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QuickTalk 19 - Jan/Feb 1985 - index

JAN/FEB 1985



by Jim Masal

On Oct. 25, 1984 after a U.S. District Court trial that lasted 8 days, plaintiff Joseph A. Mullan received a jury judgment against Quickie Aircraft Corp. for $155,000 plus pre-trial interest for a total of $212,902.10. The jury found both parties in the suit negligent - QAC bore 90% of the fault, Mullan 10%. They found unanimously that: 1. There was breach of express warranty and 2. The plaintiff did have a claim of sale of a defective product.

A Quickie built by Mullan crashed on Aug. 31, 1980, when it apparently failed to sustain a climb. Mullan injured both heel bones, one of which didn't heal well, we understand.

Judgment was served on Nov. 1, 1984, after which activities at QAC began grinding to a halt that we reported on Friday, Nov. 30. QAC, not great with communicating even in the best of times, stopped talking to everyone. Some dealers received order checks back in the mail unexplained; Revmaster only recently met with Sheehan and Aircraft Spruce still has not been contacted.

Around Christmas, a QBAer sent us a copy of Gene Sheehan's letter to "Quickie Enthusiasts" title "OUR LAST NEWSLETTER?" (we weren't important enough to be on his mailing list). In it, Sheehan picks and chooses his facts (just like in his advertising) in such a fashion as to make QAC look like a wounded deer, shot by an inept bumbler (Mullan) with a jury of fools. In part, Sheehan wrote: "the builder made...major changes...against QAC's advice and warnings...ignored our 'Initial Flight Test Guide'...requirements...was not a competent pilot." He states that Mullan made his own prop "of undetermined performance" and that he subsequently built a Dragonfly and "crashed this plane at least twice to our knowledge." Then came the hooker: Sheehan posed the threat that if this "absurd claim" is allowed to stand "Quickie Aircraft cannot continue" and all of sport aviation may suffer. In a magnanimous gesture, Sheehan suggests that he and his lawyers will help us out of this fix (nice guy!): "So I am adking [sic] for your help. If you believe as I do that the current climate in this country regarding products liability is unreasonable, please consider donating $25.00 or more to help reverse this travesty of justice."

Surprisingly, quite a number of folks promptly coughed (or choked?) up donations of over $4,000 (we heard) without smelling fish or attempting to discover the other side of the story. Interestingly, the EAA did not rush to the aid of this travesty of truth, justice and the American way.

QAC's hangar 68 is now empty and rented to someone else. Sheehan has apparently moved QAC and personal goods into 2 T-hangars on the north end of the field. Sheehan's letter proposed a re-opening on Jan. 2; sources are now telling us Feb. 1.

The ingredients in a re-opening would be an appeal (which was filed Jan. 17) and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy (notification of which has been received by Bruce Lampert, Mullan's attorney).

Quickie dealer Bob McFarland write that Sheehan hopes to reopen on a smaller scale and deliver all items ordered and paid for. He intends to send a letter detailing these plans shortly. If QAC does not reopen, its few visible assets will be sold and each creditor will get his proportional share. If you've paid QAC for anything not received, you must file a claim to get anything. Don't rely on QAC's records or Sheehan's memory. Consult your lawyer or you could probably write QAC's lawyer: Brent Ayscough, 22330 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, CA 90505. (Appeal donations welcomed.)

A Colorado QBAer has gotten another side of the story for us. Mullan, a 58-year-old mechanical engineer with 150 hrs flying time, is not necessarily a klutz. His 18 hp Quickie weighed in at 265 lbs. It was first flown in Oct. '79 by an experienced taildragger pilot. The test pilot subsequently flew it several times with both Mullan's engine and one borrowed from another builder with reportedly the same result - poor climb. Mullan claimed he received a defective engine from QAC; QAC disagreed after inspection, and shipped it back. It was repaired locally and the heads were milled. While running it on his plane in the garage, the plane got loose and struck a workbench breaking the prop. Mullan made his own prop (he learned this craft from the PACESETTER prop folks and has made about 15, and even sent one sample to Rutan for possible recommendation to his builders). Mullan got rides in a couple local taildraggers with mixed reviews on his ability, but he passed his FAA biennial fight review 2 weeks later. Mullan's first flight was successful early one Aug. morning at Loveland-Ft. Collins airport. He flew in the pattern about 40 minutes at 3-400'. Next weekend, his second flight (about 11 am) was just enough later for the density altitude to rise. The plane hardly climbed above 60-70' and when he started a gentle left turn, it just mushed into the ground with absolutely ineffective controls. Mullan suffered one cracked Calcaneus (heel bone) and one shattered. He reports his walking endurance is impaired. An acquaintance called QAC to report the accident the next day, and Mullan disposed of the wreckage months later uninspected by QAC.

Mullan later spent 2000 hr building a Dragonfly with a locally built up engine. Surprised by quick control response on a runway flight, he ballooned and slammed down shedding both wheel pants. After repairs, he flew 20 hrs successfully when the engine quit; he overshot the approach and hit hard attempting to turn back to the runway. The wreckage started to burn 8 minutes after he was pulled out unconscious. He woke up in the hospital with no recall of the episode (It's been reported that he sued a rescuer. True, but it was in small claims court on another matter and Mullan lost).

One source says Mullan based his claim on false advertising; he wouldn't have built it except that it was advertised as being able to handle the Denver climate. The designer (Rutan) was not named in the suit, only the promoter, and the jury awarded Mullan almost twice what he asked. We've heard that Sheehan's attitude on the stand and an emotional Mullan may have affected the outcome.

What kind of fools must live in Colorado to render a judgment that flies in the face of the facts that Sheehan presents. To swallow the facts as presented seems to us only to perpetuate the foolishness, for if you accept them you must seriously question what kind of lawyer could lose such a suit in which the suer so blatantly disregarded common sense. Mullan says HIS lawyer was brilliant and the judge bent over backwards to conduct the case so as to discourage a successful appeal. Should you gamble another $25 on the odds?

Could we possibly believe that QAC misrepresented the aircraft? Consider these excerpts from QAC's literature promoting the Quickie: "Imagine an aircraft that absolutely refuses to stall. That weighs 240 pounds...That offers 130 mph performance on 18 hp...easy, safe and best of all...a joy to fly...And now it's available with a hot new 22 hp option. To boost cruising speed to 140 mph...and climb rate to 600 fpm." A Peter Garrison (FLYING) promo widely distributed by QAC goes on: "A competent worker who follows the instructions and doesn't spend...time...fussing over insignificant details will take 400 hours OR LESS" (caps ours). Nice to know we're all a bunch of incompetent fussers, Peter. Would you believe: "Several Quickies...have reported performance superior to N77Q, our Quickie prototype...The improved homebuilder performance being seen now if the result of QAC being conservative in all pilots manual data." When confronted with fears of flying in rain or with a dirtied canard, the so-called RUMOR SQUELCHING DEPARTMENT at QAC pooh-poohed it by writing: "Rain has an effect on any aircraft, and the Quickie is no exception...Delbert Whitehead has 'used my Quickie as a lawnmower!' In addition, both Gary LeGare and QAC have cut grass with Quickies without problem. Remember when you first read this stuff and excitedly plunked your $$$ down?

QAC seems to have a knack for downplaying problems and shifting responsibility. Maybe an injured builder got fed up with the hype that sucked him in and a jury agreed.

A summary of this case was reported in the AVIATION LITIGATION REPORTER. It said in part:

"...the plaintiff contended that the home-built airplane kit was defective and unreasonably dangerous because of the aircraft's unique low speed handling characteristics, even when the kit was assembled according to specifications.

The plaintiff also attacked Quickie's advertising and promotional literature which said that the kit was designed for 'low time pilots' and 'first-time home-builders' and that the aircraft would not stall.

Plaintiff argued that the aircraft as designed by Quickie was underpowered and had dangerous stall characteristics at high-density altitudes. Plaintiff contended that evidence showed 3 out of 5 Quickies built in Colorado had crashed."

If this suit causes $$$-eyed kit promoters to think twice before adding super-hype to their advertising for the eager and trusting homebuilder, we believe sport aviation will be all the better for it.

Whatever his faults (if any), we believe Gene Sheehan will resist going down like Jim Bede and QAC isn't dead yet. Spars, fuselage shells, etc. etc. will likely be available to Aircraft Spruce and others. Keep building what you can and be patient. We believe also that there are at least 3 groups or individuals poised to take over a fallen QAC. All would do a fine job. Finally, QBA will keep doing what it's been doing for the past 3 years now - providing the self-support to get you in the air while minimizing surprises.


Other Articles In This Issue

LETTERS - by Jim Masal
CLASSIFIEDS - by Jim Masal
QUICKIE HINTS - by Jim Masal
Q-2 HINTS - by Jim Masal
WE'VE GOT PICTURES! - by Jim Masal


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