Don McNamara's "RV Accident Report"









AP St. Louis-- 

    Local reports of the crash of a small airplane on the outskirts of town indicate that a Piper Cub went down in a field for unknown reasons.  The pilot, the sole occupant, was uninjured.  The airplane was 
demolished.  One witness told reporters, "Well, I seen this Piper Cub zippin' around, doin' loop-de-loos and whatchamajiggers, and then it just fell out of the sky!  The motor sounded kinda funny, then it just stalled on him and the plane just fell out of the sky.  I mean, it just dropped like a rock." 

The next day-- 

    Initial examination of yesterday's wreckage of a small airplane just on the outskirts of town were inconclusive, officials of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration reported.  The aircraft, initially reported to be a Piper Cub, was more likely a homebuilt airplane, known as an RV.  "It will likely be months before we know the exact cause of the crash," an NTSB spokesperson announced.  "The aircraft, an RV-5A, is an amateur-built airplane, probably built in the pilot's garage.  While the damage to the airframe is extensive, and final results won't be available for many months, our initial examination focuses on a mis-drilled hole in the horizontal stabilizer--the little wing on the back of the plane--where the builder made a mistake."  Regarding the increasing number of homebuilt aircraft on the FAA's registry, the NTSB official went on to say, "There are lots of these little buggers out there!" 

    An FAA representative commented on the increasing prevalence of homebuilt aircraft saying, "This is what you get when you let a bunch of amateurs horse around with airplanes!  These darned little homemade airplanes are gonna take out an airliner someday and wipe out a school full of kids, and then there'll be hell to pay!  Do you know how much paperwork that'll be?"  The FAA representative and the NTSB official then went out for doughnuts.  The NTSB official was heard to call out as they left, "Yeah, what he said!" 

Two weeks later-- 

    The preliminary report of the National Transportation Safety Board's examination of the wreckage of a small airplane that went down on the outskirts of town two weeks ago indicated that their initial findings were probably correct.  An unnamed NTSB official was quoted in the report:  "Cursory examination of the wreckage showed a definite correlation between a mis-drilled hole in the internal structure of the horizontal stabilizer and the subsequent loss of control of the aircraft.  The third rib of the left horizontal stabilizer was found to have a 'figure-eight' hole--caused by careless construction technique on the builder's part--which had a domino effect on the rest of the aircraft, ultimately leading to total structural failure."  A reporter from the Enquirer asked the NTSB official if there were similar building errors in the wreckage.  "No, essentially none.  From what we can gather from the wreckage, everything else was built satisfactorily.  It was all due to this one figure-eight hole." 

Seven months after the accident-- 

    The NTSB released its final report on the crash of an RV-5A Piper Cub just outside of town seven months ago.  The report stated that the preliminary findings were in error regarding the cause of the crash. According to the Board's initial report, the builder, who was not seriously injured in the crash, had made a critical error in building the homemade airplane.  However, after further investigation, it was determined that the pilot/builder had been informed by a Technical Counselor from the Experimental Aircraft Association that the mis-drilled, "figure-eight" hole would probably disqualify him from winning an award at Oshkosh, whereupon he apparently became deranged. The pilot then allegedly took off in a rage, screaming that he no longer had a reason to live.  The FAA and NTSB have closed the investigation. "We still shouldn't let you people build your own airplanes...look what happened to that Denver guy..." the FAA official was heard to mutter. 

    The builder/pilot, having undergone psychiatric testing and treatment, was ordered to submit to remedial flight training by the FAA before being allowed to fly again.  When asked about any plans to build another airplane, he said, "You bet!  Van's gives a discount for second-time builders...and Van doesn't give ANYTHING away!!" 

DISCLAIMER:  If this essay bothers anyone (and it probably will), please accept my apologies.  I've just been drilling, deburring and dimpling so long I temporarily lost my mind.  I feel better now.  As a new builder, I've fretted long and hard and remade perfectly good pieces as I envisioned my plane coming apart at the seams due to some small error, like a figure-eight hole.  So, to all new builders, relax about the occasional boo-boo.  There are lots of RVs out there with lots of hours that have figure-eight holes and bent rivets.  Just enjoy building! 

Don McNamara 


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