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Ditched on test flight

PUBLISHED: 11:05 23 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:04 10 October 2012

The pilot of a Rutan Long EZ planned the flight to complete the single remaining item of the Permit to Fly renewal air test; this was a high speed run to the maximum permitted speed.

The pilot of a Rutan Long EZ planned the flight to complete the single remaining item of the Permit to Fly renewal air test; this was a high speed run to the maximum permitted speed.

On the first attempt there was a burning smell after take-off. An inspection revealed no reason for the smell. A second air test was flown and all items were completed except for the high speed run which was not attempted because of unreliable oil temperature and pressure indications. New sensors and gauges were fitted.

On the final flight all engine indications were normal. With full power applied the nose was lowered to accelerate to 190 knots. At 1,000 feet and 170 knots the engine suddenly lost power and the aircraft shuddered. A climb was initiated and a Mayday call made to Shoreham Approach. The pilot changed tanks, checked the magnetos at individual positions and then left them set to Both, selected the carburettor air to hot and operated the throttle a number of times--all to no avail.

The pilot told Shoreham that he intended to ditch near Shoreham Harbour. He ditched close to a large inflatable powerboat in order to obtain the quickest assistance. Contact with the water was made at about sixty knots in a nose-up attitude. As soon as the main landing gear touched the water it was ripped off, causing the aircraft to pitch nose down at first. But the aircraft floated and remained upright.

The aircraft had been idle for a number of years. The engine had been overhauled with further work to cure starting problems. There was no obvious cause for the loss of power. The burning smell, evident on all three take-offs, was ascribed to new paint on the engine.

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