Aviation Safety: Making Sure You’re Aware of Lancair Mishaps

The Lancair experimental aircraft: beautiful, fast and having what the FAA calls a “disproportionate” number of fatal accidents. There seem to be a higher number of fatal accidents involving Lancairs, which can be powered by the PT6APT6A. We want you to be aware of some statistics and information.

From the Lancair Website:

Airworthiness Certificate and Operating Limitations

“Your Lancair is classified as an Experimental-Amateur Built (E-AB) aircraft. Along with the Airworthiness Certificate, the FAA issued unique Operating Limitations that specify how the aircraft may be used. Your Lancair is not airworthy unless you have a copy of these FAA-issued documents in the aircraft. Replacing these documents is difficult, so if you are buying a used Lancair be sure you get them as part of the title transfer.”

Keeping that in mind, it is vital you are careful as you fly this majestic aircraft.

Here are some preliminary FAA statistics running from October of last year:

lancair pt6ALancairsmakeup just over 3% of the amateur built ( AB) fleet yet have over 10% of the fatal AB accidents. Keep in mind, however, that they also tend to flysignificantly more than the typical AB local flights. These are cross country machines.

Over half the Lancair accidents in this small sample were fatal while the rest of the AB fleet is just slightly above the overall GA fleet fatal accident ratio of 1 fatal mishap for every 5 accidents. Here’s what’s interesting – unlike the typical high-performance aircraft that have fatal weather encounters, the Lancairs are generally in VFR conditions and involve loss of control – i.e a stall/spin.

A couple of observations: High-performance aircraft may be squirrelly in stalls but not always. The certificated Columbia ( now Cessna) 350/400, which has ties to the Lancair early in its history, has a good stall/spin safety record. “Experimental” means that aircraft handling is left up to the designer and the extent of flight testing is entirely at the designer’s discretion. It may be very thorough or not. Factory built aircraft must meet specific construction and performance standards and are FAA tested for compliance. That’s one of the reasons for the cost differential.

There may also be variability in the building process. The designer suggests that it be built this way and the builder thinks he has a better idea or just isn’t adept at putting the machine together.

A few aerodynamic realities: Small wings and big engines make for very fast aircraft with high wing loadings and glide ratios not much better than the proverbial brick. If the engine stops for whatever reason, the crash dynamics are often not very good.

Love this plane, but that engine looks even better. Nice Exhausts! Who has flown a Lancair before? #aviation #Pt6a #Pt6nation

A photo posted by Covington Aircraft (@covingtonaircraft) on

I believe that pilots should be able to build and fly their own aircraft. Extra training is one way to compensate, although not always successfully, with “hot” aircraft. There’s lots of history on that. Comparative statistics on any aircraft model’s safety are complex until you’ve accumulated enough accidents to say there’s a problem – the hindsight approach – and the denominator (exposure) factor is always squishy. Government crash testing, as done on automobiles, just doesn’t seem feasible for aircraft.

Your thoughts?

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8 thoughts on “Aviation Safety: Making Sure You’re Aware of Lancair Mishaps

  1. The Lancair fleet especially the IVP has had its challenges. High performance aircraft fly in a statistically worse environment at altitudes often in the worse weather, unable to descend quickly to land and regroup, high wing loading, poor stall spin recovery and not very good in icing conditions to list a few. However IMHO the problem is proper, regular demanding training. If i wish to fly a Citation, Gulfstream or other jets i need to receive regular training. Lets face it none of us remember everything or self police ourselves and stay sharp. Training and regular flying is very necessary in these type of aircraft and frankly it is in the Lancair as well. Sadly we still see the two biggest offenders in Lancairs are high time pilots with zero time in type bringing their prejudice from other planes to the Lancair, making up over 40% of the accidents and lower time pilots with under 100 hours in type making up another 40+%. For all of those human reasons we are terrible at self policing and keeping ourselves flight fit. This is why there are those seeking an SFAR similar to the R-22 for a regulation requiring recurrent and initial training…this is a weak solution to the much deeper problem. Pilots are special and we should lead by a stellar example not by the least common denominator…

  2. I agree with Pete Zaccagnino. Training is absolutely necessary to transition from any other aircraft into a Lancair. It is not a fair comparison to look at the Columbia aircraft and and a Lancair IV, IVP or IVPT. The design characteristics are quite different and the speed and performance characteristics are also vastly different. While each Lancair was built by a different builder, and while there might be choices builders make (the E-AB airworthiness certificate allows that), those differences don’t account for most of the fatal Lancair accidents. Proper initial, recurrent training, and then building time in make and model increases the safety of a Lancair pilot. Pilots flying Lancairs must pay special attention to the airspeeds recommended at all configurations and an angle of attack indicator should be installed, IMHO. Lancair pilots must fly like professionals. There is no other single engine aircraft which can fly cross country at the speed and economy of the Lancair, but it is vitally important to fly often and train each year with a qualified instructor.

  3. Make sure the child understands that they should report any problems to a flight attendant, ranging from feeling sick to being seated next to a suspicious character.

  4. The Lancair is a high performance traveling machine, the IVP often doubles the operating speeds both at the top and bottom of the envelope that people transitioning into them are familiar with. This alone s a significant issue and t is compounded by another issue that befalls many builders is lack of flying anything during the build cycle due to a combination of committing all available monetary and aviation time time budgets into the build which typically take between 1.5-3 years to complete by a diligent builder. This is what I see as the key factor set that brings the statistic up.

    There is a secondary factor of the original Mk I tail being kinda small and weak (force, not strength) that has been addressed with the Mk II tail which really tamed the exactness in speed required over the numbers for a pretty landing. In diligent hands you cannot get a more efficient one person traveling machine, especially wth the IVP, but even an old 360 with a MK II tail provides a huge value and traveling speeds of over 3 miles a minute on 8.5 gph at cruise altitude.

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