By ANN Correspondent Kevin "Hognose" O'Brien
At 6:05 PM on August 1,
2003, a taxi accident marred the nearly perfect safety record at
this year's Airventure. A factory RV-6 demonstrator (file photo,
below), N66VA, stopped while turning off the runway. The following
aircraft, Lancair 360 N3602D, struck the RV from behind and both
aircraft were damaged. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Now, Van's can probably fix the RV without too much trouble. But
what about the all-composite Lancair, which received enough
structural damage to be non-flyable? The owner asked the people at
Lancair. They asked Arnold Holmes, of Semloh Aviation Services
Corporation in Edgewater, FL. Soon, he had agreed to haul the
broken 360 home to Edgewater for repairs, and he called back to get
one of his mechanics started towards Oshkosh with a trailer.
Arnold was already having a pretty good show, even before he got
the call to fix N3602D. "I had given out every business card I
brought along," he told Aero-News. "I've picked up a lot
of aircraft, and I've brought them home from Sun n Fun, but this is
the first time I picked one up in Oshkosh."
The pilot will be without his plane for four to six weeks. "The
insurance stepped right up, so there are no delays, but it will
take a while to fix." In the meantime, Arnold's A&Ps will be
installing a number of upgrades in the temporarily-grounded
Lancair. "The owner is going to take advantage of the downtime and
we're going to fix a number of things."
Arnold recently left Adam Aircraft, where he had built composite
production tooling for the A500 and A700 series Adams. "The company
is doing fine… they have lots of money, but my job, the job
I was hired for, was basically over, and it was getting boring. I'd
really rather fix airplanes." Even though he and his mechanics are
all licensed, he works only on experimentals. A particular
specialty is picking up projects that have gotten off track or been
misassembled, and correcting the mistakes in them.
are some hired guns in the kit-plane experimental business, who
don't do an awfully great job. We agreed that on a complicated,
expensive kit like any Lancair, owners should conduct a "due
diligence" analysis of any shop that assists him in construction or
repair of his machine. What the owner of 02D did -- ask the kit
manufacturer -- was a good way to do that, especially with a highly
reputable kit maker like Lancair.
Another problem is imperfectly sorted engine installations. One
of the hangar queens at Arnold's shop has an Engineair V-8. "I feel
sorry for the guy [the owner]. The plane has been under
construction for the last nine years. I need some engine parts - a
wiring harness, an ECU. And a new company has the conversion now,
and they were right over there [indicates a now-empty tent] and
they were selling their engines to new customers. But they can't
even deliver me parts."
Arnold pointed to the hangar on the other side of Wittman Field.
"That's where the plane is, in that hangar. It'll be another three
hours of so," Arnold said. "I just talked to my guy [the mechanic
coming with the trailer] and he was passing through Chicago."
Disassembly and transport of the 360 should be no problem. "The
wings come right off. I can pick up a lot of airplanes with a
U-Haul, but the 360 has wide wing stubs, so I need this trailer.
We'll take it apart, secure it on the trailer, haul it back to
Edgewater [FL], and start to fix it right away."
Arnold likes the Lancair line, and the company. "It's a good plane,
and a good kit. Sure, not all the parts fit perfectly without some
fitting, but that's the nature of experimental aviation. If Lance
spent as much on his molds as Adam Aircraft spent on their
production tooling, the parts would cost much more."
The Other Guy
N66VA is a well-known and much-photographed airplane. It was one
of two RV-6s in the March photo on the AOPA Air Safety Foundation
2001 calendar. It was the prototype for the Van's Nigerian Trainer
project. Finally, it is well-known today as it became the
factory Experimental-Market Survey/Crew Training machine that
instructor Mike Seager (shown below) used to give RV builders
and owners type transition training.
The status of 66VA is unknown at this time.
Safety and Oshkosh
This year was one of the safest Airventures in the event's long
history. Nobody was killed, or even seriously hurt. There were only
a handful of prangs:
- A registered Skyraider (a type usually built as an ultralight)
smacked down in the streets of Oshkosh. The pilot escaped with
- A Velocity folded up its nose gear and did a nose-stand like
its cousins, the EZs. The crew and passengers were uninjured;
- An AT-6 chewed up Rudy Frasca's gorgeous T-34 (shown below) on
the last day of the show (
see separate story).
- This accident took place.
While each of these incidents or accidents is unfortunate, the
situation could have been much worse. To conduct such a big and
busy event with such a great record is. EAA's management, the FAA's
crack team of controllers, the legions of EAA volunteers, and of
course, the pilots, deserve most of the credit for a good, safe