Lancair pilots dont train on basic flying skills like gliding the machine to landing with no power (or simulated no power.)

    The machines glide just fine by the way. Saying they glide like a brick is just more stupidity that actually contributes to the problem.

    Not one single person on the above posts has recognized this. Conclusion: They will continue to go down at the same rate they have been doing.

  48. JL F Says:

    Micron CEO Steve Appleton was killed today in a firely crash in Boise Idaho. He was flying a Laincair when it caught fire in mid air accoridn to witnesses. Appleton was attempting to land when the aircraft drove into the ground at the Boise Municple airport.

    Micron Corp is a wordlwide computer memory chip producer.

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