It's Good To Be Lucky... And It's Lucky To Be Good -- Greg Koontz Is Both
One of the airshow industry's more experienced performers had an 'interesting' incident during this Thursday performance at the recently concluded 2012 Oshkosh EAA AirVenture airshow. Greg Koontz, known for his precise work in a bright red Decathlon (his previous Decathlon pictured below) showed up with a new airplane for this year's show and wound up using up more of his luck and skill than he cared to expend.
In a recent chat with ANN, Koontz told the tale of what could have been a very bad day, rather dispassionately. As he undertook his first performance in a brand new Super Decathlon... an airplane he had picked up at the factory just a few days before... he did not expect what would transpire just a few short minutes into its inaugural outing.
After a solid checkout, Koontz removed the aircraft from where it had been on display on the grounds of AirVenture, moved it to the flightline, and inspected it again in prep for a Thursday afternoon flight in front of tens of thousands of Oshkosh attendees.
Greg told ANN that as he prepared to fly, "I was cleared to RWY 36L and did a roll on takeoff, followed by a half Cuban 8, a 4 point roll and hammerhead."
That done, Greg, "headed back North with multiple rolls to left with a stop in the inverted attitude but banked away from the crowd. From there I climbed for 60 seconds, while talking to the ground about my flight school, the Decathlon and the maneuvers I was flying" -- all for the benefit of the airshow crowd.
Koontz lined up to the South, let the nose drop a bit with a slow roll while building up to 150 kts and then leveled out before pulling 4 positive Gs to start a loop that would have had a snap off the top.... had he not found himself, suddenly and without warning, laying across the back seat. The seat failed as he pitched up and through 45 degrees pitch positive -- The only warning he received was a "a big bang" after which he found himself laying across the back seat!
Greg described a surreal situation... "I found myself laying down in the back seat... with my body across the rear stick which was applying full aft stick... The plane did 1.5 snaps and banked away from crowd to about 90 degrees -- where the plane stopped (somewhat) rightside up but with very little energy."
Greg noted that the airplane was flying "under stall speed -- but not stalling because it was floating through an arc..." but nonetheless leaving him in a position to pull himself up retake control of the aircraft and affect a recovery form a bad and highly unusual situation. "If it had happened in other parts of the routine, it could have gone a lot worse," he noted and cited "divine intervention" as being on his side.
Greg described the recovery process... "I picked myself up on the front seat and regained control of the airplane... sinking slightly... but it wasn't hard to control, but I had to hold myself up because there was no seat back anymore... but, of course, if the plane was inverted when it broke, it would have been a wholly different story and a lot more difficult to deal with."
Koontz quickly informed the Airshow Boss that he had a problem and was going to exit the show... with the show control folks checking in with him a little later to make sure that he didn't need any assistance... which he declined.
A little later, on the ground, a minute inspection of the failure site revealed that the seat had broken right at the root where the diagonal braces (supporting the seat) are welded... with Greg noting that it was a clean break right at the weld. Having spent many hours in the Decathlon (an airplane that logs tens of thousands of hours in flight training and aerobatics and has a REALLY sturdy rep), he was amazed at the break... until a more thorough inspection revealed that a small truss, normally in place to redistribute some of the seat loads, was missing -- and had not been installed when the seat was built. The affected seat was reportedly part of a defective lot of 10... of which most were either still at the factory or in display aircraft at the field -- while a quick check and replacement swapped out all the affected airplanes very quickly. As a matter of fact, Koontz's seat was replaced in time for him to fly the next day... though we can just imagine what was going through his mind as he
started that same 4G pitch-up that had wound up with him flat on his back the day before...
Still Greg is rather nonplussed over the whole event... even finding a few smiles now that the worst of it was over -- as did a few other airshow vets. The next day, during the Pilot's briefing, Greg was presented with a "New 9G seat" by his airshow comrades... one that looked suspiciously like a toilet seat. Of course, the requisite toilet/seat humor is still continuing, over a week later -- and Greg notes that, "It may never end..."
The NTSB Report
NTSB Identification: CEN12IA498
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Incident occurred Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Oshkosh, WI
Aircraft: AMERICAN CHAMPION AIRCRAFT 8KCAB, registration: N60GK
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.
On July 26, 2012, about 1600 central daylight time, an American Champion Aircraft model 8KCAB airplane, N60GK, had its seat tubing separate during an air show maneuver over the Wittman Regional Airport (OSH), near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The airline transport pilot, who was the sole occupant, was uninjured and the airplane sustained no damage. The airplane’s registration to the pilot was pending and the airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an air show flight. Visual flight rules (VFR) conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a VFR flight plan. The local flight had originated from OSH minutes prior to the incident.
The pilot was able to upright himself during the maneuver and land the airplane.
The seat’s tubing was found separated. A detailed examination of the incident seat and separation will be conducted.
ANN E-I-C Note: When he's not thrilling airshow crowds (and, sometimes, himself), Greg operates Greg Koontz Aviation, which offers (among other things), flight instruction programs including a Basic Aerobatic Package, a Complete Aerobatic Package, Sportsman Aerobatic Package, Customized Aerobatic Training, Spin Training Package, Aircraft Upset Training, Conventional (Tailwheel) Training, an LSA Conversion Course and Group Clinics and Training. Greg is also the Instructor that provided one of our 2011 Vicki Cruise Memorial Scholarships awardees her aerobatic training. Even without the evidence of his emergency seat failure recovery skills, we recommend him highly....