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.