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QuickTalk 21 - May/Jun 1985 - index

MAY/JUN 1985



by Jim Masal


Where I keep my Quickie, I have a hangar neighbor who has built, crashed, rebuilt, crashed and finally trashed a Q-2. He is now just beginning construction of a Long-EZ, which he says he should have built in the first place. If it's true that converts make the worst zealots, then his conversion to the Rutan camp proves the statement. He never straddles the fence. In our inevitable hangar discussions, he either is absolutely and completely damning QAC, Gene Sheehan and the Q-2 or is praising with unbridled reverence Guru Rutan, Mike and Sally Melville, anyone who has built, touched or even seen an EZ, or any other of the numerous Rutan designs. My neighbor can vent his bad experiences with QAC and the Q-2 endlessly, or at least until I become violent, whichever comes first.

His apathetic, pathetic, sometimes even smart-alec treatment at the hands of QAC and its principal need no retelling here (I have heard and read the same experiences that many others of you have had over the past 4 years). To be honest, when I visited Mojave myself last year, everyone at QAC was affable and genial, most especially Gene Sheehan, who not only spent a great deal of time with me but went out of his way to fly me to REVMASTER and AIRCRAFT SPRUCE AND SPECIALTY where I met the principals and got to better know the details of these operations. So, based on my personal experiences I am tempted to call all you nay sayers big fat liars if it weren't for the fact that I've heard these negative stories coming from so many different people over so long a period of time that I would be a fool to dispute them. What I would like to have happen in my wildest dreams would be to have Sheehan treat every one of you as considerately as he treated me. If this happened, Sheehan and QAC would be so smothered with appreciation and respect that they could hardly stand it.

The other day my neighbor was happily engaged in one of his long-winded tirades against QAC when he suddenly jumped the fence and began what could have developed into a long afternoon of EZ talk. I suddenly stopped him dead in his tracks when I said, "I was reading a report of Vari-EZ and Long-EZ accident experience in the AVIATION CONSUMER the other day. It was reported that there have been 27 fatalities in EZ type aircraft. Now if the EZ's are so safe, foolproof and easy to fly, I asked him, how is it that 27 dead bodies have been counted near EZ wreckage? There have been less than a half dozen in the Q2?" By golly, I had him! While he was still babbling under his breath, trying to recover, I pointed out the AVIATION CONSUMER article goes on to state that EZ's have twice the accident rate of the worst General Aviation aircraft now flying.

I thought he'd walk off mumbling to himself but I needed him to help me prop my Quickie. I told him, and I fully believe, that when Rutan designed the EZ's he brought the full weight of his considerable engineering talent to bear in order to construct the safest aircraft that we could fly. In fact during Burt's early years at Oshkosh, and to this day I've heard the subject of safety emphasized over and over and over again in RAF forums. Yet despite his best efforts, 27 people have died in EZ accidents, and even though we have had less fatalities in Q types, we have had dozens and dozens of accidents. Are these aircraft really that bad? Just why is this happening?

The Quickie is fairly easy to explain. The design concept was to squeeze the most performance out of the least engine and airframe as possible, therefore any pilot who backs himself into a corner or digs himself in a hole will find that the plane absolutely does not have enough power to fly him out of a predicament. Flying a Quickie demands that the pilot foresee a predicament BEFORE it happens. Clearly from our surveys, some pilots are operating the Quickie effectively and with minimal problems. I believe that the Quickie started out and evolved from the same kind of vision that Jim Bede had. Like Bede's vision the Quickie was meant to be an airplane for "Everyman". One of the ways to meet this goal is to make it cheap. However, Jim Bede seemed to know that the vision that "Everyman" has, as he climbs into the cockpit of his 150, is that he will be cranking up to the throaty roar of a P-51 and will soon be off to dogfight over his hometown. "Everyman" flying the docile, plodding, safe 150 or other trainer longs to be racing through the clouds as fast as he can go. And so Rutan and the Quickie clan (and probably others as yet unborn) sought this vision in our behalf. What both wound up with were the ships of our dreams (at least until something faster comes along). But the design teams of RAF and QAC have a blind spot - a monumental weakness to contend with. For all their experience and talent in engineering, they have no skill whatsoever in psychogenetics. They can design and build a plane for a pilot but they can't build a pilot for the airplane.

The macho, hard-charging, aggressive meat-eaters of the world either have enough money to buy their own P-51, Learjet, etc., or they are already jet fighter jocks flying the best their government can provide. The vast majority of the pilot population is tooling around in Little Pipers, Cessnas and the like with visions of P-51's. A small percentage of us see our vision realized in the EZ's, Q-2/200's and others, and we have the stamina and perseverance to take on such a project and see it through to completion. At the end of months of labor, as we sit running up at the end of the runway with our engines ticking over smoothly in our ears, the funny feeling in the pit of our stomach is a warning that we are about to mix a potentially deadly chemistry: a pilot with 100 mph brains and training with a near 200 mph aircraft. This chemistry has been explosive for at least 27 EZ fliers and scores of Q-2/Q-200 accidents.

Am I suggesting that all these fatalities, incidents and accidents are pure and simple cases of pilot error? Not necessarily, for this new breed of composites are without question high performance aircraft with sometimes unique handling quirks the likes of which are not seen in our Cessna and Piper trainers. One of the big reasons that Cessna and Pipers are so docile is that the designs HAVE NOT changed over the last 20 or so years and docile, plodding but safe characteristics have been bred into them. Without question the Q2/200 design has squirrelly ground handling and can bounce out of control on a poorly handled touchdown, etc., etc., etc.

It is a fact that both low time and high time pilots have been involved in accidents, but it is also a fact that both low and high time pilots are flying these planes adequately. In my opinion this indicates that a big part of the solution to all these flight problems has to do with the alertness and training of the brain in the cockpit. A conservative, wary, "expecting trouble" alertness are characteristics more often found in high time pilots than in others, but comfortable high timers can lose these traits just as low times can develop them early. I believe that mental sharpness, training and anticipation are the keys to flying high performance aircraft safely. As I explained to my neighbor, take the winged brick that we call the space shuttle, for example. This is as unconventional an airplane as there is nowadays. How does one get to be a pilot for a space shuttle? First he must have thousands of hours of seasoning and have risen to the top of his profession. After all this he still must go through several years of training and hundreds of hours of simulator flight time. The shuttle is a unique aircraft with some unusual flight characteristics yet it CAN be flown safely - IF THE PILOT IS MENTALLY PREPARED AND IF HE HAS THE NCESSARY TRAINING BEFOREHAND. To fly a high performance composite with a 100 mph brain in a 200 mph cockpit is asking for trouble and the statistics prove whether you fly a design by Rutan, QC or anybody else, trouble is just exactly what you're gonna get.


Other Articles In This Issue

LETTERS - by Jim Masal
Q-TIPS - by Jim Masal
Q-2 HINTS - by Jim Masal
QUICKIE HINTS - by Jim Masal
CLASSIFIEDS - by Jim Masal
ODDS and ENDS - by Jim Masal
QUICKSHOTS - by Jim Masal


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