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October 19, 2017. Issue No.
Danny King's 'Beautiful Doll' from
Danny stopped by the hangar Wednesday
morning around 1030, so we put his RV-8 out in the grass and cranked
up the drone for some 15' shots/passes. 'Droney' looks higher
than it really is - the wide angle FOV is misleading. The
drone was really only about 8' over the top of the plane. And,
Danny flew it around more than me (he's flown r/c airplanes for
decades). The morning light was already gone, but I got a few
shots that look promising. Sample below. Sorry the grass
wasn't greener. It was short notice <g>.
for 3,449 x 2,014 pixel full size)
to fit any screen)
Shop Regrets ...Bill Boyd chimes into Tdeman's thread
Working in the kitchen - good job! I hope
that continues to work well for you!
Our biggest regret rebuilding after the house fire 2 years ago is
not putting the shop "off-campus" out in the yard. I can't run any
tools or even accidentally drop a wrench without waking the wife
sleeping overhead in our first-floor master. And the fiberglass dust
and aluminum shavings that get tracked upstairs despite the doormat
and the carpeted stairs drives us both crazy - mostly her. I make a
lot of runs up and down the stairs in a typical work-session
evening, so taking my shoes off as she suggests would gobble up a
lot of work time, which as for many of us, must be carefully
regulated and apportioned so as not to neglect wife and children.
Despite the downside to a backyard shop (long walk in the dark, need
to run power and water, the big air conditioned and heated basement
was already there needing only interior finish) I do wish I had done
it - my useable work hours would be so much greater. There was the
psychological perception that being right downstairs was not as for
removed from the family hearth when everyone else wanted to veg and
watch TV, but that's an empty premise in retrospect.
In-Flight Smoke Incident Report ...Bill Palmer
On Feb. 8, 2017, an RV-8A experimental aircraft experienced smoke in
the cockpit; in-flight. The following VAF posts describe this smoke
incident in three parts: Incident, Technical, and Probable Cause
with Recommendations. This incident report is being written in the
spirit of promoting experimental aircraft safety. Specifically, the
pilot/owner of the RV-8A wishes to share his experience with the
experimental aircraft community so that we can all learn some
valuable safety lessons and improve flight safety. Also, this
incident report supports, expands, and supplements a recent VAF
thread entitled “Overvoltage required for EarthX battery” initiated
by “EarthX Lithium” (Kathy Nicoson) referring to this incident.
The authors, including the pilot, have done their best to write this
report as accurately as possible, but we have the following
This report has not been written or compiled by professional
accident/incident investigators and has not been reviewed, checked,
endorsed, or recognized by any government agency (FAA, NTSB, etc.).
This report is simply an attempt to state facts as accurately as
possible in relation to this incident. The data, conclusions, and
opinions offered in this report are solely those of the authors
alone and should not be regarded as comprehensive, definitive, or
This report is for consideration by the experimental aircraft
community as they design, build, and fly their experimental
aircraft. The authors are not responsible for any report omissions
or inaccuracies or actions taken as a result of this report.
Actions, if taken, are the individual responsibility of each
individual reader who must determine his or her own conclusions and
risk decisions. In other words, any liability is the reader’s alone;
not the authors’.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of EarthX, Inc.
(including Kathy Nicoson, Global Sales Director and Reg Nicoson,
Chief Technology Officer) in the development of this report. EarthX
provided us with battery inspection results, data analysis, and
technical data which greatly helped us understand what occurred
during this incident. We must emphasize how fortunate the
experimental aircraft community is to have a great company such as
EarthX supporting us, communicating with us, educating us, and
supplying us with the latest in battery technology . . . THANKS,
PLEASE NOTE: It is not the intention of the authors, including the
incident pilot, to respond to questions, corrections, opinions, or
suggestions about this incident or provide additional information.
What you read here is all we have to offer for your consideration.
Please review this incident report in the spirit of experimental
aircraft safety and draw your own individual conclusions. THANK YOU.
On February 8, 2017, the incident aircraft (an RV-8A purchased by
the pilot from its original builder), departed Sedona Airport (KSEZ)
on a return flight to Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (KDVT) with two
pilots on board. Total time on the aircraft/engine was 880 hours
since new. The pilot had owned the RV-8A for over 6 years and flown
the aircraft over 320 hours without incident.
At the time of this incident, the aircraft had flown a total 6
flights and 2.7 hours since undergoing an instrument panel upgrade.
A Dynon Skyview HDX system was installed in place of the standard
“Six Pack” of instruments and Van’s standard engine gages. In
addition to the Dynon HDX system, to save weight, an EarthX ETX-680
Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4), battery was installed in place of
the standard lead-acid battery. Both pilot (front cockpit) and
copilot (rear cockpit) were experienced, current ATP pilots.
Approximately 16 minutes after takeoff, while accomplishing an
in-flight compass calibration test, consisting of 360-degree turns
at 7,500’ MSL (3,000’ AGL), both pilots noted a brief acrid smell
(for about 2 seconds). Engine/electrical indications were reviewed,
and no anomalies were noted. Specifically, volt and amp readings
were observed to be within the normal range – 14.3 volts and 14
Approximately 18 minutes after takeoff a climb was initiated from
7500' to 9500' MSL along with a turn to the southwest toward less
challenging terrain; just in case an emergency landing was required.
Approximately 1 minute later (19 minutes after takeoff), the voltage
and amperage indications started to increase rapidly and fluctuate
(voltage fluctuated between 19 and 25 volts, and amperage fluctuated
between 40 and 44 amps). In addition, the electrically-powered fuel
quantity indicator failed. Because the pilot thought he was
experiencing a component electrical problem behind the panel, all
electrical component switches were turned off; however, the
Alternator/Battery Master Switch was inadvertently left on. The
pilot acknowledges that he should have confirmed that the master
switch was turned off when he first observed the high voltage and
amperage fluctuations, however, he was focused on a
"behind-the-panel" component failure; not an aircraft electrical
power system failure. (Note: the alternator's main 35-amp breaker
had not tripped).
Approximately 4 minutes later, while maneuvering the aircraft to an
area where an off-field landing could be attempted, a strong
“solvent type” odor was detected, and an immediate descent was
initiated. Several seconds after initiating the descent, smoke
entered the cockpit from behind and below the instrument panel. The
source of the smoke confirmed to the pilot that he probably did have
a behind-the-panel component failure. With the appearance of the
smoke, a high-speed emergency descent was initiated via a Split-S
maneuver. The copilot suggested opening the canopy, however, lacking
any knowledge as to the ability to maintain structural integrity of
the aircraft when opening the canopy inflight, the pilot initially
elected not to open it. As the smoke intensified, visibility in the
front cockpit was reduced to near zero, and it became very difficult
for the pilot to breathe. The copilot in the rear cockpit had
better, but limited, visibility and some fresh air from the rear
air-vent sourced from the underside of the right wing. Having no
other option, the pilot transferred aircraft control to the copilot,
and the decision was made to open the canopy.
The pilot then attempted to open the canopy with one hand, but was
initially unsuccessful. The canopy would not easily open as it
normally does during ground operations. Using both hands on the
canopy handle and much greater force than normal, the canopy slid
aft approximately two feet. As fresh air flowed around the
windshield, most of the smoke vented out of the cockpit via the
canopy bottom skirt. Although smoke was still entering the lower
portion of the cockpit, the pilot had recovered visibility and the
ability to breathe. The pilot did not detect any heat or fire, and
the copilot found that he could easily hold the canopy in the
partially open position. Therefore, aircraft control was transferred
back to the pilot while the copilot held the canopy to prevent it
from sliding to the rear stop.
The pilot originally intended to land on a nearby stretch of
interstate highway located approximately 5 miles ahead; however, the
copilot observed a street pattern at 3 o'clock and less than a mile.
The pilot circled to slow, and successfully landed on an uphill
residential street, without any related damage to the RV-8A. The
airplane was stopped, and the engine was shut-down approximately 27
minutes after takeoff and 3-to-4 minutes after the emergency descent
was initiated. The descent covered approximately 5500 feet, and the
descent rate averaged approximately 1600 feet per minute with peak
descent in the neighborhood of 3000 feet per minute. TAS (true
airspeed) during the emergency decent was recorded as high as 194
knots; with the canopy open.
After landing, smoke continued to enter the cockpit from behind the
instrument panel. Halon was discharged underneath the panel, and the
crew exited the aircraft. The forward baggage compartment was
opened, the instrument (rear-access) panel was removed, and halon
applied to the back of the instrument panel. At this point it was
discovered that the source of the smoke was from the battery
compartment located directly below the front baggage compartment, on
the right side of the aircraft. This area was repurposed by the
original builder as a battery compartment, complete with an access
panel on top. The battery compartment access panel was removed, and
the remaining halon applied directly to the battery. After the halon
bottle was depleted, dirt from the roadside was used to completely
extinguish the smoldering battery.
Note: No radio transmissions were made during this incident, since
the radios were turned off to protect them.
The pilot was treated for smoke inhalation at a local hospital and
has fully recovered. The pilot did not suffer from any burns or
additional physical harm. The copilot did not suffer any physical
harm. The FAA and NTSB were notified and classified this mishap as
an unreported “incident”, since there were no serious injuries or
structural damage to this experimental aircraft. The RV-8A was
dismantled and transported to a repair facility. Subsequently, the
RV-8A has successfully returned to flight with no further problems.
The battery involved was an EarthX Model ETX-680
Lithium-Iron-Phosphate aviation battery with a dual-redundant
Battery Management System (BMS). The EarthX battery was the
aircraft’s sole main battery. The EarthX battery was hard-mounted in
the RV-8A’s lower forward baggage compartment in place of a Concorde
lead-acid aircraft battery; in the same location.
There is no record or evidence of an EarthX battery physical
installation problem; however, EarthX’s installation manual says:
“Installation of the battery in the cockpit is not recommended,
unless the battery is properly vented over-board.” Technically, the
battery was not mounted in the cockpit, but it was mounted in an
enclosed compartment internal to the fuselage, aft of the firewall,
and adjacent to the pilot’s right foot and leg. The battery
compartment had a top cover, but unfortunately did not include an
The EarthX battery’s remote, discreet warning output (LED panel
light or EFIS input) was not installed as recommended by EarthX.
Since this installation seemed to be optional, the pilot/owner
delayed the installation in favor of testing his new Dynon HDX
system. The Dynon Skyview HDX EFIS was equipped with its own
internal backup battery plus an advanced aircraft/engine
instrumentation system which continued to record all flight, engine,
and electrical data from takeoff until landing.
The highest recorded peak voltage was 29.1 volts although it is very
likely that the voltage greatly exceeded 30 volts as there was a
two-second voltage data drop-out at that time. There was also an
initial, half-second voltage data drop-out about 4 minutes earlier
as the recorded voltage increased above 20 volts and fluctuated. The
highest recorded peak amperage was 44.8 amps. The Dynon data shows
that a simultaneous, average voltage / amperage level of 21 volts /
42 amps (approximately 880 watts) was applied to the aircraft
electrical bus (and EarthX battery) for a total of approximately 5
minutes although all other components connected to the bus were
switched off (disconnected from the aircraft electrical bus) as soon
as the fluctuating excessive voltage (19 to 25 volts) and high
amperage (40 to 45 amps) readings were initially observed. The
master was left on, because the pilot was focused on a panel
component failure; not an aircraft electrical power system failure.
Unfortunately, the aircraft had no automatic overvoltage protection
circuit as “strongly recommended” by EarthX's installation manual
(at the time of installation). When the RV-8A was purchased, the new
pilot/owner was unaware that the aircraft was equipped with an
automotive alternator/regulator with no overvoltage protection.
Also, lacking a detailed aircraft electrical system schematic, the
pilot/owner was unaware that the aircraft electrical system had no
inherent, built-in overvoltage protection. Also, the installation of
overvoltage protection seemed to be optional at the time (“strongly
recommended”), so the pilot/owner did not inspect the
alternator/regulator and aircraft electrical system to see if
overvoltage protection was installed.
After the incident, the automobile-style alternator, a 35-amp-rated
Bosch AL204X with integrated regulator/rectifier, was removed for
bench testing and found to be non-functional. There was no output
from the alternator. The Dynon data shows the alternator output
starting to drop at 24 minutes after takeoff and the alternator
output failing completely 1 minute later (2 minutes before landing).
Please note that this bench test was only a functional test. There
was no additional testing or detailed failure analysis to pinpoint
the cause of alternator (regulator) failure. Also, there was no
attempt to duplicate the high voltage and amperage recorded
in-flight. The alternator was simply “dead.”
The alternator output breaker was rated at 35 amps, but did not trip
during the incident despite the Dynon-recorded high voltage (21+)
and amperage (42+) levels. The breaker was tested after the incident
and tripped at less than 36 amps with 14.3 volts. After developing
an aircraft electrical system schematic and reviewing it (including
the Dynon shunt location in the alternator output between the
alternator and the 35-amp breaker), the authors have no definitive
explanation relative to why the breaker did not automatically trip
in-flight and thus save the battery. There are several possible
answers, but there is no information clearly pointing to one answer.
The authors have decided not to pursue a more detailed analysis.
The damaged EarthX battery and the Dynon instrumentation data were
sent to EarthX for analysis. Also, the authors subsequently
communicated with EarthX to determine what EarthX discovered about
the battery and the incident. Based on the Dynon data and
inspection/analysis of the battery, EarthX concluded:
The battery was forced into thermal runaway for two reasons:
(1) The alternator/regulator failed resulting in the application of
sustained, excessive voltage and current to the battery which was
above the rated limits of protection for the battery’s Battery
Management System (BMS). Battery inspection clearly showed physical
evidence of extremely high voltage being applied to the battery
which was above the rated limits of the BMS.
Authors’ Note: According to the Dynon data, the power applied to the
battery was sustained at about 880 watts; peaking at well over a
kilowatt (1,240 watts).
(2) The pilot/owner should have shut-off the master switch as soon
as the fluctuating, excessive voltages and amperages were observed.
To quote EarthX:
“The aircraft voltage regulator failed and the battery was subjected
to voltage greater than 20V charging with high amps for more than 7
minutes which caused the cells to reach thermal run-away. At a
couple of points, the voltage spiked so high that the Dynon didn't
record. Based on feedback from Dynon technical group, the voltage
must have been above 30V. Our Battery management system indicated
that the voltage exceeded 70V.”
“An over-voltage protection circuit in the alternator regulator
would have shut-down the alternator within 100ms in the event the
voltage exceeded 16V, but this equipment was not installed on your
Authors’ Note: THE EARTHX BATTERY DID NOT CATCH FIRE. Although the
battery over-heated in thermal runaway, the heat given off during
thermal runaway event was not sufficient enough to burn the pilot’s
leg or foot through the thin aluminum battery compartment wall. The
pilot does not recall detecting excessive heat from the battery
compartment. The main effect of the thermal runaway event was the
eventual emission of smoke as the battery overheated. The smoke was
emitted though wiring grommets in the battery compartment wall as
well as small gaps at the edges of the battery compartment. Smoke
emission would be expected from any battery, lithium or lead-acid,
experiencing a thermal runaway event.
PROBABLE CAUSE WITH RECOMMENDATIONS
NOTE: This PROBABLE CAUSE is SPECULATION . . . a definitive cause of
this incident based on detailed technical analysis is UNKNOWN.
PROBABLE CAUSE (Automotive Alternator Regulator Failure):
The most likely probable cause of this in-flight smoke incident is
alternator voltage regulator failure and the resultant direct
application of extreme overvoltage and excessive amperage to the
EarthX battery which was above the highest levels of the stated,
rated design of the Battery Management System (BMS) protection and,
thus, the battery was forced into thermal runaway; heating up and
eventually emitting smoke as it failed.
RECOMMENDATIONS (CORRECTIVE ACTIONS):
1. Install an overvoltage protection system for each aircraft
alternator, generator, or dynamo. The authors note that EarthX has
amended their operation and installation manual to “require”
overvoltage protection circuitry for alternators exceeding 20 amps
of output. The authors agree that overvoltage protection is
2. Install the battery’s discreet warning output to either a panel
LED or to an EFIS as shown in EarthX’s manual. This installation
should also be viewed as required.
3. Install cockpit and/or battery ventilation to expel smoke
overboard. The EarthX manual states: “Installation of the battery in
the cockpit is not recommended, unless the battery is properly
vented over-board.” Installation of overboard ventilation should be
viewed as required.
4. Each EarthX battery and its integrated BMS are extensively tested
at the factory before shipment, but field-testing of BMS
functionality is not recommended. The authors’ understanding from
EarthX is that the BMS’ overvoltage protection and charging current
inhibiting features cannot be successfully field-tested without
risking some residual damage to the battery. Thus, installation of
overvoltage protection circuitry and the discreet warning output
(LED or EFIS) is very important in lieu of being able to safely
field-test and measure BMS functionality.
5. If it can be done safely, the aircraft’s overvoltage protection
system(s) should be tested after initial installation in the
aircraft and then periodically. A sustained overvoltage beyond 16
volts should cause the overvoltage protection system to disconnect
the source (alternator) from the aircraft electrical system and
6. To protect against smoke emission in the cockpit, fire detection
and suppression equipment should be installed if a battery (lithium
or lead-acid) is mounted aft of the firewall. This equipment should
be readily visible and accessible. For enclosed units like a
battery, an injection port would be needed to apply the retardant.
From the standpoint of a battery thermal runaway event, the
application of fire retardant is most important for the prevention
of smoke emission.
7. IMPORTANT: For Non-Builders Purchasing Experimental Aircraft:
Make absolutely sure that you have a detailed, current schematic of
the aircraft’s electrical system. Carefully analyze the schematic
and understand what it means in terms of aircraft electrical system
operation, design, redundancy, and safety. Physically inspect the
aircraft’s alternator/generating system(s) and aircraft electrical
system to confirm that overvoltage protection is installed. Also, if
the battery manufacturer supplies a discreet warning output as
EarthX does, definitely install it prior to any flight operations.
In summary, it is important to realize that if you purchase an
experimental aircraft built or modified by someone else, you
effectively become the aircraft’s engineer and design decision
maker; not just its pilot, owner, and maintainer. Buying an
experimental aircraft is not like buying an FAA-certified aircraft
whose design/build is formally reviewed, tested, and controlled. For
an experimental aircraft, you must make sure that the aircraft’s
systems are acceptable to you based on your own design, cost, and
flight risk decisions; not the builder’s or modifier’s. If you do
not feel confident in your ability to properly assess an
experimental aircraft’s design, definitely find a respected,
experienced aircraft builder to help you determine the aircraft’s
design, build condition, and relative level of safety. DO NOT TAKE
ANYTHING FOR GRANTED or fail to analyze the aircraft’s build quality
and systems from a safety standpoint! In other words:
FLY KNOWLEDGEABLE AND FLY SAFE!
Chino Hills, CA
Video Status Report ...kiljoy RV-14
So I finally found time to make headway on
the left flap. After a couple of days of deburring duty I found
myself ready to prime and dimple. Everything there went normal. I
did have to do a few pop rivet close quarters dimples in the front
of the leading edge skin for each rib. Doesn't matter much they all
get pop riveted in the end anyways.
The biggest challenge with the final construction has been having
the ribs be one piece attached to the spar first vs the zipper
method of the rudder or the stiffener design of the ailerons. With
both skins in place you need to put your hand between the skins with
a small bucking bar and buck the rivets for the leading
edge/spar/bottom skin holes. I have a 1x1x2 tungsten bucking bar
that thankfully fit but where the ribs are you have to get your bar
in there and the angle of the rib doesn't flex like the skins do in
between the ribs so you need an even smaller face'd bar. That way it
will buck all the way in without being stopped short by the rib or
the skin and doesn't run the risk of causing a dent in the skins as
Anyways here is a mess load of video feeds I've accumulated. Enjoy
Recognition of First Flights ...Scott McDaniels (mothership)
Hobbs Meter an Van's Aircraft has now hit 9901.
Based on a lot of years of experience, it is well known that a lot
of first flights never get reported to Van's (a casual conversation
with a builder order oil filters for a project that wasn't ever
registered as flying, etc.), so we know the actual number is higher
The hope is to hit the unprecedented 10,000 mark by Airventure 2018.
It would be even cooler if it could be done before the end of this
year (though that might be a stretch).
This post is a plea for anyone that has completed the build of an RV
and done the first flight, but doesn't recall whether they ever
notified Van's, to please do so.
It is a simple process and the instructions are listed on the page
at the link posted above.
It doesn't even require anything of great detail (though we enjoy
reading the stories that people provide). Just name, customer #, and
approx. date of the first flight is enough.
Thanks in advance.
Van's Calendar Pics ...it's time to submit your entries.
everyone, we need calendar pics for this year's Van's Aircraft
Calendar! Please send your HIGH RESOLUTION pics to
Please include pilot and photographer info as well so we can give
credit where credit is due!
If I don't get enough images I'm going to have to use these photos
of Daryl I found lying around...
Bribes, blackmail, can be sent to the same address. Thank you in
How to Minimize the Chance
You Could be Dealing with a Scammer
...when using the classifieds.
VAF Calendar ...upcoming Events
for the Next 60 Day(s)
10-20-2017: 2017 Pine Bluff Formation Clinic
10-21-2017: 2017 Pine Bluff Formation Clinic
10-22-2017: 2017 Pine Bluff Formation Clinic
10-27-2017: EAA 538 "All In" Poker Run and 50/50 Raffle
10-28-2017: EAA 538 "All In" Poker Run and 50/50 Raffle, Pancake
breakfast at SC86
11-03-2017: Petit Jean 2017 - The RV Gathering
11-04-2017: Petit Jean 2017 - The RV Gathering
11-05-2017: Petit Jean 2017 - The RV Gathering
Previous Day's VAF News
honor system site by Doug Reeves (contact).
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