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I just got back from Holmes Regional Hospital in Melbourne, Fl. where
Hugh is at. All thing considered, he's doing fine. What's the line? 'I'm
in great shape for the shape I am in!'
Hugh broke his back in two places. There is no sign of paralysis and he
is already spending a few minutes every day (4th day after the accident!)
on his feet behind a walker during physical therapy while wearing a
removable body cast. His Velocity will not fly again. It is a total loss
Hugh reported a loss of throttle control, although the engine was able to
maintain about 2000 rpm. Once he turned toward the runway, noting his
high approach speed, he cut the engine off in an attempt to slow the
plane down. Keep in mind this was only the third flight in his own
aircraft (173RG) after getting a flight check in the Std FG at Velocity.
Needless to say, emergency power off approaches had not been attempted in
his airplane prior to accident. The plane slowed down considerably more
than he thought it would as evidenced by him landing short of the runway
in a marsh. An attempt to restart the engine proved futile. (Throttle arm
open, engine wind milling driving the engine driven fuel pump, it was
probably flooded. Just a guess on my part.)
The castle nut on top of the throttle arm on the servo had backed off
causing the throttle arm to become disconnected. Whether the cotter pin
installed had broke, or was improperly installed can not be determined.
However, several individuals, including myself, had worked on the
aircraft prior to his first flight and there is no question that there
was a cotter pin in place.
Hugh asked me to relay these thoughts and observations.
1. Don't worry about performance testing during the first few hours of
flight testing. Do touch and go's, full stops, and once you are real
confident and comfortable with your plane, practice emergency approaches,
both slow and hot until you are just a comfortable doing emergency
approaches as you are normal approaches. Then go do the performance
tests. (After doing several normal T&G's during the first two flights and
getting comfortable with them, he started doing some performance tests.
He said if he could do it all over again, he'd have made a few emergency
approaches at least.
2. Carry a hand ax or a BIG hammer with you. (His most painful injuries
were the fuel burns caused by the avgas. He was trapped in the plane for
about 30 minutes unable to get out. He said he figures he might have been
able to lift himself by his arms high enough to get out of the gas and
water had he been able to get the door or a window open. Also, as he put
it, if you need to get to something in an emergency from inside the
plane, you can replace a piece of fiberglass easier than trying to
rebuild your whole airplane.)
3. If your going to crash...do it in a fiberglass airplane. (Keep in mind
Hugh has many, many hours is single engine aircraft..all spam cans.) "I'd
a been dead if it had been a metal airplane...no doubt in my mind."
Hugh impacted the marsh with his gear down (" I figured I was going to
make the runway!") The gear stopped most all of the forward movement and
the impact separated the lower fuselage in half in a line going across
the lower points of the windshield. The entire bottom suffered
compression stress, the engine mount broke at the lower welds. The
airplane was partially flooded with water and fuel. It was insured.
Hugh leaves the hospital tomorrow and will fly home to Houston and St.
Lukes Hospital via an air ambulance.
Let's hope and pray Hugh has a speedy recovery and is able to get 'back
in the saddle' again soon.
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