What do we need to know? What can we learn from Gerry's accident in Hawaii

Published by: Paul Hamilton on 23rd Apr 2014 | View all blogs by Paul Hamilton

Gerry from Birds in Paradise, a commercial training operation  in Hawaii had a fatal accident March 11, 2014. Gerry was a huge influence on triking and myself and we mourn his death and will miss him greatly. I flew with Gerry’s operation for 5 months, 24,000 miles in Gerry’s trikes and know Gerry from the old days of Hang Gliding, we have been friends for decades. However, with this loss, I feel it is important what can we learn together as pilots to help us all in the future.

 

Yes there is allot of speculation about what happened to Gerry in Hawaii. What does everyone need to know to learn and be safe to avoid what ever happened, to make sure it does not happen again and we all learn from his mistake is simply:  Do not  modify your trike (including/especially the fuel system), without the expertise, engineering background, manufacturers consultation/approval  and/or experience for similar trike modifications or it could end badly. Simple.

 

What exactly happened, we will all form opinions, speculate and may never know. For every pilot/wife/child out there, what happened exactly does not really matter. Let me say it one more time:  Gerry was modifying his fuel/venting system with the intent of carrying more fuel. This ended badly.

Here is the actual accident report which I will make comment on after:

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA135
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Kekaha, HI
Aircraft: EVOLUTION TRIKES REVO, registration: N98EV
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.


On March 11, 2014, about 0910 Hawaiian standard time, a special light sport Revo Evolution Trikes weight-shift control aircraft, N98EV, impacted terrain and was consumed by fire in Kekaha, Hawaii. Birds in Paradise, LLC., owned by the accident pilot, was operating the trike under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certified light sport instructor and student pilot sustained fatal injuries; the trike was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the instructional flight. The trike departed Port Allen Airport, Hanapepe, Hawaii about 0850 and the introductory flight was intended to take 60 minutes before returning to the airport.

A second Birds in Paradise certificated flight instructor (CFI) was giving instruction in another trike while flying in close proximity with the accident trike. He stated that about 0615 that morning he met up with the accident pilot at the company's facilities. They began to take their respective trikes out of the hangar and he noticed the accident pilot was on a ladder routing compressed air into the accident trike's fuel vent. The second pilot commented to the accident pilot that the fuel cap was still affixed on the tank and removed it for him, which produced a "pop" sound from the compressed air escaping the system. They wheeled the trikes over to the staging area and greeted their student pilots shortly thereafter. After fitting the students with flight suits and helmets, the pilots gave them a briefing and departed around 0850.

After departure, the accident pilot told the second pilot that he was going "on company," meaning that they would communicate to one another on the company frequency 123.450; this was the last transmission the CFI heard from the accident pilot.

Approaching the Barking Sands class D airspace, the second pilot transmitted over the company frequency that he was switching to the Barking Sands frequency to receive a clearance from the control tower, to transition through their airspace as a flight of two.

As the CFI's trike was approaching the northwest side of Polihale Beach , he descended to about 600 feet above ground level (agl) and observed the accident trike about 1,000 feet agl and 75 feet away horizontally at his 1-o'clock position; that was the last time he saw the accident trike flying. The CFI and his student performed two near-360 degree turns over the ocean and attempted to contact the accident pilot over the radio. They noticed smoke on the base of the ridgeline and maneuvered over to the area.

The trike came to rest at the base of a ridgeline about one nautical mile east of Polihale State Park. The main wreckage was consumed by fire but all major structural components were located within the wreckage debris area. The accident pilot had recently had problems with the fuel system suctioning the fuel supply out of the main vent line (located in the belly of the aircraft). In an effort to rectify the problem, he routed the vent line up the mast and through the keel pocket toward the trailing edge.

The wreckage and a camera were recovered for further examination.

End of NTSB report

 

  

Paul’s comments:

Fuel venting is a critically important part of the design to keep the engine running. Not enough pressure the engine will stop. Too much pressure and a number of things can happen, lines/tank/fittings can leak/burst, fuel pressure could rise and pop the carb venting onto the exhaust, vent line could pop spewing fuel all over………. Plenty of options that will be batted back and forth.

 

Since I fly a Revo I have received calls from concerned pilots/instructors and I am pretty sure this unfortunate accident is the result of unauthorized modification of the fuel system by someone who is not an engineer and should not have been making such modifications. To all pilots, do not modify your trike without the practical experience on the modification being performed, engineering background to perform the modification or manufacturers consultation/approval  for the modification.

 

This is a very simple lesson for all. If you have not learned it yet, please learn from this.

Comments

104 Comments

  • Lee Schmitt
    by Lee Schmitt 3 years ago
    i have not been on trikepilot regularly and missed this tragic news. i saw a reality show about Hawaii real estate several weeks ago and it was about Gerry buying a new home with room to launch his mosquito. So sad. There is no doubt in my mind that Trike flying is an order of magnitude more dangerous than anything i have ever done or probably will do. I always tell my passengers this.
  • Thomas Nielsen
    by Thomas Nielsen 3 years ago
    This particular accident is so important to learn from. While the conclusion is simple: "dont modify your trike without appropiate skill, knowledge and authorization" - it has been an accident in need of explanation. Here we have one of the most experienced pilots in the segment, flying one of the most well engineered trikes. It appears that neither flying skills nor trike engineering were at fault.

    Gerry was a trailblazer in many ways - one of the first to build a business around trike flying, but more than that - one who really opened up trike flying to the public in a spectacular way by combining the inate thrill of open cockpit flying, and then doing so in a setting a stunning visual beauty.

    Being a trailblazer takes a degree of selfmadeness - in the best of the sense - the trail your are venturing dont necessarily comes with "best practices" or clear rules. Perhaps - along the way as the machines and the operation becomes more complex, there is a divergence in which the venturing spirit must throttle back to strict conformity and procedure. What I take away from the accidient in Kauai, is that the best of flying skill or machine is no match for a humble, dogged and absolute adherence to standards and procedures. It is the price we must pay for the freedom of flight.
  • Bobby Zaloski
    by Bobby Zaloski 3 years ago
    I honestly think we should all stop jumping the gun on what caused Gerry's accident and wait for the report to come out. The fuel system is the obvious "go to" answer, but there are many other thing that contradict that outcome. For one, how come the only tree tops that were broken was the one and only tree the wreckage was found under? If he glided in with an engine out , due to fuel system failure, wouldn't many tree tops be broken? My point is that there are many factors known and unknown that need to be reviewed to establish reasonable answer to what happenned. Hopefully the report will help us all learn something.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    Paul’s comments:
    "Fuel venting is a critically important part of the design to keep the engine running. Not enough pressure the engine will stop. Too much pressure and a number of things can happen, lines/tank/fittings can leak/burst, fuel pressure could rise and pop the carb venting onto the exhaust, vent line could pop spewing fuel all over………."
    You lost me there amigo. Do you mean "fuel pump" above where you start "Fuel venting"? Because my feeble little brain can't get around the notion that a clogged/closed vent might cause such havoc in the sky. Must have been a typo? How might a vent create too much pressure?
    But really, to blame this crash on some sort of bad modification as is being stated in that silly report and elsewhere (unless he was indeed aflame) is to ignore the Golden Rule that we must all fly by: Keep Thyself Somewhere To Put Down! SLSA rules are hogwash compared to Reality.
    Now, are you forgetting that I too worked/flew for Gerry, maybe because it was long before you showed up?
    Well I never counted my mileage on Kauai but I did count my Altitude and I'm here to tell you I was always above Gerry. The only word I can dredge up to describe him is reckless. This crash was long overdue because you could not tell the guy anything.
    UNLESS HE WAS ON FIRE IN THE SKY, to blame a crash on some bad modification is just plain stupid.
    Since this crash I have heard other "instructors" in the Islands who tell me that Gerry was their mentor and that he was a great flier and instructor, to which I felt obliged to reply that if they fly like Gerry they are accidents looking for a crash scene. And about the instructor part I have but one simple question: how many new trikers has he soloed? Hell, he wouldn't even put someone in the front seat!
    I told him he'd kill himself some day. I'm not surprised.
    Bobby I don't belive I'm jumping any gun.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Bobby wrote:
    "For one, how come the only tree tops that were broken was the one and only tree the wreckage was found under? If he glided in with an engine out , due to fuel system failure, wouldn't many tree tops be broken? My point is that there are many factors known and unknown that need to be reviewed to establish reasonable answer to what happenned"

    Not if you did not glide but fell straight down on fire.
  • Bobby Zaloski
    by Bobby Zaloski 3 years ago
    hopefully ntsb report clears things up. Abid, do you think the fire started after the fuel system failed?
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Hi Bobby: It depends on what you mean or define as "fuel system failed". If you mean by this that the engine stopped running due to fuel starvation then may be not. It is not even necessary for engine to stop running to have an in-flight fire. One can have a large part of the wing sail burnt up in fire but have the engine still running and one would come down like a rock. I am not saying that the engine was running or not running just before impact here, I am just trying to clarify to you that a fuel fire and engine not running can be separate things. I don't have any information that I can further divulge here but as you said there is only one tree top broken when there were many ... well draw the logical conclusions yourself. There is no magic that I know of. Hopefully they can get some video because as far as I know BIP always flew with HD cameras to make videos of their flights that they offered students after the ride. Hopefully something survived from those.
  • Bobby Zaloski
    by Bobby Zaloski 3 years ago
    I understand that. Just trying to get a clear picture of what might have happenned. Everyone keeps saying fuel system problem because Gerry worked on it. Wouldn't the flames shoot straight back if the motor was running and prop spinning along with going 65mph+? Isn't it possible to put that trike down on the ground from the 1,000 agl he was in 30-60 seconds? Any opinion on why he didnt pull the chute? Thanks for your insight Abid.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    In general engine fire would have done that yes and in the Revo and Apollos etc. there is a fuel shut-off valve quite nicely in reach of the pilot or passenger in a compartment that can shut fuel supply off to the engine and starve such a fire. However, if the fire was a fuel fire inside the cockpit or in the wing, that would not have done anything because fuel obviously leaked inside the wing or into the cockpit. I don not know why there was no attempt to pull the BRS chute except if there was a fire that was inside the cockpit ...
  • Bobby Zaloski
    by Bobby Zaloski 3 years ago
    I see your point, I don't see that a fuel leak in the wing was "obvious", but it is a theory. How do you propose a cockpit fire could start? I still find it hard to believe he couldnt get it to the ground in 30-60 seconds from that elevation. Again hopefully time will tell and we can all learn from it. Thanks Abid
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 3 years ago
    I had the same important question. Why was the chute not pulled. Since Gerry is incredibly adaptive to getting himself out of bad situations, I asked this very important question myself. I put myself in the same situation. Than the momentary thought crossed my mind, that if there was a fire, I thought that pulling the chute could be useless because the fire would burn the chute bridle and/or chute making it useless. Again trying to learn and think: what would I do.

    Investigated this thought with industry expert parachute expert John Dunham Second Chantz, he explained to me that the bridle is made of Kevlar and would withstand momentary fire to probably would function properly. That is one more piece of important information to help us all.

    Use the chute good when things go bad and there is a loss of control.
  • Bobby Zaloski
    by Bobby Zaloski 3 years ago
    My thoughts exactly Paul. Having known Gerry, as did I, don't you think he would have pulled it anyway, instead of just giving up? Makes you wonder if something physically prevented him from pulling the chute handle....
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    How's this for irony? How's this for tragedy? How's this for stupid fed failure? Of the three (3) co-authors of the OOOOfucial Fed Trike Fliers' Handbook, two (2) of them have killed their passengers. I say close the shop and lock the doors. Send the useless feds home. We'd be better off spending tax dollars elsewhere because the entire program is a tragic failure. The Public will be safer too.
    SEQUESTER FAA-610 LIGHT-SPORT Where Fun went to die!
  • E Harv
    by E Harv 3 years ago
    Not that it would have made a difference in this particular crash, but why don't these island pilots fly trikes with floats? It would greatly increase their landing options in case of any kind of engine failure.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Ole what are you talking about now. The WSC Flying Handbook was authored by Paul Hamilton with contributions revisions from me, Larry, Air Creation guys in France and some others. Author is Paul mainly. So which of these have killed their passengers?
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    The only one I'm familiar with had co-authors John Thornburg and Gerry Charlebois. That one.
  • B  Alvarius
    by B Alvarius 3 years ago
    Ole stated: "Of the three (3) co-authors of the OOOOfucial Fed Trike Fliers' Handbook, two (2) of them have killed their passengers."

    As a matter of clarification, I note the Weight shift Control Aircraft Flying Handbook does not list authors and co-authors but rather has Acknowledgments for contributors providing images used in the book. Four individuals are listed in addition to 3 other businesses. Far from being an indictment of the FAA the accusation is an indictment of those individuals and by extension of the sport itself. Contrary to the assertion, by making the accusation that 2 of the books co-authors have killed their passengers it argues that it is the sport that requires closer scrutiny, not the FAA.

    I believe these sorts of unsourced, misleading, and inflamatory claims are unfortunately consistent with past behavior and would urge a more reasoned and edited approach to declarative statements posted.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    Of course B Alphonius quit flying years ago. What does he really care?
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Jon Thornburg had a very unfortunate accident which had to do with ground ops by an airplane student and the extremely poor design of Air Creation very old model trike of where the kill switches were placed. Jon has ratings in most categories, also an ATP as well as a fighter pilot for the military in Vietnam. Ole I think you may want to think twice before you flame Jon Thornburg. He anyway, does not work for the FAA. I was using the same exact procedure of leaving the control bar tied to the nose strut while engine was started by a front seat occupied student. I changed that only after Jon's accident. You cannot say that you flew with Jon Thornburg and you thought he was an accident looking for a place to happen. Quite the contrary. Shit happens sometimes to the most careful. That is the nature of accidents. Its only when the person is reckless in pattern to begin with, where there is a problem IMO.

    About Gerry: well I have seen him fly here at Z-Hills multiple times. One has to acknowledge that he introduced triking to a multitude of people who would not have known about it. His contributions as such cannot be simply ignored whatever one may think about his technique or his judgment.
  • Thomas Nielsen
    by Thomas Nielsen 3 years ago
    IF an onboard fire were the case, then I am not sure pulling the chute would be helpful: You loose airspeed to keep flames behind you (that is in a tiny aircraft without a firewall). By at least keeping airspeed and steering, you may be better off with a crash landing, verses dangling from a chute while flames goes upward....or worse forward.

    As I alluded to in my first post: Accidents happen way before they unfold. If we ever are to learn from this accident, we need to backtrack several steps. Sometimes we end up at an engineers desk, sometimes the culprit is regulation or certification or perhaps the root cause is human factors - or simply insufficient airmanship for the operation at hand.

    If the impact zone indicates a vertical descent, then the trike likely lost its ability to fly. Was it stall, structural or fire ? Given the unorthodox pressurization of the fuel system that caused a pop, and the mention of rerouted vent lines, my bet is that fuel one way or the other leaked with a resulting inflight fire, prohibiting continued flight to a forced landing, nor made it an option to pull the chute. Hopefully the final ntsb report will clear up things, refraining from too much "probable cause" lingo.
  • Ryan  McAnarney
    by Ryan McAnarney 3 years ago
    No one has once mentioned a toxicity report or autopsy pertaining to heart attack yet. Some of us us here new Gerry a lot better than others. Gerry was always modifying his aircrafts! No question there at all! To try and maximize fuel load because you want to carry just that much more fuel as to not refill before flights is just plain stupid! I never saw Gerry as the lazy type at all. But if that was the case?????
  • Ryan  McAnarney
    by Ryan McAnarney 3 years ago
    E-Harv. The last thing you would want out here is amphib! This isn't the gulf!
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    When I was working for Gerry we both had flights that ended with fuel starvation. I landed safely in a huge field that was an easy glide and my passenger did not even know we ran out if gas. Gerry crashed in the coffee fields trying to land on a dirt road and then he tried to blame me and others around him for somehow being responsible. Oh, he was a gem.
  • scott smith
    by scott smith 3 years ago
    I am hesitant to comment on this thread because I am, for the most part, not qualified to speak on this accident. I wasn't there, and I didn't know Gerry.
    I knew of his reputation. I have heard the rumors of the state of affairs of the triking industry in Hawaii. When my brother took a vacation in Hawaii, I advised him to avoid any of the tourist triking businesses in that state due to the rumors of vandalism and feuding/animosity among the triking operations there.

    What I do feel feel qualified to comment on, however, is the blanket statement of not modifying a trike for any reason.
    This sport, and really the whole aviation industry, has been built on the concept that "I can improve that system"
    The thing that we must remember at all times is that aviation is unforgiving. We may have a great idea for improving an established setup, but if we are going to take it 5000 feet above the earth, we had damn well better be sure it will work.

    On a personal level, I fly a Gibbo Manta wing. I have looked this wing over and can't find anything that I could do to improve it or make it safer. On the flip side, this wing is connected to a low end carriage called the BB. I have made many modifications to this poorly engineered machine. Every time I change something and take it to the air, I am saying to myself,"
    " I have done something different to this machine from the last time I flew it. I have the confidence to risk my life on the changes that I have made."

    I have no illusions of ever being an engineer or aircraft designer, but I sure do feel safer flying the trike that I am flying today versus the deathtrap that I origionally bought.
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 3 years ago
    Hello Scott,

    Thanks for posting. I think any WSC pilot is qualified to comment, and I am glad you did.

    While perhaps modifying your "poorly engineered machine", and I assume certified as Experimental, seems to have yielded good results for you, and actually it is ok per regulation to do so in an Experimental AC; A Special-LSA (S-LSA) is different per regulation, and do need the manufacturer to ok the modification. So in that regards I must disagree to some degree with your writing above.

    If you find that an S-LSA you plan on purchasing does not meet your standards, I suggest to buy something else, instead of thinking that modifying it to your liking will be ok. Let the manufacturer be the test pilots, and comply with the regulations and LSA approved standards. Reputable manufacturers are committed to safety above all.

    Regards
    Tony C
  • scott smith
    by scott smith 3 years ago
    Tony, for the most part, I agree with you. I might have been lax in my post in that I did not specify that I fly a 103 legal ultralight. (As long as no one has a set of scales nearby anyway) I tend to aproach things with the idea that even the best setup can be improved upon.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 3 years ago
    Yes as an Engineer you always want to make things better. That is why I an doing what I am doing.
  • Phil Pike
    by Phil Pike 3 years ago
    Am I correct that any SLSA can not be changed in any way without the manufactures approval? I have been out of the loop for a while but after hearing the news from HI I have been trying to find all the info that I can. I try to learn from others mistakes or design flaws. With 1300 hours flying Pegasus trikes, when I hear of an accident with a high hour pilot and a state of the art machine it makes me wonder. I have bits and pieces of info, read the NTSB report. Thought I read where he was adding more fuel capacity? Venting the fuel thru the keel? Last place I can think of where I would want that! Also does anyone know if this was a 912S or the new fuel injected 912 SI? Hopefully more will come to light after the videos are reviewed. Was it in flames before the crash? Medical issue with the pilot to not deploy the BRS? So sad.
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 3 years ago
    Hello Phil. Missed you at Sun N Fun !!! and yes, regarding changes to SLSA you are correct.
    Regards
    Tony C
  • Gregg Ludwig
    by Gregg Ludwig 3 years ago
    The rest of the story- yes, modification of SLSA aircraft, even something seemingly as simple as different wheels/tires, must be approved by the manufacturer as mentioned here. Just as important is that any approved modifications, as well as repairs and inspections of SLSA aircraft must be performed by an appropriately rated/licensed mechanic as specified in the SLSA aircraft flight manual (AFM)/owners manual.
    Gregg
  • Glade Montgomery
    by Glade Montgomery 3 years ago
    Legality is one issue. Intelligence is another.

    A prudent person carefully considers such matters as "Why did the manufacturer do it this way." He carefully considers whether he has full and adequate understanding regarding all factors involved. He is humble, and maintains robust appreciation for limitations in his own understanding. He would never dream of modifying something unless it was either (and most obviously) insignificant regarding safety, or if he had manufacturer approval, or if on due, deliberate and careful consideration it was reasonable to conclude his understanding of all factors was sufficient to sensibly deduce the modification would, at the least, not increase danger.

    In Gerry's case (and from what I've read here), it would seem to me both legality and intelligence were violated.

    As for legality, I presume the aircraft in question must have been an SLSA, as opposed to ELSA. So, modifications would have legally required manufacturer approval. Did Evolution Aircraft approve re-routing the fuel-tank vent-line up into the wing's keel pocket? I feel pretty certain the answer is no. I mean, after all, they engineered the vent-line exit to be under the aft belly for a reason. Did Evolution Aircraft approve using an air compressor to pressurize the fuel system? The answer to that is most obviously no. So far as I know, all fuel systems for light aircraft are vented. It is not conceivable Evolution Aircraft would approve an exception.

    So Gerry was, score 1, violating the law.

    As for intelligence, well, I think the facts speak for themselves. Scores of flying Revos attest to the fact the fuel system as engineered works just fine. What was Gerry trying to achieve? The only thing I can imagine is ability to fill the tank to its brim without thereafter spilling out the vent.

    Hmmm. If there was a way to do the above safely, does it not stand to reason the manufacturer would have engineered it?

    But, no, it does not appear Gerry was sufficiently humble to think, maybe, the manufacturer might know more about design constraints (and critical safety considerations) than did he. Recklessly heedless to the safety of himself and innocent paying passenger (aka "student"), he chose to experiment without due thought, care or even concern for legality. Re-routing the vent up into the wing? Pressurizing the tank with output from an air compressor? Are you kidding? These things are crazy. They are insane.

    I know it's generally felt that the dead deserve more respect than these words provide. Perhaps surviving friends deserve more sympathy in how matters are described. But (and as a very strong "on the other hand"), Gerry's paying passenger (and loved-ones of that paying passenger) certainly deserved greater prudence and caution than was evidently provided by Gerry.

    To be sure, it remains to be confirmed whether the actions as described were the direct cause of the crash (though if indeed the aircraft was seen in flames prior to crashing, the conclusion would seem rather evident). Regardless, so far as concerns the subject of "modifying" your aircraft, it appears Gerry set an extremely poor standard. His actions flunked both legality and intelligence. I think they were reckless, heedless and stupid.
  • Douglas Donaldson
    by Douglas Donaldson 3 years ago
    Paul: You say "Gerry was modifying his fuel/venting system with the intent of carrying more fuel." That isn't in the NTSB preliminary report. How was he modifying the system? Was he adding another fuel tank??

    The ASTM standards require fuel system venting that prevents siphoning. Did Gerry's Revo meet this standard?

    What would motivate someone to fly with a fuel system that was leaking fuel in flight?? Perhaps the same motivation that allowed another operator to continue using a wing with fabric that was rotten. And the same motivation to allow an inexperienced pilot to fly into bad weather and bad terrain. And the same motivation to continue flight with a low fuel warning blinking at you? (... I could go on ... ) Could it be that the guy in the back seat was paying? And if he didn't fly now his money would go home with him??

    Attitude was also a problem here. Anti-Authority, Invulnerability, Macho? Many accidents could be prevented by recognizing and dealing with hazardous attitudes. (See pages 17-4 and 17-5 of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge - very brief but always worth reviewing.)

    So sad. Another lesson we shouldn't need to learn again.

    Ironic if the only (suspected) in-flight trike fire I've heard of would occur in the only trike I know of that is equipped with a truly functional fuel shut-off. I have my doubts about how quickly a pilot would recognize an in-flight fire in the aft bilge of a Revo - he would be separated by the radiator, fuel tank, seat pan, and even his passenger. The idea that he might recognize and deal appropriately within the few moments when he might have done something useful seems unlikely. The NTSB will be able to tell us if the fuel selector was "on" and if the electric fuel pump switch was "on".
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Hi Doug:
    Those are interesting questions.
    I know a bit of the inside story on some of these.

    1) ASTM standard does in fact require a fuel vent that does not siphon in flight but it in the same point goes on to say, that fuel must discharge away from trike.
    "7.2.5 Each fuel tank shall be vented. The vent shall not siphon in flight and must discharge clear of the engine and exhaust system."

    Siphon here is used to indicate a pressure differential established and a vacuum that continues to suck fuel out of the tank. That is not what was the cas ein the Revo fuel system. However, if you filled it up way beyond it was ever meant to be filled up and then you flew to altitude where expansion of fuel to some degree is natural, that extra fuel indeed needs to go somewhere. The fuel system is not sealed or pressurized and required not to be. That discharge is talked about in 7.2.5 and that discharge is normal and expected. The point is not to try and overfill the fuel tank and use it as designed.

    So my personal opinion knowing what the ASTM standard was talking about is that yes the Revo meets the standard and discharges extra fuel properly away from any source of possible ignition.

    One thing has to be kept in mind and you gently alluded to it in your post. This particular aircraft was crashed at around 25 hours when the pilot ran out of fuel over water and glided to land and the trike flipped causing significant damage to both the carriage and the wing. The trike and wing were re-assembled from sub-assemblies locally without to the best of my knowledge supervision from the manufacturer. How the fuel, oil and coolant circuits and radiators were put back is not known but they were good enough anyway that they lasted 1400 hours. It was the most recent change that was done that was really not tested before a paid flight and then the unfortunate accident happened.

    I have a wild speculative suspicion that the fire could have actually started in the wing but that is as I said a somewhat wild guess
  • Gregg Ludwig
    by Gregg Ludwig 3 years ago
    I suppose that with the quick conclusions and expertise provided by Glade that no further investigation by the NTSB/FAA is needed. Gregg
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 3 years ago
    The fuel venting system IS the fuel system (part of the fuel system) and this is what Gerry modified which is in the NTSB report. In a fuel system, if the fuel vent line is pressurized, there would be high pressure in the tank, in the fuel lines leading to the gascolator, in the fuel lines leading to the fuel pump, and higher pressure after the fuel pump (perhaps 7 PSI additional). So as an example to understand, if there was 20 PSI from the fuel vent/tank/lines, this would be 27 delevered to the carbs. Not Good.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 3 years ago
    From my experience working with Gerry in Hawaii, I will provide my opinion about WHY this modification was made.

    We would come back from a flight and the next customers were waiting. It was a pain, took time, disrupted the flow, etc to add fuel. You would be dealing with the students who were asking questions and have to go to the box and unlock it, get the fuel and walk it back to the trike, pour it in, determine the fuel amount from the weight of the student, take a sample, bring the fuel back, walk back to the trike, etc... Quite the process. So it was always a determination if fuel was needed in between flights. I ALWAYS had over an hour reserve for any flight at any time. I remember many times fueling when other pilots would not. I joked that “since I only weight 140 pounds I am worth 10 gallons of fuel”. I remember being caught with a wall of clouds and having to go an alternate route. I suspect that Gerry modified the fuel (venting) system so it would not vent out the bottom after overfilling (as it is supposed to do) so he would have more fuel capacity. This is my OPINION as to WHY the fuel system modification.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    I don't understand how a vent tube might somehow become a siphon. Vents are on top of a tank, but for a siphon to function it must pick up fuel from the bottom. I can imagine fuel splashing out of a vent but not siphoning. How is that possible?
  • Glade Montgomery
    by Glade Montgomery 3 years ago
    To be clear, Gregg, I am commenting on what was directly disclosed in the NTSB's Preliminary Report. It requires little expertise to conclude the actions as described were unlawful and dangerous. Fuel vents do not belong in wings. Fuel systems are not supposed to be pressurized.
  • Gregg Ludwig
    by Gregg Ludwig 3 years ago
    Actually Glade, most aircraft have fuel vents at the wing tips so this is not a new idea. Most engines Glade, do have pressurized fuel systems as well. Gregg
  • Gregg Ludwig
    by Gregg Ludwig 3 years ago
    Glade writes: "Hmmm. If there was a way to do the above safely, does it not stand to reason the manufacturer would have engineered it?"
    Don't modify SLSA's without going through the prescribed procedure, we got that. The manufacturers are not perfect though so it is easy for me to envision someone trying to improve their aircraft. I don't own a 912 powered aircraft, but has there ever been an AD issued for the 912 that addresses a safety issue as a result of an engineering or manufacturing defect or oversight? Gregg
  • Tony Ford
    by Tony Ford 3 years ago
    Does anybody know who the "second pilot" is. This person could fill in some blanks.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    Yes.
  • Chuck Burgoon
    by Chuck Burgoon 3 years ago
    I doubt their lawyers will allow such a thing...and will be monitoring this thread closely.
  • Glade Montgomery
    by Glade Montgomery 3 years ago
    Gregg, the discussion is not about "most aircraft." It is about trikes. Do you know of ANY trike that was designed by a reputable manufacturer with intent to vent fuel into its wing?

    The discussion is likewise not about "most engines" (i.e., including automotive engines, which since 1970 have had non-vented gas caps, though still automotive tanks are not pressurized, for venting is simply done into the engine). The discussion IS about aircraft fuel systems. Do you know of ANY small-category aircraft that are designed by a reputable manufacturer with intent to pressurize the fuel tank?

    Of course the answer is no. Abid has already cited the ASTM standards, which state that a tank must be vented, and also that the discharge must be routed so as to stay clear of the engine and exhaust. Where a vent is re-routed into a trike wing's keel pocket, it obviously poises discharge to occur immediately above engine and exhaust. It takes no great brilliance or genius to imagine such danger as this invites. Honestly, the very thought makes me cold shudder.

    I feel terrible for the loss and resultant suffering, and I guess it's what makes me so mad. Where it's only a small degree of in-caution or flawed thinking that goes into producing a tragedy . . . well . . . we're human: any of us can goof in small degrees. But this is beyond that. It's way beyond. It's a distance far beyond which anyone should ever allow his or herself to go.
  • Jake McGuire
    by Jake McGuire 3 years ago
    Ole - usually the fuel won't siphon out because the vent is at the top of the tank like you said. But the tank can be at different angles - nose up or down in a trike, tilted to the side in a slipping airplane. If the vent was at the top rear of the tank on level ground it may no longer be at top of the tank when you're 15 degrees nose up. More of an issue for airplanes with long skinny wing tanks...

    Routing the tank vent up to the wing does sound silly but frankly blowing compressed air into the fuel tank sounds more likely to cause problems. Certainly more likely to cause in-flight problems - fuel vented from the keel at 60mph is going to have a hard time making it down to the engine or exhaust but if you blow the vent line off the fuel tank your sloshed gas will end up in the belly pan instead of overboard.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Jake: You are correct. If I recall the fuel vent port was on top of the fuel filler neck in the Revos at that time. I think to get fuel out of there, one would have to overfill the tank above its top level and fill into the filler neck which was never designed to act as a fuel tank. It resides 8 inches higher than the fuel tank top itself if memory serves me right. After fuel went below where this vent was, the fuel would stop coming out. It should have never ended up that high to begin with.
    Rotax bing carbs will blow internals at around 12 psi I think
  • Uwe Goehl
    by Uwe Goehl 3 years ago
    It is a valid warning about screwing around with design without the manufacturer's blessings. I believe something similar happens with engines, where owner/pilots feel they can beef up their engines with untested mufflers, props and settings.

    In any case, the NTSB report reads like a Preliminary Report. Hopefully the camera was functioning during the time of the occurrence and was wing mounted filming the carriage. It would probably be the closest equivalent to a Flight Data Recorder on a trike and provide invaluable analysis.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    You have to really swallow the LSA crap to blame this disaster on some sort of disregard for silly rules.
  • Uwe Goehl
    by Uwe Goehl 3 years ago
    Not sure what you mean, John, but guys have been killing themselves in flying lawnchairs for decades. I think the takeaway lesson from Paul's point is you really better know what you're doing before you modify any kind of a flying machine beyond spec. It is a statement that you think you are smarter than the engineers who designed it in the first place. Of course, if you are, then why not run it by the manufacturer? Besides getting their blessing they will likely be delighted to hear on tips on how to improve their design.
  • Bryan Tuffnell
    by Bryan Tuffnell 3 years ago
    Ye Gods. Surely we can chalk is accident up to a very poor decision that no one is likely to repeat, and move along.

    No one has pointed out that you can't pressurise a vented system. And as far as modifying trikes are concerned, virtually every manufacturer began as an enthusiastic amateur. Like many, I've owned and flown home designed and built trikes, most of us here in NZ do our own engine maintenance, and I rank amongst the considerable number who have modified commercial trikes to make them better. Manufacturers and lawmakers are not ordained by God; there are poor designs (though not in this case) and bad laws out there because they are made by individuals like us... and Gerry.

    Flying is all about knowledge and judgement, surely, and the more judgement is left to pilots as opposed to authorities the better. We each have the choice to draw our personal boundaries as we see fit, and that's as it should be, and as long as humans tinker with and operate machinery in dynamic environments there will be accidents. If we can't acknowledge that, or prefer to put our decisions or fate in the hands of others, we shouldn't fly... Or drive.... Or vote... Or watch TV.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Bryan: Sure you can pressurize a vented system, right through the vent itself (so it doesn't remain a vent). Yes following the law etc. could have saved the accident in this case but the main reason for the accident is that the mod was rather not with it. Simple
  • Bryan Tuffnell
    by Bryan Tuffnell 3 years ago
    Oh sure Abid, you could pressurise through the vent, but as you said, it's then no longer a vent - you'd have to close it off. You can't have pressure in a vented system - it's either vented or pressurised.

    The point I was making regarding the law was broader in perspective. Just because an action is illegal, it isn't necessarily unsafe, and there are laws in NZ that pertain to aviation that reduce safety. I can certainly make my trike safer than it was manufactured. The average club Cessna here has tungsten filament landing lights right from the fifties - you cannot legally upgrade them for a more reliable, efficient, SAFER, LED light.

    But beyond that, there's a philosophical point: I believe safety belongs in the hands of pilots, not administrators, instructors or external authorities. I don't mean that I think we should disregard the law or those with more experience than us; what I'm trying to say is that the most important item we take aloft with us is our judgement, not someone else's. Sometimes conventional wisdom can and should be ignored in favour of judgement - for instance, how many of us were taught never to turn back to the airstrip after an engine failure on takeoff? Any half-way decent pilot knows that there are circumstances in which turning back is the best choice. Aviation is plump with decision-making, unless we fly with or like an autopilot, and the more we pilots defer our decisions to others the less opportunity we have for exercising our own judgement.

    I firmly believe that it's up to us pilots to decide how and what we fly, not legislators. Try as I might, I cannot see anything about Gerry's accident that is of any use. Laws here in NZ are different; his modification would not be illegal here. That doesn't make it any more sensible. I cannot for the life of me imagine anyone repeating his mistake. There seems to be no lesson to be taken from this.
  • Chuck Burgoon
    by Chuck Burgoon 3 years ago
    I still wonder about his chute...

    On fire and distracted?

    Perhaps no difference...but just sayin.
  • Jake McGuire
    by Jake McGuire 3 years ago
    Bryan, what you say sort of makes sense but upon reflection there is no evidence that the fuel vent modification had any influence on the crash. Yet. Accident aircraft last seen at 1000' AGL, crash site found by smoke column.

    Luckily (?) there is in-flight video which should shed light on the immediate cause of the crash although maybe not the backstory.
  • Bryan Tuffnell
    by Bryan Tuffnell 3 years ago
    Yeah, you're right, Jake - it's all speculation.

    If the consensus view - which seems to be that he overfilled the tank and then blew compressed air into it, which caused it to foam when shaken in flight and expand and blow out through a vent which he'd extended into the wing and caught fire - is correct, it's a bizarre enough series of decisions to have happened once. Nobody is likely to consider doing such an extraordinary thing again. Or, there is another factor that we don't know. Either way, I just can't see a take-home message from this accident that has any merit.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Well I am glad I am not associated with the manufacturer any more because I am going to express an opinion here. There were witnesses who saw the trike on fire in the air. As I said even Ole wrote that but now he is backing away from it but I know what I read in his comment. I don't believe too much in coincidences. What are the chances of someone doing a wired arse mod, then doing sonething I have never seen any aircraft owner or mechanic do (blow compressed air into the fuel tank and system unless checking for leaks) and then go up for the first time after that with a passenger and have an accident where some witnesses saw fire before hitting the ground? Those chances are very low that those things were not connected. But lets see in one year after NTSB puts a final report what else they come up with.
  • Bryan Tuffnell
    by Bryan Tuffnell 3 years ago
    Sorry Abid, I may not have expressed myself clearly. My point was that because Gerry made such a bizarre series of decisions, I think the chance of anyone else doing the same thing is pretty much zero.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Hi Bryan: No need to apologize. I am just expressing my opinion just like Jake is. My last post was more an answer to his assertion that he does not think there is any evidence of the fuel mod causing the accident. I consider burning in the sky, a high probability of this mod and its associated actions having a causal relationship. That's all. Its only the second pilot from BIP who last saw the aircraft at 1000 feet and then did not see it again till after it crashed but he was not the only one who saw it. It seems there were on the ground witnesses who also saw the trike and they saw it burning before it hit the ground. That is to the best of my knowledge and what I have gathered. I have not personally interviewed these folks on the ground so take it with a grain of salt.
  • Jake McGuire
    by Jake McGuire 3 years ago
    Thanks for understanding, Abid. We're all just expressing opinions here. I'm pretty sure that someone on this board claimed that witnesses saw the trike on fire in the air, but that someone has since backed away from their claim. Has anyone else heard independent reports of in-flight fire?
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Hi Jake: Well that someone was simply Ole and his "Amigos" in Kauai, HI were supposedly the ones who saw the trike on fire in the sky and his thought was "what are the chances of that". Well, I think pretty good chances actually. He does not remember making any such comment now and this forum allows anyone to delete their previous comments but I remember things pretty well.
    Now about any other source of this info officially ... well for that we may just have to wait for NTSB final report that may take many months but their preliminary report and mention of certain actions before the flight is a little clue.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    I never deleted any message. I was not a witness to this crash. Abid, save this in your files please.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Sure Ole. I will file it but I remember exactly what you put in the running comments here also and I am not changing that. You are welcome to do it as you have. I guess wait for the final NTSB report and see. Best.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 3 years ago
    "... wait for the final NTSB report and see."
    What a riot you are Abid. We all know the final report is long overdue. What is the big wait? What is the big mystery? They're all out to lunch over at Trike NTSB.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 3 years ago
    Final reports generally take 1 year. So this one would not be anywhere close to overdue. As to why the wait ... I don't know. I am not NTSB. I am sure there are many accidents of cars, airplanes, transport airplanes, ships and the lot so measly single trike accident needs to take its turn in the queue for finalization, I guess. If you don't like that answer, write to NTSB and complain.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 2 years ago
    Unfortunately I do not know anything more than I published a year ago here. We may never know exactly what happened but this blog is the best I can do and the best I know.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 1 year ago
    Now that we have the NTSB report, in my opinion, this is not that much more information than the initial report except the photo evidence of the actual fuel line. I agree with others above that the crash site would not be the result of an engine failure and a glide to landing or a pop the chute result.

    Again WHY the MOD?
    From my experience working with Gerry in Hawaii, I will provide my opinion about WHY this modification was made.

    We would come back from a flight and the next customers were waiting. It was a pain, took time, disrupted the flow, etc to add fuel. You would be dealing with the students who were asking questions and have to go to the box and unlock it, get the fuel and walk it back to the trike, pour it in, determine the fuel amount from the weight of the student, take a sample, bring the fuel back, walk back to the trike, etc... Quite the process. So it was always a determination if fuel was needed in between flights. I ALWAYS had over an hour reserve for any flight at any time. I remember many times fueling when other pilots would not. I joked that “since I only weight 140 pounds I am worth 10 gallons of fuel”. I remember being caught with a wall of clouds and having to go an alternate route. I suspect that Gerry modified the fuel (venting) system so it would not vent out the bottom after overfilling (as it is supposed to do) so he would have more fuel capacity. This is my OPINION as to WHY the fuel system modification.

    Again how to avoid so all of us can learn:
    This unfortunate accident is the result of unauthorized modification of the fuel system by someone who is not an engineer and should not have been making such modifications. To all pilots, do not modify your trike without the practical experience on the modification being performed, engineering background to perform the modification or manufacturers consultation/approval for the modification.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 1 year ago
    Note this is the blog on this subject from 2 years ago
  • B  Alvarius
    by B Alvarius 1 year ago
    Thanks for re-posting this. Context is important.
  • Doug Smith
    by Doug Smith 1 year ago
    Thanks I had not seen this.
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 1 year ago
    I understand the pilot had an engine out. And I understand that it's possible the engine out was due to an untested modification to the fuel system venting system.

    Also from the written account of another pilot flying along, seems it was early 7:30am or so, calm with very light winds, the accident aircraft last be seen at 1000 feet AGL (flying even higher than the 2nd aircraft) , and the photos from the area shows plenty of alternate landings reachable from altitude.

    If you are in sloping terrain at 1000 feet AGL, you should be able to glide as the terrain slopes down. That is how we do in hang gliders... and no engine. All I see in the pictures of the areas is pretty much sloping terrain going down to multiple fields and roads appropriate for emergency landing.

    The pilot had more experience flying trikes than anyone else I personally know. Also extremely familiar with the area of flight, the terrain and weather patters as well as very familiar with his aircraft. He was also a very experienced Hang Glider pilot proficient flying weight-shift without an engine and managing the energy of the wing. Also a WS-CFI and had a BRS installed.... The pilot had had at least one other engine out, also due to fuel starvation, and managed to emergency land.

    So - I understand he had an engine out and probably caused by his own wrong doing... unfortunate. But what happened after that and why he lost control instead of safely gliding to an emergency field is what I just do not get from that NTSB report at all ... all indications were that he may have lost the engine at 1000 FT AGL !!! that is plenty of altitude to gently glide down the slopping terrain and land in a field or road.
  • jeff trike
    by jeff trike 1 year ago
    Can someone provide a link to the NTSB report?
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 1 year ago
    Jeff,

    The direct NTSB link would be:
    http://www.ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief.aspx?ev_id=20140312X35434&key=1&queryId=417ec90f-b2d0-45a7-a147-8f53bf8b642d&pgno=4&pgsize=50

    That will get you to the Probable Cause & Longer Narrative, basically a summary.

    For the complete report you need to access the actual docket in the NTSB Docket Management System
    NTSB Docket Identification: WPR14FA135

    The link to the docket:
    http://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms/search/hitlist.cfm?docketID=58006&CFID=330302&CFTOKEN=eca8bd2592ab68f-3DFDAE63-CFB3-BB60-4F6E94A50ED52B2E

    regards
    tc
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 1 year ago
    Yes Tony great work connecting the dots.....
  • Bill Chance
    by Bill Chance 1 year ago
    To bad the Go Pro card packed up but as the trike went near straight in it got there first. Report doesn't give any hint of why he went straight in.

    The crash site picture of the end of the tubing shows the tubing wall to be pretty thick. Just surmising but when Gerry pressurized the system with an air hose he may have damaged the tank and it split in flight causing an in flight fire burning the wing. But there was nothing in the report about witnesses on the ground seeing anything and the other pilot didn't state he saw smoke hanging in the air, just coming from the ridge line.

    Didn't know him and he may have been reckless but he was experienced and we may never know it but there was a reason he went straight in.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 9 months ago
    What I am told is second-hand and maybe I should not be repeating this but I am puzzled why it is such a secret and why hasn't he spoken of this more, but the second pilot that day on Kauai tells my friend the triker who tells me, and I have no reason to doubt either of them, that Gerry lost his head in that crash or more probably in the moments leading up to the crash. I am not speaking figuratively or even literally; I was told he actually lost his head, and that it has never been found, including the helmet. Still up there in Polihale or whatever it's called. The fuel vent modification had nothing to do with that tragedy, or so I was told.
    It seems pretty unlikely to me; how can a triker lose his head in flight? A wire is the only component capable of such a horrible result that I can think of. But... it would explain a number of strange issues about that crash. Why did Gerry not just glide somewhere? Why did he not fire the BRS like he always told me to do in that situation? And most of all... how did he go straight in like that? Well... your guess is as good as mine.
    Sweet dreams from Ol' México!
  • Lucian Bartosik
    by Lucian Bartosik 9 months ago
    Interesting... for that to happen it would have to be a wing side cable and breaking from the leading edge to snap back. The front and rear cables would be too short and possibly not under enough tension to do that. Was the wing cable or strut braced? If a side cable broke then the wing would fold up and there would be tell tale signs of bent metal and plates on the failed side of the wing. Even in the wreckage such signs would be obvious compared to the non failed wing side. So I wonder if anything was discovered regarding such evidence?
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 9 months ago
    Well I wonder many things about that tragedy. It seems far from the open and closed case we are hearing about. From what I gather the culprit is supposed to be a kinked fueltank vent line. But wouldn't that lead to a slow loss of power? In any event, I do not think it led to sudden stoppage. And why did Gerry not fly somewhere to land if he had some notion that it was necessary? There is a friggin' airbase nearby and it's huge, I know I landed there myself! And why did he not hit the panic button? And... straight in???
    Something smells fishy.
  • Joe Hockman
    by Joe Hockman 9 months ago
    What wing did Gerry have? Was it the Rival S wing? Does the Rival S have a back up cable inside the control bar? Could it be that some thing compromised the integrity of the control bar (under extreme tension in flight) and it gave way but the internal cable remained intact for a wing that then may have not had the needed triangulation and likely less anhedral. Only speculation, but it seems to me that under this scenario there might be a cable at close to neck height. Don't like to think about that.
  • monty stone
    by monty stone 9 months ago
    Hey olé, wouldn't the feds have noticed 'two of 'them' but only one 'helmet'?
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 9 months ago
    Ole: I am not questioning your sources but really if one head was missing etc. I think we would have definitely seen a mention of that in the NTSB report. They do do autopsies in fatal accidents like this always.
    Yes it was a Rival S
  • Larry  Mednick
    by Larry Mednick 9 months ago
    There is no cable in the control bar.

    What are the odds that somehow the pilot was injured moments before the engine would have failed over hostile terrain? I love how people say why didn't he just glide another quarter mile. Well you can only glide as far as you can glide and if there was a stall involved it's probably because they were trying to to glide further than they could glide. The fact that he came down between 2 small peaks suggests to me that maybe he couldn't even clear either and hence had to go between. And if thats the case he might as well not had a BRS because he was too low to use it.

    And without a fuel tank vent (and we have a clear photo) he took off on a doomed flight. He was not coming back an hour later. That wasn't an option.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 9 months ago
    Let the myths and legends begin...
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 9 months ago
    I can list some facts in reference to Gerry's decision making thinking.
    While I was still at Evolutuon trikes, I got a call one night from Gerry in which he in a matter of fact way told me that he had a bit of a hard landing and that FAA or NTSB might contact me and ask about unusable fuel level in the Revo which was 1.6 gallons as marked on the trike itself but in the POH in print there was a typo stating 0.6 gallons instead. I was perplexed. Later it became clear the hard landing was more like a totaled trike. That is the same trike involved in the fatal accident later being discussed here. In essence, Gerry assembled this trike himself from parts bought from the factory.

    SLIGHT TANGENT: How he did that when there is no reference to guidance and details on assembling basically a completely new trike from frame is beyond me and it would be hard for anyone to claim it remained ASTM compliant just because its dataplate, engine, wiring and instruments were the same. I certainly did not sign a letter of authorization for this for Gerry. If Larry did, I do not know. I refused to put my neck on the line. My suspicion is that Gerry just did it and kept flying technically a non-SLSA trike and if it ever came to investigators asking me about it, that is the truth I know. When the Maintenance Manual of a SLSA aircraft does not list a full guidance on how to do something on a SLSA aircraft, you cannot do it till you have a LOA from the manufacturer. For more recent trikes the standard for maintenance has changed and there is a form to be filled out documenting a request from the owner/operator and the request then can be processed by the manufacturer allowing or rejecting the add on or change or process. In such a significant crash, basically the trike should have been totalled and its components sold because no manufacturer was going to give out a full assembly manual to build it back from the frame up all the way to production test flight. Basically the manufacturer has zero incentive to allow changes because if you ask for them, you are giving me an out from liability as soon as I do not allow them and you do them anyway. Which idiot manufacturer would not take an out from liability. If they allow it, any work you get done, is on manufacturer's shoulders. I used to be nice and allow changes. Now with investors, their lawyers have completely forbid me to allow any change unless we do the change at our location, test it, make a report of it and charge the customer $225/hour for all that work and then allow it.
    FAA's regulation also allows any entity to make changes to any SLSA aircraft as long as the entity making the change makes a statement of compliance on record to the FAA and takes over liability of the change or feature. So there is always that. END TANGENT


    I also found out from FAA investigators and their interview of the passenger that low fuel warning on MGL EFIS came on half way through the flight. Gerry acknowledged it by pushing a button and then ignored it, flew over a golf course and then over water and finally after another 25 minutes of flying trike ran out of fuel and he tried to make it to land and just barely made it where the main wheel of the trike caught a rise/low ridge and trike flipped over. No one was hurt.
    They asked me about unusable fuel which I told them. They confirmed that the decal on the trike listed it correctly but the POH had a mistake. Gerry tried to point to the POH and tell them he was going by that number and that is why he took off with such low fuel. They also confirmed the fuel out of the tank after crash was barely 1 gallon. This was also confirmed by Gerry's A&P who worked there.
    FAA said they would like to take his license away completely but because of the typo in POH they only will take away his CFI temporarily. His CFI was suspended for 3 or 6 months. I don't remember which. They said they knew about some of his previous fuel starvation issues during Ultralight days but they could not use those against him.
    So this shows you about his decision making for glide and fuel management. Without going into details Gerry basically outright asked me to lie about something regarding this incident to the FAA. I flat out refused and he got very upset and came crying to Larry. Unfortunately people like this have a pattern of behavior that increases chances of tragic happenings by many fold. Anything can happen to any of us but we manage risk by being careful and detail oriented. If we are not wired that way, this activity is not for us.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 9 months ago
    Pablo, you write above "In a fuel system, if the fuel vent line is pressurized..." I do not understand how if the fuel vent line is kinked it might result in more pressure. What am I missing here, can you explain?
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 9 months ago
    Larry, let's assume for a moment that your conclusion that a kinked fuel vent caused a power failure which led to this crash is correct. Do you suppose this power failure would be sudden, or gradual say; over a period of a few minutes anyway? Please reply.
  • Tom Currier
    by Tom Currier 9 months ago
    Who's Pablo?

    Venturi effect?
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 9 months ago
    Larry, some people might figure they know as much about gliding as you do. Imagine that???
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 9 months ago
    John,
    If the fuel can not vent two things can happen. It would get less pressure as the fuel is used up or get more pressure as the fuel/air in the fuel tank is heated up. In the Revo, the oil cooler blows it's hot air onto the fuel tank so the heating of the fuel/air could overcome the pressure of the fuel being used and pressurize the tank....
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 9 months ago
    Tom I am Pablo
  • Larry  Mednick
    by Larry Mednick 9 months ago
    John, initially fuel expansion will negate needing a vent, but as the fuel warms up a bit then it stops expanding, then as the engine uses the fuel there becomes a vacuum in the gas tank. because the fuel pump is above the gas tank, the vacuum can easily starve the fuel pump. as soon as the fuel pump is not "primed" it almost doesn't work at all and thats if there is no vacuum in the tank. As soon as the float bowls are not full, the engine will quit all of the sudden with the exception that one bowl may go dry a second first and the engine will sputter heavily and then quit as soon as the other bowl goes dry. and as soon as the engine stops the fuel pump stops.

    So the short answer is the engine runs perfect so long as there is fuel in the bowls. There isn't going to be a minute or anything like that of warning that there is fuel starvation. in my "experiment" as I recall it bogged for about 5 seconds and then completely quit.
  • Larry  Mednick
    by Larry Mednick 9 months ago
    I don't think it is mentioned above, but is it possible that if the landing gear caught the top of a tree, the carriage could have been pulled back causing essentially an obstacle induced tuck. At 50-70 MPH nose first into the ground this would explain everything...

    All that would have needed to happen is the carriage pull aft and the front strut would hit the control bar and reduce AOA further "sucking" the landing gear into a tree top forcing the trike to make a 90 degree nose down tuck into the ground.

    This theory would explain the broken tree, the location of the wreckage under the tree the location between the peaks, the 90 degree nose in impact, the explosion etc. If I showed you a photo of the wreckage that didn't involve a tree or a mountain from the last engine out in the same plane there is nothing far fetched about things being worse this time...


    John, your 2 stroke has float bowl carbs. pinch the vent and start her up and you will see it runs for a while and then quits.

    I know this because I had done it accidentally on my first Cygnet 582. I installed a jet ski fuel vent check valve (I was a jet ski guy back then), but I pt it in backwards. so during my break in the engine quit. then I saw my plastic gas tank was all deformed and figured it out.

    So when you have an engine out over hostile terrain and this happens, you are right, its hard to keep looking for the problem. If you look where he went in it was completely unlandable.

    those that say "why didn't he just land another 1/4 mile away" make me want to shake them violently. ;-)
  • Rizwan Bukhari
    by Rizwan Bukhari 9 months ago
    Abid, thank you for sharing new information regarding Gerry, I don't think most of us knew any of that.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 9 months ago
    Hi Riz:
    Yes IMO Gerry had no business being a CFI or taking any paying unsuspecting passengers up. Period. There are plenty of his friends who think otherwise. I know what he did with me first hand and what his attitude and ethics were. I do not need anyone to tell me how Gerry was. I also know his flying skill as he flew here at Zephyrhills. I don't care if he would have a million hours. If you do something wrong thousands of times, it's still wrong. You are just experienced doing it wrong.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 9 months ago
    Yes again let the myths and legends......
  • Rizwan Bukhari
    by Rizwan Bukhari 9 months ago
    Why just the myths and legends? I think there are "facts" here too.

    One of the flight instructor (that I have trained with) was invited by Gerry to work at his Birds of Paradise operation in Kauai, I saw this application/contract that Gerry had sent him. The instructor even went to Kauai but returned without making any work commitment with Gerry. I asked my instructor the reason and he said Gerry was running a very unsafe operation and it was just a matter of time before something terrible happened. The instructor (sadly) was spot on.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 9 months ago
    Paul:
    Can you complete that sentence so we can understand what you mean. I'd really like to know.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 9 months ago
    Paul: I'd rather let the sleeping dogs lay but since you think I may have contributed to some myths. Here are some documented conversations. I also have Gerry's voicemail saved on Apple cloud somewhere from my iPhone.

    E-mail in April 2010:
    "It was reported a roll over during taxi. No run out of gas no crash landing. What were you thinking?"

    That is Gerry trying to hide the fact and lie to FAA that he ran out of gas and crashed the trike with a paying passenger. He first reported it as a rollover during taxi.

    Me:
    "What are you talking about did you read what Scott Johnson wrote on ULT? What rollover during taxi? Where is that coming from. What are you thinking. This is the first time I have heard of rollover in taxi.
    In any case, Scott Johnson already wrote out of fuel, emergency landing right on the net and left it open that someone may have been hurt."

    Me: "Anyway, A&P ABC set the trike up level and the fuel line was 0.5 inch below the "Empty" mark."

    Basically I was expected to go along with Gerry's story that it was a flip over during taxi and state that to the FAA if they asked and they did of course because I was representing the manufacturer. Scott Johnson had already talked to reporters from Hawaii and already written on ULT yahoo groups about running out of fuel and flipping over with a passenger in a crash landing. I told FAA the truth when they straight out asked me. The ASI from FAA was Lance Johnson.

    No myth, no legend. Straight talk. This was too important and people's lives (unsuspecting paying passengers and perspective trikers) were on the line for me to lie about something like this. Not to mention FAA was going to investigate either way and talk to the passenger at some point. It was not even a smart thing to make something else up.
    Ironically within a month at Gerry's operation there actually was a flipover of an Airborne by Gene, a CFI who worked for him because they decided to fly in 20 knots gusting to 30 knots winds. I have pictures of that trike flipped over from May 2010 as well. No myths there either.
  • Abid Farooqui
    by Abid Farooqui 9 months ago
    Here is the logged phone calls and conversations that FAA requested I make and send to them about any talk regarding Gerry's fuel starvation. I have taken some people's names out for privacy but I had to make these phone call logs on FAA's request.

    "
    Hi Lance,
    Sorry for being late in getting this written log to you. I have been very busy.

    As per our conversation and from my diary log of N18EV accident, here are the salient points I logged that are relevant to our discussion.

    1) Dated: 04/21/2010 - Late Morning: First informed by CFI XYZ that something was not right and if Gerry had already talked to me. He would not divulge what the problem was.

    2) Dated: 04/21/2010 - Afternoon: Gerry and his mechanic called and Gerry said that N98EV was in a crash landing and flipped over and they would need authorization to perform major repair and order sub-assemblies and parts. On further inquiry Gerry described fuel starvation. Upon questioning further Gerry described simply running trike out of gas and called it "all my fault" and he acknowledged the fuel level low warning from the EFIS in flight

    3) Dated: 04/21/2010 - Evening: XYZ called and offered to send some pictures of the crash and described that Gerry had probably 4 to 4.5 gallons of gas as the trike had about 8 gallons of gas before the first flight and this was its second flight. Ground crew asked if he needed gas and he refused. Some comment about amount of fuel was also made. XYZ told me that according to the A&P when they put the trike in level attitude the gas was 0.5 inches below the EMPTY mark on sight gauge. Also described that Gerry said he got a fuel level low warning and acknowledged it during flight.

    4) Dated: 04/25/2010 - Late night: Gerry called and left a message saying he was very upset that I had written a reply to a message on a yahoo group where I mentioned pilot running out of gas and that I was to keep this thing quiet. I called back and explained that Scott Johnson, an Airborne Windsports (make of trike) importer had put out the info that a reporter from Kauai had called him asking about a crash that probably has not reported at Birds In Paradise and that pilot ran it out of fuel and I responded simply by stating that as far as we know it was reported to NTSB and that is nothing to be upset about. Gerry calmed down a bit and said there was 4 gallons of fuel the A&P drained from the tank and he is thinking it wasn't that he ran out of fuel but that there was a fuel pump issue. I became a bit concerned

    5) Dated: 04/25/2010: Late night: I immediately called XYZ and asked him about the 4 gallons of fuel drained by the A&P and XYZ flatly denied it and said no it was about a gallon

    6) Dated: 04/26/2010: Morning: Called the A&P and asked him and he also denied that fuel drained amounted to 4 gallons. He said it was just about a gallon. At this point I didn't feel it necessary to confront Gerry about this and simply decided to carry on.

    7) Dated: 04/30/2010: A&P called and told me that in the POH the unusable fuel was listed as 0.6. US gallons and Gerry may mention that to the FAA. I informed him that if it was, this was a typo and there is a decal on the port side of the trike right next to the fuel filler neck that states the type of fuel to use and the usable fuel capacity is 13.4 US gallons. Also, the EFIS was set such that if any fuel level parameter whether calculated fuel level or resistive fuel level sender sensed fuel level went to 2.7 US gallons, a fuel level low warning would continuously flash on the EFIS screen and the "Warning" lamp would come on. There would also be a recording of this in the flight data log on the SD card of the EFIS which will show "raw resistive values of fuel" that can be then corelated to the fuel level calibration resistor table and it can be easily seen how much fuel was in the tank. This warning could only be stopped by piloting hitting the "ACK" or acknowledge button on the lower left hand side of the EFIS. There was also a discussion about FAR's requiring or not requiring 30 minutes VFR reserve (FARs state "airplane" in their wording instead of "aircraft").

    HOW THE FUEL SYSTEM IS SETUP:

    The fuel tank is an Aluminum fuel tank of exact capacity of about 14.8 US gallons, which we conservatively assume to have 14.5 US gallons capacity, out of which we conservatively suggest 13.4 gallons usable.

    The fuel tank has a top down fuel pickup on the starboard side welded from the top with a pipe pickup going down to the bottom of the tank. From this pickup, the fuel routes as follows
    a) To fuel shut-off valve mounted to the starboard side
    b) To a gascolator which should be sumped every pre-flight
    c) To a Facet posi-flow 1.5 to 4 PSI backup electric fuel pump, to be used for take-offs, landings, priming or for emergencies like to power through a vapor lock in flight
    d) To a fuel-flow sensor which sends its data to an RDAC module (Remote Data Acquisition Computer) attached "under" the CNC machined engine mount plate at the back of the aircraft. Fuel flow data is used to subtract fuel from the calculated fuel flow level shown the EFIS screens
    e) To Rotax 912ULS engine's fuel pump "In" line which is fire-shielded
    f) To Rotax 912ULS mechanical fuel pump
    g) Out of the Rotax 912ULS mechanical fuel pump and into a distribution block
    h) From the distribution block to the two carbs

    There is also a resistive fuel level sender with a float that goes up and down on a slide inside the tank which also displays a fuel level on the EFIS. Its calibrated using 5 different points to approximate the shape of the fuel tank.

    In addition there is a sight gauge on the port side of the aircraft with a clear fuel tube that can be used by the pilot during pre-flight to physically verify presence of fuel up to 10 US gallons in the tank in addition to the electronic devices. This sight gauge is also visible to the pilot during flight by leaning to the port side and looking at it.

    The EFIS warnings on all our aircraft are set to flash low fuel when 2.7 gallons or lower is sensed on any fuel measuring parameter. Pilot has to "ACK" or acknowledge this message to stop it from appearing and flashing constantly and from the "WARNING" lamp from remaining lit.

    Hope this helps
    Abid Farooqui
    Evolution Trikes LLC"

    If you can point out where the myths and legends are in here, I can dig up gerry's voicemail if you insist and post it. This exact memo was mailed to FAA inspector in original, signed with a notarised witness as requested by FAA to Evolution Trikes. They were not fools. First they requested that I start logging all calls from BIP in writing right after the call and then document the logs and do this and send them signed notarized copy. They were not playing around and here was Gerry asking me to lie to them. He was extremely extremely lucky that he was able to wordsmith that FAR on 30 minute reserve which used the word "airplane" instead of aircraft and got out of simply losing his CFI-SP for good and shutting down his whole business right then. What the other people mentioned in this log did not know is that if they were found to be dishonest in their descriptions about anything, their own CFI and A&P licenses were also on the line. Fortunately they did not stand behind Gerry's line and FAA did not find any inconsistency about their remarks.
  • Rizwan Bukhari
    by Rizwan Bukhari 9 months ago
    Thanks Abid, this is again new information that most of us didn't know. Definitely helps in painting a good picture of the kind of operation that was run, safety hazards and overall character of the person involved.
  • Phil Pike
    by Phil Pike 4 months ago
    I finally read the final NTSB report. I didn't see much more than what was said in the prelemary. I saw no evidence that the trike was in flames before the crash. I liked Paul's comment of how busy they were when he flew for BIP. As I said in my original post my interest is to learn from accidents so I don't do the same thing. And I like Paul never fly without a big reserve on board. If the flying operation was a chore to refuel, so be it. It's part of the business. NEVER sacrifice safety for making more bucks. So that's the lesson from the time he flipped it, really totaled it previously. Have enough fuel plus reserve for a safe flight.

    Fuel system mods. Please keep in mind everyone that these are just my thoughts. I don't know what material the Revo fuel tank is made of. But pressurizing a system not meant to be pressurized could, I believe comprise the integrity of the fuel tank. Was the fuel tank fractured or cracked from using compressed air? If so he could have been losing fuel from the start of the flight. Thus again running the trike out of fuel. And again the lesson learned is don't modify the fuel system, fill expanding fuel up to the neck. Of course it will syfion out, Again getting more air time to make faster turn around between flights.

    Sport pilot was made to protect our passengers. It's not just our lives we have in our hands. The rules are in place for a reason. SLSA is no modifications. Period. And rebuilding a crashed or totaled trike without factory involvement is just plain irresponsible. And puts us all on the FAA radar. Gives the media crap to distort. Like saying this was an ultralight accident. What ultralight? It's a LSA aircraft.

    And let's face it from all the posts. This isn't the FAR 103-7 rules. That's why the FAA rounded us all up and put us in Sport Pilot. It states even now to be used for training. Not tourist flights only. Like Ole says, how many repeat fights did BIP make? How many students completed their SP training with BIP?

    I also hold the FAA as part of the reason this event happened. He was already on their radar. Why didn't they do field inspections of the operations? It was common knowledge that the FSBO knew of this tourist flight operation and they didn't intervene to end it. Also they knew the SLSA had a major out of fuel crash with major damage. You would think they would have inspected the trike to be sure it complied to the rules, procedures of repair. So who knows what other things might have been damaged?

    We are all lucky 20 20 didn't write another article like the one that killed our sport in the early days. So my feelings are this accident and the lose of an innocent passenger so never have happened. This is clear in my eyes the accident was pilot error. Period. Again folks, just my opinions from all I've read. Condollences to all involved. A very sad event.

    I've always wondered how the straight in crash occurred. All of us know that you con not keep a delta wing in a nose dive. It builds speed and you have to fight to keep it diving. I think Larry is spot on with his thoughts. Engine out, in glide looking for a safe landing spot. Except there is no safe landing spots in hostile terrain. So going inton the tall trees and clipping one would stop the forward momentum and drop it to the ground. And if the fuel was leaking from a ruptured tank there would have been plenty of fuel in the body of the trike to cause the combustion. This also could explain why the BRS was not deployed. To low an altitude and who would use a BRS while gliding in for an emergency landing.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 4 months ago
    I would deploy a BRS if I was gliding for a crash no matter how low I was that's who, and besides those were Gerry's orders. Paul, would you? Apparently Phil would not. There was some other factor in that straight-in crash that is not being generally discussed.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 4 months ago
    Yes I would pull gliding into a non suitable landing area such as tall trees, deep water, brush, steep canyons. That's what it is for. I have stated my thoughts above so I am not going to repeat.
  • Andy Hughes
    by Andy Hughes 4 months ago
    On fire and straight down? Just a guess as I wasn't there. Whatever way, sad, especially for the paying tourist. and his family.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 4 months ago
    Even if I was on fire and going straight down I would deploy the expensive safety device if I was still kickin', and I believe Gerry would have too. Any other guesses?
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