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Old 02-22-2022, 06:31 PM
greg gfeller greg gfeller is offline
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Post Falls, Idaho KCOE
Posts: 15
Default Always, always use a check list!

I'm sharing this below as a write up from a friend and fellow RV12 pilot to hopefully save someone's life. After hearing his story verbally I encouraged him to write it up and I would share it anonymously for him with this group.

His write up is very detailed but pales in comparison to when I first heard it over the phone. I can only imagine what it was like with the stall horn blaring in the headset. My request is that you read it and take it to heart. And no need to flame this post as hopefully we all can learn from someone's mistake and not ever commit the same one. At the end of the post I will share a link where another pilot was not so lucky. My friends write up is below:

I am writing this, at the urging of a friend, in the hope that it may prevent serious injury or death to a fellow RV12 pilot. It is anonymous for my own reasons, but mostly because I have beaten myself up enough and donít wish to expose myself to an onslaught of criticism from the ever present know it all social media experts.

After flying for over 40 years I admit that I had become a little complacent regarding checklists. My complacency was probably even worse in the RV12 because its start-up and operation are so deceptively basic and simple. This is my ďtake-off with an unlatched canopyĒ experience to the best of my recollection.

Radio call to alert non-towered traffic that I was taking the active. Line up on the active runway. Flaps set to zero on the day in question. Trim set to neutral, advance power to full throttle, release brakes and start the take-off roll, right rudder to compensate for torque and P-Factor and slight elevator back pressure to bring the nose slightly off the runway and accelerate to flying speed (I donít really rotate for take-off, I let the plane fly itself off of the runway and then trim for Vy. As soon as the plane came out of ground effect, the canopy popped open (at least a foot). It took a fraction of a second to realize what had happened. In that fraction of a second I lost rudder and elevator authority and the plane pitched down and to the left (looking down I was over the extreme left edge of the runway). I donít know for sure what happened in the next second or two, I do know that I caught the canopy at about the same time the plane pitched steeply down (about 50í in the air) and I remember trying to keep the plane from impacting nose first by pulling back on the stick. I was successful in getting the nose up before impact, but the downward momentum carried the main gear to the runway where the starboard main gear carried the brunt of the impact (I donít remember even touching the runway, but the EFIS G Meter registered an impact of 3.2 Gs).
Because I was still slow, when I bounced and came back out of ground effect, the plane rolled to the right in a low level stall with the right wing nearly on knife edge. Mind you, with both hands full, one with the stick and the other holding the canopy, the throttle was still wide open. When I realized I was still flying, I had enough runway in front of me that I could have landed if I could just retard the throttle. However, the up force on the canopy was significant and I was still holding it, so I attempted to hold the stick with my knees and reach the throttle with my left hand, but could not stabilize the plane with my knees (I think this took my feet off of the rudder pedals). It was at this point that I began making conscious decisions as opposed to reacting. I knew if I climbed steeply enough, even with full throttle, I could slow the plane down, perhaps enough to at least partially close the canopy. With the stall horn blaring, I was able to partially latch the canopy. I released my grip on the canopy handle long enough to retard the throttle to idle and then immediately went back to gripping the canopy latch handle with my right hand. At this point, 400 to 500 feet in the air and still not past the departure end of the runway, I turned the plane for a close downwind return to the runway I had departed from and successfully landed without further incident.

I later spoke to a witness who saw the whole thing from the ground. He said the initial ground impact was violent and that after the bounce, he thought the starboard wing actually hit the ground (it did not) and that I was going to roll inverted. He then thought I remained out of control during the steep climb that I made trying to slow the plane down under full throttle. He said it wasnít until he saw the plane make a quick turn to downwind that he realized there was not going to be a crash.

I believe I survived by the grace of God and the fact that the RV12 has flaperons. During the low level stall following the bounce, I donít believe I could have kept the plane from completely rolling over if it werenít for the fact that the flaperons gave some level of aileron authority.

I am aware that my experience may not jive with what others have experienced or what they believe to be the aerodynamics of an open RV12 canopy in flight. I believe that I was very lucky and that I survived what could have easily been a fatal incident.
I also now believe that it would not have been necessary to climb into a full power stall in order to regain control over the canopy. It is now my understanding that in a cruise configuration the canopy will not open more than a few inches (even hands off), which would have allowed the use of both my hands to control the aircraft. However in takeoff configuration, I believe the combination of air under the canopy pushing up and over the canopy acting to create lift as an air foil, allows it to rise high enough to interrupt air flow over both the rudder and the elevator.

Please learn from me and use your checklist.

End of his write up...

Here is a link to someone who had the same thing happen and was not so lucky.
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Old 02-22-2022, 07:22 PM
CessnaTPA CessnaTPA is offline
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Riverview
Posts: 60

I appreciate you sharing, I never knew the severity of leaving the canopy unlatched. I'm still building but will always remember this story.
With this being a known problem there should be a micro switch giving a warning it's not latched.
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Old 02-22-2022, 07:50 PM
daveyator daveyator is offline
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: adelaide, south australia
Posts: 195

Originally Posted by CessnaTPA View Post
I appreciate you sharing, I never knew the severity of leaving the canopy unlatched. I'm still building but will always remember this story.
With this being a known problem there should be a micro switch giving a warning it's not latched.
There is. Been available for many years as a retrofit. Iím pretty sure itís standard in the kit by now.
Cheers DaveH
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Old 02-22-2022, 09:04 PM
greg gfeller greg gfeller is offline
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Post Falls, Idaho KCOE
Posts: 15

There is a light on my Skyview Touch indicating open or closed and an upgraded latch kit from Vans I added several years ago after talking to Synergy Air at Oshkosh. Vaden said if there is one upgrade to definitely consider its the upgraded latch kit. It allows you to latch the canopy partially open when taxing. Not sure if the 180 has the micro switch and light

Last edited by greg gfeller : 02-22-2022 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 02-22-2022, 09:11 PM
swjohnsey swjohnsey is offline
Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Kingsville, TX
Posts: 484

Checklists have their place. Engine failure on take-off is probably not one of them.
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Old 02-22-2022, 09:15 PM
DaleB's Avatar
DaleB DaleB is offline
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Omaha, NE (KMLE)
Posts: 2,359

Originally Posted by greg gfeller View Post
Not sure if the 180 has the micro switch and light
There is not, and no real way to add one without it turning into a pretty major project.

After two incidents of finding my canopy not fully latched in flight (yes, Iím a slow learner) Iím pretty religious about checklist use now and downright paranoid about checking the canopy latch.

Omaha, NE
RV-12 # 222 N980KM "Screamin' Canary" (bought flying)
Fisher Celebrity (under construction)
Previous RV-7 project (sold)
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Old 02-22-2022, 10:48 PM
Scotty G's Avatar
Scotty G Scotty G is offline
Join Date: Aug 2020
Location: PHX
Posts: 159

Kudos to the pilot that chose to write this up so others may learn. That takes a lot of guts and humility. I appreciate this, and no matter how much experience you have, we can all learn from it.
Scotty G
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Old 02-23-2022, 06:10 AM
texdog texdog is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Fredericksburg, Tx.
Posts: 413
Exclamation Red flag

I have a 6 inch red flag hanging on my canopy latch handle until it is locked and then removed.
T82 Fredericksburg,Tx.
Don't make easy hard!
Master Pilot Award
RV6A owner N6711
L19 sold
ATP/FE/CFI 10 Type Ratings.
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Old 02-23-2022, 08:03 AM
Mich48041 Mich48041 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Riley TWP MI
Posts: 3,390

There was at least one other RV-12 accident due to the pilot being distracted by an open canopy. After becoming airborne, the canopy opened. The plane nosed into the runway as the pilot attempted to close the canopy. The plane was significantly damaged, but the pilot walked away.
At a later date, I took off with the canopy unlatched. I realized my mistake when the wind hit my face. I instinctively reached for the canopy handle, but stopped midway up. I remembered reading about the above incident. I lowered my hand and flew the plane. It flies just fine with the canopy open. It might even fly better with the canopy open because the canopy settles into a position with the least amount of drag. Anyway, I flew around the pattern, landed and latched the canopy. I later installed Van's new canopy latch and microswitch. Now, if the canopy is unlatched and the airspeed is above 30 knots, an alarm goes off. While taxiing for takeoff, the runway hold-short line is my cue to check the canopy latch.
Joe Gores
RV-12 Flying
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Old 02-23-2022, 08:23 AM
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Walt Walt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
Posts: 6,717

I've done it twice in my RV7, first time was like the 2 or 3rd test flight on the aircraft, certainly got my attention, new airplane and not sure what to expect. However, I kept hearing the infamous words of my instructor: "no matter what happens just FLY the airplane" so that's what I did.

On the 7 the canopy will come open maybe 8-10" and just sit there, so once of the initial shock wore off it was really no big deal.

Did it again years later when I got in a hurry, rain approaching and wanted to get out, I had lowered the canopy because of the rain but did not latch it, big mistake. From then on if I close the canopy all the way it gets latched.
Walt Aronow, DFW, TX (52F)

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