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Sad Day

By Ken Comments (33)

Categories: Safety

Sad day my friends. We have a pilot down. RIP brother and my condoleneces to those who knew and loved you.


  • Ken

    Not sure if any of you know this pilot near Santa Barbara

  • Maarten

    I met him a few weeks ago, Matt Wilson. An experienced pilot, and friend of James Crooks. Brand new Airborne, less than 10 hours. They don't know what happened yet. I'm still in shock over this one. Tragic. 

  • Jozinko

    Very sad. RIP

  • Rick D

    Our condolences to the family.

  • ULtrikepilot

    My,  how very sad and tragic.  My condolences to his friends and family. 

  • wefly

    Sadly we Aussies lost another very experienced pilot last week - John Cresswell (CFI) and student Jason Casswell in Airborne Arrow crash.

    Tribute Video says it all..


  • Monty

    sad day indeed. are we experiencing more, lately, fatal trike crashes.? is there 'correlation' between ' transitioning' ga pilots and ' first ' solo flight crashes? are the trikes involved high performance types? as to 'why wasn't their brs deployed, if carried, my long time 'rant' is that if left to the pilot to deploy it, for many reasons ain't gonna happen. might as well carry a bag of 'lucky' rabbitts feet, or a 'juju' doll. we need a central, accessable repositary of REAL info on ALL trike crashes as to learn, as far as possible, the REAL reasons for these tragedy's. otherwise we can only rely on 'eye witness' accounts, embellished by tthe local 'papperattzy' for info that just might prevent 'some' of these fatals from happening.

  • Ken

    Great tribute Wefly, thanks for posting! I've been thinking of analyzing some of the Crash statistics Monty. I agree it might be a worthwile project.

  • Tussock

    I want to offer my condolences to those who knew and loved the pilots we have lost. Sad times for our community of fliers and friends.

    I'm reluctant to intrude with pilotage matters at times like this, but in the hope that we can learn something and in case it may make a difference, I want to offer something. The Airborne Arrow wing and another high performance type has been over-represented in fatalities, and while I don't consider these wings dangerous by any means, they do at times require proper pilotage. I do not know if what follows has any bearing on the tragedies here, but I strongly believe that other fatalities have been caused by this...

    These wings are vulnerable to what may appear to be uncommanded roll inputs, or feel 'locked' into turns, particularly when flying fast at high throttle settings. Most of us know that to initiate a turn, and particularly to roll out of a turn, the sequence of reduce throttle, pitch in, apply roll, pitch up, throttle up is followed. For many wings and in many situations, all that's required to initiate a turn or roll level is to apply roll. If this becomes the only tool the pilot has for controlling roll, a wing like the Arrow and its contemporaries can bite, and bite hard; if a small roll input is applied at a high throttle setting with the nose low, a fast snap-roll can occur which absolutely requires the throttle to be removed before the wing will respond in any way. I believe that failing to reduce the throttle and pitch down before attemtping to roll level, possibly because the pilot has become used to flying wings where where this technique is not required, has killed a number of pilots, because the roll has simply increased. The cure is simple.

    All pilots should know the correct way to turn, using pitch and throttle. The discussion a few years ago around 'spiral dives' - which as discussed were nothing more than a steep, high g turn, requiring normal roll technique to overcome - showed that some pilots are not being taught what should be basic techniques.

    In the video below, pitch and throttle are used to initiate every roll, and pitch and throttle are used to roll level every time. The Arrow wing is very 'flat' (minimal washout) and hence the pitch movements are small, but without pitch and throttle the wing would 'stick' in roll.

    Any time a roll input isn't working, correct pitch and throttle use is always the cure.

    Again, my condolences to all. Fly safe, everyone.


  • ULtrikepilot

    Hi Bryan and welcome back.  Has been awhile since I last saw you post so had been wondering if you were still around. In any case,  I think you pretty much nailed it in your assessment above.  I have often wondered if we (ie selected manufacturers) have perhaps attempted to squeeze out a bit more performance and speed out of flexwings than is justified.  I think that pushing flexwings to the boundaries of what is possible is inherently increased risks and decreased safety margins. Maybe they are less forgiving in general in more extreme maneuvers. Things can go bad rather quickly with a very fast wing and the timing for providing corrective input is critical. From a statistical standpoint I think it is reasonable to expect a disproportionately higher rate of accidents,  injuries,  and yes fatalities when you are flying in trikes at the ragged edge of performance of what is possible with a flexwing. I don't know if that makes sense to others but it is what I believe. I am not trying to suggest that one can not fly these trikes safely on a consistent basis. One simply needs to know very well their own capabilities and the performance and desirable behavior envelope of their machine and rarely,  if ever, deviate outside those boundaries.  So I throw that out as food for thought.  Again welcome back. 

  • Tussock

    Howdy Joe - nice to hear from you and thanks for the welcome. My house has been demolished post-earthquake, and I've been out of touch for most of the year.

    My thoughts are that if you fly a 'soft', well-swept wing with gobs of washout (a Wizard is a great example), technique is relatively unimportant. If a turn is allowed to slip, the sweep and washout 'catch the fall' and around you go. By the time you fly an Arrow wing, the wing no longer has the dynamic ability to overcome any shortcomings in technique. If a turn is allowed to slip at modest bank angles and speed, you get a modest, slipping turn - not a problem, necessarily, and maybe you want a slipping turn. But by the time an Arrow is going fast, a slipping turn with a high throttle setting can increase the roll rate mighty fast, winding the wing up tighter, increasing roll and g, and - like you say, 'the timing for corrective input is critical'. The rapidity of roll rate that a slip can induce in an Arrow is staggering; the wing can be on its back in a few seconds. No problem if you've anticipated it all, and you know how to correct; it can be tons of fun if you're on top of it. I think that the problem occurs when pilots develop a roll-only way of turning either because that's what they've been taught, or they've become used to using roll-only in a softer wing.

    What separates the fast, flat, higher performing wings from the lesser performing wings is that circstances arise that need correct use of pitch and throttle. It isn't hard to do; it's the same technique used to fly three axis and helicopters in coordinated turns. The Arrow and its type are good, solid, well behaved wings; they just need to be understood and flown with an awareness of their behaviour and the good pilot control of pitch and throttle. To that end I do not use the hand throttle when flying very steep turns.

    I guess it might be fair to say that throttle and pitch is 20% of flying a 'soft' wing and 80% of flying a 'fast' wing. I don't intend either description as disparaging; I love flying the 'soft' wings which in many ways are more capable, and forgiving, than their faster counterparts. And again, I'm not an expert and I don't know if any of the above has any bearing on the accidents discussed.


  • Leo

    Thank you for your input Tussock. As a relatively new pilot ( 82 hours) I appreciate you sharing this knowledge and experience with us. 

    Almost all of my hours have been flying the Aeros Profi TL on a Air Creation 582 buggy ( that unfortunately got stolen) For a "first" wing, I have nothing to say but great things about it even though the roll pressure is viewed upon as considerable when compared to high performance wings. 

    Erin Strom, who was one of the pilots this year killed in an Airborne with an Arrow wing, was not a friend, nor a person I knew. The extent of my relationship with her was a "congrats" post when she soloed. 

    But her accident was an eye opening experience as to what can happen to new pilots. Specifically those like Erin, who may never have gotten a chance to read the value of what you wrote. I sincerely hope that the people around her perhaps told her, or shared with her the differences you point out, because there is no forgiveness for these small mistakes when it comes to flying. 

    I'm not sure where the Aeros Profi TL stands in terms of soft/hard wings. All I can say is that it was predictable, and a joy to fly, and to be quite honest one would have to work really hard to make the wing behave badly...if it's even possible in my opinion. 

    The wing I will be flying next is the Reflex Sport/100hp combo. Just from testing, I can tell it's a different animal. The input is minimal, and the response is crisp. The wing feels very natural to me and so far it’s not presented any bad habit. But as a young pilot, the input from my peers, (those of you with years of flying flex wings) is INVALUABLE, so by all means, please share your thoughts and experiences openly. 

    I know I speak for all of us newbie’s when I say, thank you guys for sharing. 

  • Noel C

    Hello Tussock,

    Welcome back.  I am sorry to hear about your home.  Your part of New Zealand has really suffered with earthquakes over the last couple of years.

    I read your comments with interest.  Unfortunately a good proportion of the accidents and fatalities in Australia in recent years has had a very high representation of Arrow wings.  I am not suggesting the Arrow wing is the cause of these fatalities, however it is clear it is heavily represented in these fatalities.  I read with interest your technique for initiating turns.

     I fly a Tanarg with a Bionix 15 wing that seems to me to be very pretictable in its handling characteristics.  I understand most of what you explained, however was a little puzzled at a decrease in throttle and pitch in prior to initiating a roll.  I can generally initiate a turn with roll input only and add pitch up and extra throttle to balance the turn depending on the roll angle.  Exiting the turn is a matter of balancing pitch and throttle as you roll out to straight and level.  What is the rationale for reducing throttle and pitch in prior to initiating the roll?.  Is this a technique that is more pertinent to higher performance wings with less wash out?.

    Once again good to see you back online.

  • Tussock

    Thanks Noel and Leo! With a welcome like that, it's good to be back!

    A brilliant thing about this site is its robust friendliness and absence of egos. It's a real credit to our admin and shows the calibre of the personalities here. In the interests of keeping it that way I'd much rather not talk about technique and instead concentrate on giving the Aussies a bit of stick... but the number of deaths on, particularly, the Arrow wing, made me feel I should say something. I don't want to come across as some self-styled expert (I'm not! I'm not!), but I'm very troubled to see so many deaths that could be prevented.

    From where I'm sitting, we see 2 common categories of accidents: 1) trikes rolling up into a ball on landing because the front wheel is allowed to make contact with the ground while the wing is still at flying speed. The solution is pretty obvious, but for some reason which defeats me, proper landing technique is controversial. Seldom a killer, so moving on... 2) losing control in the air. We aren't seeing a spate of engine failures or structural meltdowns or mid-air collisions; we're seeing genuine loss of in-flight control. No one loses control in a pure yaw; we're not seing loss of pitch control and tumbling; we're seeing straight, pure, loss of control in roll. It's been called a 'spiral dive', and while the term is debatable, that's just semantics: what I absolutely agree with is that for whatever reason, pilots are getting into trouble because they can't roll out of a turn. This is really sad and totally preventable.

    Noel, you are of course right - dropping the throttle to roll into a turn won't achieve much. The big test of a wing isn't so much rolling into a turn but rolling out of one, when there is some g loading. In this case the wing, particularly the tips, need to be 'off-loaded', or have some of the pressure on them removed. A great test of a wing is to roll into a turn from straight and level without applying pitch or adjusting the throttle, then relax your grip on the bar. Does the wing want to roll out of the turn, maintain its bank, or tighten the turn? What happens at different throttle settings and speeds?

    This is where I have a problem. Most wings roll into a slipping turn just fine, and at low bank angles, at low power settings and modest speeds, they can be rolled out without fiddling with pitch or throttle. If a more aggressive approach is taken and steep, slipping turn is entered at speed, or with throttle, easing the throttle and pitching in a tad makes rolling level much easier.

    By contrast, an Arrow wing can get squirrely in the kind of slipping turn described above. Its possible to put it in a situation whereby rolling out absolutely requires an idle throttle and a strong pitch in, and at times even that isn't enough - in a vigorous slipping turn, you must co-ordinate the turn before it can be rolled level at all. The latter only happens if you've got, or let things get, wild... but it's a undie filler when it happens, because the 'normal' response of throttle off, pitch in, roll level doesn't work and the wing is very rapidly on its way to inversion. You have very little time to sort things out. Does this make the Arrow a bad wing? Umm... not necessarily... but... it's possible to put it in a situation which can scare the living bejeesus out of high airtime pilots who like to fly hard, and while I believe any pilot flying any high performance wing needs to have a sound grasp of the relationship between pitch, throttle and roll, an Arrow pilot can find themselves in situation where they have to know, intuitively, what the wing needs right now, and be able to apply it. While someone could fly their whole life without getting into this situation, if it happens just once you've got precious little time to line your ducks up and get it right. The spate of recent deaths makes me think that while everyone should know to 'unload' the g from a banked wing to get it level, not everyone does or has the response down pat. And Arrow pilots need to be aware that the factors that make their wings so efficient also make them a whole lot less predictable in a slipping turn.

    Leo, your new wing will be a pleasure to fly. Larry puts a lot of emphasis on both fast roll rate and low roll pressures, and the Sport is quite a soft wing. It achieves its speed by hanging the weight of the base well forward, in contrast to the Arrow which is more efficient flat blade. You'll have some fun! Yahoo time! Noel, try pulling in a touch before initiating a turn and see if you get a faster initial roll rate. Your wing is very stable and predictable and a great choice for rowdy Aussie air. You're right, of course, that big span/low washout/low twist/high nose angle wings require the more effective roll techniques.

    I would encourage all pilots to practice rolling out of the steepest turns they feel comfortable with, and remember there's a golden rule: any time a roll isn't happening for you, drop the revs and pull the bar in before rolling. It always works... unless you're slipping vigorously in an Arrow wing, when you may need to apply some real cunning and guile, fast.

    Remember I'm not an expert and I don't claim any final word... I just want to see an end to this spate of deaths.

    And thanks again for the welcome back, very heartening, you're a great bunch of pilots and people!

  • ULtrikepilot

    Bryan, wow I am very sorry to hear about your home.  I can imagine that is an extremely challenging situation to deal with.  Although I have experienced a couple rather mild earthquakes, I do not live in an earthquake prone area so I have never witnessed first hand the destructive effects of strong quakes.  So did you end up rebuilding on the exact same home site or move?  You may have mentioned previously and I forgot, but where are you located?  South island, north island?

    I would have to agree with your comment about friendliness and absence of strong egos among members here. On one of the alternate forums (that most are aware of) some of the condescending attitudes (among a select few) seem to be rather common.

    I too appreciate your comments on flying techniques relative to wing characteristics.  I certainly am not an expert either.  In fact I have not yet had the opportunity to fly an Arrow (or its predecessor the SST) but I have flown very similar high performance wings.  Having said that I think I do have a pretty good appreciation for how wing characteristics translate into flying behavior.  My guess is that the default configuration of the Arrow does indeed have low washout and low twist.  But this would be primarily controlled by washout sprogs which in all strutted wings I have flown are adjustable.  So it seems to me that maybe the Arrow's sprog implementation are not only active in normal flight but they may be so effective in resisting added washout during rolls.  This in turn would control the wings behavior during the process of rolling or unrolling.  I agree with your comment on the need for "unloading the tips" prior to unrolling the wing but this may require a significant amount of pull in to do that.  So following with my logic, it seems to me that adding a few more degrees of washout with sprog adjustment may be a simple enough "fix" to reduce or eliminate some of the undesirable unrolling behavior.  If that is the case, then adding those few degrees as a default configuration, with a strong warning in the manual on the effects of reducing the washout setting on that wing may be warranted.  Of course, the compromise of adding washout is limiting top end speed but that should be a perfectly acceptable tradeoff in the name of safety and eliminating (or at least reducing) undesirable roll correction behavior.

    Yes I too would like to see an end to this rash of fatalities.

    Hey by the way, I understand Airborne now has a new trike with a new strutted wing with winglets that may not be as prone to this unpredictable behavior.  That can only be a good thing if they have in fact released a combination that is more robust and predictable.

  • Dinga

    Hi guys,
    I have read a hell of a lot recently on these subjects on different forums. Without wishing to blow smoke anywhere it shouldn't be, this is hands down for me one of the most interesting threads.

    Tussock, thanks for your insight and whilst I know you opened your last post saying you prefer not to be beating on about technique, I would dearly love to get some explanation on your comments in the two posts regarding "slip".

    I am ex 3 axis and now Trike Newbie so I like to consider everyone's points and think them through. With that in mind, if I was flying a 3 axis in general (depending on the rate of turn), I would co-ordinate my turn with a little rudder and sufficient power and pitch up to overcome the loss of vertical lift (the ole' balance ball thingy).

    Now in a trike I can't apply rudder, but I can add power and some pitch up in the same way, however I have noticed that in most gentle turns non of this really seems neccasary as you can just add some roll and leave it at that barely even adjusting the pitch.

    So I wanted to understand what you are referring to when you say "slip" and Co-ordinated? Are we talking slipping to the outside of a turn as you are turning (this would require rudder) or perhaps slipping diagonally down and into the turn? This I think would probably be overcome with the pitch and power control you mentioned.

    Anyway, I don't want to tie you into discussions that you are not overly keen on and I realise that these are your experience and opinions but so far you seem to be on the same wavelength as me so I just wanted to take the opportunity to clarify the discussion for myself.

    Thanks Tussock and all those with input, there really are a good group of like minded here without the big noting and chest beating

    PS. I fly an X582/Streak1

  • Ken

    Good points Tussock. good to hear your expertise with the Arrow. I've also been a bit concerned seeing all of the reported accidents. Good to get the word out on the techniques needed to fly safe. Sounds like you are describing a "J" turn, which I only heard need of with heavier handling wings (Including the Bionix 15), definitely found it useful with my iXess 15. Not needed much with my Northwing Quest.

  • Leo

    Here's a little more info.


  • Tussock

    Man... that's incredibly sad, Leo.

    Joe, I'm in Christchurch, South Island. My house was badly damaged in 2010, destroyed in 2011, and only demolished this year. By law I am required to rebuild on the same site, but construction hasn't begun yet. I have a lovely plot of weeds with a garage on it, and like many here, I've done the rounds of friends' sofas and spare beds!

    Dinga, you're flying one of the best behaving wings out there. While it's dated now, the Streak is also rock solid and has impeccable manners. Your 3 axis flying gives you a good knowledge of the key aspects of what happens with trikes. You're flying along and shift your weight to the right - what happens? The extra wing loading on the right hand wing increases its speed, which makes it inclined to yaw left (adverse yaw); the crossbars float to the right, which adds billow to the right wing and flattens the left wing, giving a strong aerodynamic incentive - similar to ailerons - to roll right (roll); the angle of attack of the right wing goes up, increasing lift (fighting the roll input) and drag (proverse yaw); the distribution of lift and drag over the wing shifts and the direction of the lift vector tilts (reducing effective lift); and a whole bunch of other stuff.

    Our key concerns are that the net effect is that we bank right, and slip towards the centre of the turn. In a 3 axis aircraft you'd 'stand on the ball' to coordinate the turn, and add a bit of power to overcome the loss of lift caused by bank and g. On a trike and with no pitch or extra power applied, the sweep in the wing encourages the wing to yaw into the relative wind, which is coming from the right, and so an uncoordinated turn happens... the quality of the turn depending on the design of the trike. Because bank is applied, the wing is yawing with a 'downwards' component if pitch/throttle is not applied. On some trikes and at some speeds, there is some degree of lag; the yaw is 'behind' the roll, and rolling back to level is easy. On other trikes or in other situations the yaw 'feeds' the roll due to roll/yaw coupling, increasing the roll, which increases the yaw, which lowers the nose further, which builds the g, which increases the roll etc. In this case, that cycle must be broken before the wing wants to roll level, and I think this where people are dying. The wing needs to be unloaded before rolling level, or, sometimes in the case of the Arrow wing, the turn needs to be coordinated to break that self-feeding roll/pitch/yaw cycle before reducing pitch and throttle.

    Ken, 'J' turn is a great description. We don't use the expression here, but it's bang on. By killing the slip, a J turn does not allow that roll/yaw/pitch cycle to begin, the key part being the pitch up which coordinates the turn. I understand that many light handling handling wings don't need the initial unloading to initiate the turn, but the gentle pitch up of the 'J' balances the turn once roll has begun.

    Also on the XT912/Arrow the thrust line is quite off-centre at high throttle settings, meaning it tends to walk left, with a slight yaw and low right wing. This means its behaviour isn't symmetrical. The struts may contribute to this also. Adding a tunable 'rudder' to the trailing edge of the wheel spat fins helps immeasurably, as does adding a fin to the keel (similar to a Sensor hang glider).

    Joe, I think you're spot on in principle in that a little more washout would help the behaviour of a flat wing. Hopefully your sprogs are loose in flight. They function as luff lines did, staying out of the picture to allow the wing to billow shift in normal flight but limiting the deflection of the trailing edge in negative g situations. Should you go negative the sprogs add a kind of 'up elevator' to the trailing edge, but this effect shouldn't happen in positive g flight (where we all hope to stay!).

    I'd like to try one the new Airborne trikes. There is none in NZ. I believe they've sorted out some of the foibles of the XT912/Arrow combination. I still think the XT912 Arrow is great... but it can bite.

    Now, anyone flying over Christmas? We're getting gales, so its barbecue and beers for us!

  • Dinga

    Hi Tussock,

    Thanks for taking the time for the lenghty explanation, being new to WM I find I am soaking up all sorts of information to analyse during my runs or quiet times :-)

    Your insight into this and your explanations seem to be far more deailed than some and that it great otherwise its the half a picture thing.

    As for flying, I'm glued to forcasts and hoping to get some in during the xmas period, that would be awesome, hope the weather improves for you too.

    Thanks again, and good luck with the build when the time comes. If your over in Perth give me a hoy have a spare room and plenty of beer :-)

    Fly safe


  • Tussock

    Dinga, you're a champion... what they say about Australians just isn't true ;-) I'd hoped to get to Oz this year and catch up with a few of you, but circumstances intervened. One of these days...

    All the best for the festive season, hope the forecasts give you what you want for Christmas.



  • ULtrikepilot

    Bryan, took a quick peek on Google earth and now see the location of Christchurch on the South Island.  It seems to me that you may be located in an ideal location to see from a birds eye view some spectacular terrain, topography, and sites. Gee some of those mountain ranges from Nelson Lakes NP, further south to Arthur's Pass area, Mt Cook NP, and Mt Aspiring NP look incredible.  I had forgotten how most of the western edge of the South Island has some rather rugged moutain ranges.  Maybe some of that area may be a bit too remote and rugged to fly with a trike but I think it would be tempting to tackle it.

    Hey I have had some recent discussions with my wife on some potential bucket list destinations and both Australia and NZ would be near the top of my list.  Of course, it is almost on the exact opposite side of the planet from where I live so it would be a major trip requiring considerable advanced planning.  In any case, I do hope to visit NZ and if that materializes then most likely the South Island within the next few years.

    I wish you the best in your rebuilding project and, of course, best wishes for the Christmas season and the new year.  Joe

  • Dinga

    Tussock, its the Pom in me that sets me apart ;-)

    Ultrikepilot, just do it mate. The missus and I have been ticking off some of those bucket list places over the last few years. It's not as far as you think, just jump on a plane and your here. Good luck :-)

    Have a good xmas and stay safe.

  • Tussock

    Ah, Dinga - that explains it. ;-) Come to NZ! Meet Joe!

    Joe, I hope you make it here - especially after my house is rebuilt and I can offer you a bed! All pilots are welcome; I'd love to meet anyone who is reading this and planning a visit to NZ.

    We have 3 very distinctive types of flying here: Coastal - cruisy, easy, relaxed flying over landable beaches and paddocks, wonderful on calm evenings when the shadows grow long and the sea looks blue; Inland - big hills, big valleys, river terraces short grass strips and paddocks to land in; Mountain - serious alpine, big glaciated mountains and tiger country where preparation and planning are required. Joe, the regions you've mentioned and the inbetweens, essentially tyhe whole of the Southern Alps from Nelson Lakes to Fiordland offer wonderful, if serious, alpine flying. The weather is a major limiting factor and the number of good days in the Alps (no wind is pretty much a prerequisite) are not high, but there's little in life that beats mountain flying in a trike. Hopefully we'll get you out and amongst the NZ countryside!

    All the best for the festive season everyone! Joe, hope to see you here, and of course, anyone else would be welcome... we'll do our best with the weather. Keep NZ at the top of that bucket list. ;-)

    Good flying, see you in 2017.

    Bryan 'Tussock' 

  • Noel C

    Ah,  Dinga, Joe

    Beware those New Zealanders.  Before you know it they will have you speaking with their weird accent, have you walking around in "Jandels" and wanting you to drink copious amounts of beer from their "Chilli Bins"...... and dont be fooled by their endearing affection for sheep.

    Just kidding really......they are a pretty good bunch (and keep flogging the Aussies in Rugby) and it is a beautiful country.  If you want the contrasts Joe go fly in NZ and then hop across to Oz for a different tatse of flying.  Like Tussock, pilots are welcome here in OZ anytime.  

    I visited the USA in July 2016 to attend Oshkosh.  The local hospitality was terrific and the airshow was something to behold.  It would be great to welcome any overseas pilots that considered visiting........we might even accept a visit from the kiwi across the ditch if he is interested.

    Have a wonderful festive season and safe flying to all.