Belite Chipper down in Alaska

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Chris In Marshfield, May 24, 2018.

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  1. May 24, 2018 #1

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

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    Sad story this morning, although it had a favorable outcome. I really like that plane. From Belite's Facebook page.

    =====

    33224517_1808759402521316_8481166215971078144_o.jpg 33383178_1808759422521314_4214554461562994688_o.jpg

    Chipper is all over Anchorage news. Approximately 5 hours ago, I experienced a complete loss of power while in the pattern at Lake Hood, Anchorage, Alaska, and Chipper went down in a marsh off the end of the runway. My best guess is fuel starvation. (Chipper has 5 fuel tanks). I have already had an initial interview with the NTSB and I get to fill out an 11 page form. As I am writing this, the wreckage is likely on its way to a secure location for teardown and inspection by the NTSB.

    I am essentially unharmed. I have some very minor scratches. My upper shins hit the bottom of the instrument panel.

    I am grateful to God and to my wife, Kathy and to all of my family and friends. Thankyou for your love.

    Several of my new friends in Anchorage have reached out to me and offered help and prayers, and I am so grateful for that as well.

    My lack of bodily harm is a testament to the honeycomb cabin structure.

    While in the pattern at Lake Hood, I advised the tower I would go around. About 150 to 200' AGL while climbing out, the engine quit. Lake Hood's strip is very short, and I did not have time to check fuel tanks and restart. I advised tower I was landing, flew the plane towards the remaining runway for 2 or 3 seconds, then advised the tower I would not stop in the remaining runway. Impossible. Way too much speed.

    I touched down at the (wrong) end of the runway, immediately bounced high, then thought perhaps I could clear the chain link fence.

    I couldn't. Chipper's landing gear collided with the top of the fence, and wentt OVER the fence, and about 30 feet later, hit the marsh nose down, (immediate STOP), then rolled onto its back.

    In my mind, I can recall the violent snap as my body went taught in milliseconds against the seat belt and shoulder harness.

    A fraction of a second later, I'm hanging upside down.

    I think I turned off the master electrical, also I tried to turn off the fuel selector. (The NTSB investigator showed me a photo which shows that the selector was not in the off position, although it was sort, of, close.)

    I was then upside down, hanging, trying to get the seat belt off.

    Couldn't get it. Too much weight.

    Realized that there were liquids around. Gasoline?

    Tried some more on the seatbelt. Couldn't get it.

    I had the epiphany that if I could release my body weight somehow, the latch would move. I did that, and I plopped down.

    Then I pushed on the door, it was stuck closed.

    I remember applying additional pressure, and it popped open, and I fell to the ceiling of Chipper, and I crawled half out.

    A moment later, 2 or 3 guys ran up, ready to help, ready to rescue.

    And I got up, and walked out of the marsh with them.

    In the photos, here are some comments:

    1) the fence was removed by emergency personnel, not by Chipper. I believe the first group of 2 or 3 guys went under the fence in order to get to me.

    2) One of the pictures shows how close Chipper is to the fence. The airplane was 'flying' when I hit the fence. There is a good sized crater just ahead of the engine compartment in the photos -- I wish I could have gotten a pic of that hole.

    3) The wings were unbolted by the NTSB arriving investigator. He had pulled the wings away from the cabin. He also was clamping fuel lines.

    That's all for now, I've got to work on a way to get home.
     
    Wayne likes this.
  2. May 24, 2018 #2

    BJC

    BJC

    BJC

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    Glad that he wasn’t seriously injured.


    BJC
     
  3. May 24, 2018 #3

    BBerson

    BBerson

    BBerson

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    The fuel selector may have been in off position for takeoff. I never turn my selector to off, to avoid these takeoff incidents.
    The plane is on the June Kitplanes cover.
     
  4. May 24, 2018 #4

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

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    Yes, indeed. There's that cliche saying about landings you can walk away from. Very glad he walked away. A testament to that plane's construction, I'd say.
     
  5. May 24, 2018 #5

    Tiger Tim

    Tiger Tim

    Tiger Tim

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    Five fuel tanks? Where would you put them all on a little airplane like that, and why?
     
  6. May 24, 2018 #6

    Cy V

    Cy V

    Cy V

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    The more complicated you make a particular system in an aircraft, the more prone to failure it is.
     
    wanttobuild likes this.
  7. May 27, 2018 #7

    pictsidhe

    pictsidhe

    pictsidhe

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    Chain link fences are fair energy absorbers. If you are crashing, they are one of the better things to plough into.
     
  8. May 31, 2018 #8

    MX304

    MX304

    MX304

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    If I remember correctly it has two in-wing tanks, a header tank behind the seats, and one up front somewhere. I do agree it makes too many points of failure.
     
  9. May 31, 2018 #9

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

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    Follow up information from James:

    ==========

    Hi everyone,

    I got home last Thursday evening, and I've had a few relaxing days off. I'm looking forward to being back to work tomorrow morning.

    Yeah, I had an accident in my personal Chipper last week, and I was pretty much unharmed, even after a very, very quick stop which caused major damage to the plane. I've had a few days to reflect on the cause, and also as to what I've learned and how I will apply it.

    I received 400+ comments on my initial posts, and I am very grateful for the general sense of support and encouragement which you provided.

    FUEL STARVATION

    I did reflect on the cause of the accident. As I reported, the engine quit while climbing out from Lake Hood airstrip (Anchorage). The NTSB is doing an investigation, so whatever I say will obviously be overrode by their conclusions.

    It doesn't do me a lot of good to 'keep quiet', as it won't affect the NTSB investigation, and it only leads to harmful speculation which Chipper simply doesn't deserve.

    My best guess is that I starved the engine of gasoline while performing an intentional go around following a descent to landing. The engine stoppage was smooth and consistent with that. Nothing broke; I'm sure both ignition systems were working just fine. I think I had the boost fuel pump on. I also suspect I had selected the left outboard fuel tank, which has a very small capacity, and also has the bad habit of unporting when descending when below a critical level of fuel. The problem is eliminated by pilot management of fuel tank selection; [or by installation of a header tank -- see conclusions below] I had just been descending to land, then applied power to climb. I suspect it had unported while turning base and final, and I didn't pay attention to my own 'fuel out' indicator for the left tank. How ironic. I market those devices... just to prevent this. Someone pointed that out in the many comments. Ouch.

    a) Soft conclusion: Pilot error: incorrect tank selection, wait for the NTSB report
    b) Hard conclusion: Re-engineer "Bingo fuel system" installation so that alarm LED is at eye-level while descending and impossible to ignore
    c) Hard conclusion: provide builder recommendation for header tank in all Chipper builds

    PILOT DOOR FOR IMPROVED EGRESS

    All Chipper kits already have two doors, and I am glad. My plane only had one.

    IMPROVED ENGINE INSTRUMENTATION

    We're working on improved engine instrumentation. I've had info on it published on the website, like, forever, so this has pushed me to get more done. If there was an engine problem (and I don't believe there was), I'd like to be able to seen a lot more info. I was only tracking one EGT, for instance, and I wasn't saving the data.

    IMPROVED FUEL LEVEL INSTRUMENTATION

    I don't have any new announced products on this, but I've hinted at a good one for a long time. Everyone complains about good fuel level sensors. More thought required.

    IMPROVED CARGO ACCESS

    My Alaska friends pushed me for a cargo compartment door. Not really much to do with crash prevention, but it sure would have helped get things out of the accident plane more quickly.

    COMMENTS ON THE CABIN STRUCTURE

    I'd love to see the plane now that I'm not in shock. The only thing I've got to go on is my memory and the pictures I took of the accident site.

    The honeycomb cabin hung together, and protected me. I'm not aware that anything folded up. You can see the monocoque rear aluminum skin on the fuselage showing some buckling. I'd love to see the motor mount and engine. I have no idea if the engine case cracked or not.

    SEAT BELT

    I had a single point four point seat belt, and gosh it worked, until I wanted it to release. Then I couldn't get it to release.

    ALTERNATE LANDING SPOTS?

    I've replayed it in my mind 50 times. I had two thoughts as to alternate landing spots: If I'd intentional gone long, I could have landed in the marsh. Would the plane have still flipped on its back? I also might have been able to land on a side road. It's kind of like the "miracle on the hudson" scenarios. Other outcomes were possible, but I had less than a second to choose to try and use the remaining runway below me. For better or worse, that's what I did.

    I also play over switching to another fuel tank while flying the plane. It never occurred to me in my time compressed decision making process.

    Thanks again for your support. Chipper goes on! I've learned and will apply.

    Best Regards

    James
     
  10. May 31, 2018 #10

    BJC

    BJC

    BJC

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    Any info about the brand and style of seat belt latch that would not open?


    BJC
     
  11. May 31, 2018 #11

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

    Chris In Marshfield

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    Not that I've read in his replies. Perhaps we can chat with him at OSH about it.
     
  12. May 31, 2018 #12

    BBerson

    BBerson

    BBerson

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    My instructor said to avoid switching a fuel lever just before takeoff. (Or I guess just before landing in this case)
     

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