Well, here?s something that I obviously hoped I would never be writing about? but it happened, so now I?m just trying to make something positive out of a bad situation. Maybe this will help someone else to evaluate their own skills a bit more closely. On June 15, 2013 my RV 7A was out of phase one with about 50 total hours on her. She was flying great and I had already taken up two different CFI friends of mine for several hours, so I knew how she would handle with the weight of two people. My son was visiting from Raleigh NC and he wanted to go flying in our new plane. The day was perfect? blue skies and calm. We made it to the airport around 8:30 am. By 9 the plane was out of the hangar, the preflight was complete, instructions had been given and we were ready to take off. Everything went well, with a great one hour scenic tour over the Blue Ridge Mountains and a smooth landing at the end. We both had a great time and he really enjoyed the RV.
Immediately after the flight I called my wife to let her know we were down safely, and that our son had to leave and return to Raleigh. She then suggested that, since the day was so nice, we fly up to PA to visit my folks like we had wanted to do the weekend before. Of course, with very little arm twisting, I agreed and proceeded to fuel the plane, and look over the airport diagram and radio frequencies for our destination airport. I also called 1-800-WXBRIEF just to make sure the weather would remain good.
She arrived at the airport (W24 in Lynchburg, VA) around 11:30 am and by 11:50 we were strapped in and feeling the rush of heading down runway 10. Takeoff was nice and within a few minutes we were at 4,500? and headed north. The view over the Appalachian Mountains was beautiful and the ride was just a little bit bumpy since the winds had picked up a bit from earlier that morning. My wife had been up for 3 short hops previously in the RV, so this was not her first time in this piece of metal that had taken shape in our shop over the last several years. We were both enjoying the flight and she was taking pictures.
Ten miles out from our destination airport (KAOO) I announced our location and our intention to land. Another pilot, who was taking off, announced that he was doing so on RWY 030. Of course, you would assume that the winds would be favoring 030, but I spoke with this fellow briefly just to confirm that that was indeed the case. Our northerly heading had us lined up with 030 for a direct final approach and since there was no other traffic at the time, that?s what I announced we would be doing. The wind had picked up to around 10 knots and there were some gusts coming toward us from an angle of around 2 or 3 o?clock, but we were doing fine? centerline and on speed. The runway is 100? wide and over 5,000? long, so compared to what I was used to landing on, this was a piece of cake (check out W24?they literally use it for soap box derby races in the summer). The time was around 1:15 pm according to my timekeeper wife. My flair was at the right height, flaps were 40 degrees down and airspeed was bleeding off nicely. The mains touched down and suddenly everything went very wrong.
The mains were on the ground for just a second and then we were back up in the air. Did I bounce it? I could have? I won?t say that?s never happened before in C172 flights. Did a combination of ground effect and gusting wind make enough lift to bring her back up? That?s what I thought initially. Either way, I came down hard and bent the front wheel. The bent wheel pulled us to the left and off the runway where we hit the soft dirt with just enough momentum to cause the plane to raise straight up onto the spinner and then flip over onto the canopy. Between the panic, the adrenaline, the injuries and the shock, it?s pretty hard to describe what it feels like to be upside down in a plane that just flipped.
Now, what?s the point I?m trying to make by telling this lengthy story? Like I said in the first paragraph, I hope this helps someone else to evaluate their skills more closely. Especially those of us who are low time pilots. With 18,000 readers on this site, we all can?t be like the guys who make long cross country?s look like a walk across the street and amazing aerobatics look like something they could do in their sleep. I am in awe of you guys who are just that good and I appreciate all of your input to this fantastic site. However, along with myself, there are probably at least a few of us out there who may love these RV planes but who also have only a couple hundred hours of total time PIC.
Take the time to read Doug's threads on safety, especially Van?s article on ?How to land an RV? (http://www.vansairforce.net/safety/HowToLandAnRV.pdf
). Then find a CFI with RV experience who will spend as much time with you as needed. You?ll also want to look carefully at http://www.rvflightsafety.org/
. VAF contains so much more than just how to form the perfect rivet or hang an engine. The safety information here is invaluable.
I broke my neck in five places, had two complicated surgeries, wore a halo for 14 weeks, am still wearing a hard neck brace and have not been able to work or drive since June 15. My wife cracked two neck vertebrae, cracked three ribs and tore a rotator cuff in her shoulder. Thankfully she did not have to have any surgery. Hurting someone you love is much worse than hurting yourself. This is an embarrassing story to tell because even us low time guys like to think we?re good enough that something like this would never happen to us; but if sharing helps to keep someone else from getting hurt, then it?s worth being embarrassed.