John Farmer died in a Trike Crash

Last updated by RizzyWizzy Comments (21)

Categories: Safety


  • Tussock

    Terribly sad. 

    Without wanting to speculate on the cause (and obviously the sheriff's theory is wrong), I hope that all Arrow S pilots have an awareness of that particular aircraft's behaviour in uncoordinated turns. 

    It's always a wrench to see someone get killed doing what we love. Be safe, everyone.

  • Ken

    Terribly sad news indeed. I have no experience with that wing - but I haven't heard many glowing reviews. 

  • white eagle

    So sad.i know i didnt like the behavior when i flew it. I dont know what the problem is or if its relavant to this crash but iam so sad for john. Truth is we can go anytime anyplace doing anything. Be as safe as possable but dont stop doing what you love.

  • Tussock

    The sad thing is that the wing behaves fine... it's just that we, as a group, are not good at coordinating turns. While this can bite us on any wing, the Arrow is more insistent than most that we know how to turn properly.

  • white eagle

    I flew it in oz and i flew it with scott johnson . I think you are right seemed to me you have to watch your power and not be in full throttle in a turn and it settles down as you get use to it? This accident seemed to be a stall low agl. Looks like he aborted and re set up. So many possabillitys tussock just sad to see this happen.

  • Tussock

    I'm a little skeptical of low altitude stalls because I don't think many pilots would unconsciously push right forward against the bar pressure of an Arrow on approach or at any other time, but I certainly wouldn't want to speculate. You certainly won't fall at 150 miles an hour as the sheriff suggests!

    The only weirdness with an Arrow is in an uncoordinated turn, if a big slip is allowed to develop. Most of the time, in most trikes, you can 'get away' with just rolling level from an uncoordinated turn, although it's an improper technique. With an Arrow, often you can't roll out of a badly slipped turn until you pitch up. Low angle of attack and high power makes it worse on any trike, but the Arrow really doesn't like this.

    I think a lot of pilots have died because they simply rolled into a turn with no pitch, and found they couldn't roll out of it. An unbelievable number of people have been in this situation on an Arrow wing - lots have experienced this, or been aware that they are on the fringe of 'losing control' in roll. Tragic, and so easily prevented, but I'll bet my last dollar that that's what has been behind the vast majority of deaths on the Arrow, of which there have been many. I'm not suggesting that was what happened here, only that it's a possibility we should all be aware of.

    If you fly properly with pitched turns, or coordinate the turn before rolling out of a big slipped turn, I think any pilot would consider the Arrow to be fairly fast, efficient, turns well, coordinates well and is a delight to fly. It's fuel burn, takeoff roll and climb rate are outstanding; few wings will touch it. The XT carriage could really do with an offset engine but otherwise I think it's great. It's us pilots that are sometimes lacking.

  • Ken

    Thanks for the info on the Arrow Tussock. Might be a really great service to the community to produce a video showing what you described here.

  • RizzyWizzy

    Thanks Tussock, I also heard that Airborne offers Winglets now for Arrow to make it more stable.

  • ULtrikepilot

    So sad to hear of this tragic accident. I too have not flown this wing. Thanks Tussock for explaining the pitch and roll behavior.

  • white eagle

    Thanks tussock i too thought the 150 mph statement was a bit much. I fly an airbourne trike and i have loved that company. I think they are now offsetting their engines by a few degrees. I remeber scott teaching me to stab a bit against the p factor on take off but nothing bad. When i went for my flight exam in australia with yft i had no problem flying the arrow. I think you are correct in your assesment. Iam always adding a little out to carve my turns. And iam not a fast wing guy. When i exsperienced the instability in the turn i was backseat so i really dont know what the imput was but it made me a bit uncomfortable. I always liked the streak wing on the airbourne xt 912 .

  • Monty

    hey tussock, even though i'll never fly an arrow wing i'd welcome you'r even more explicit description , in elementary terms of the 'foibles ' of this, and any other wing, that can kill, so easily, apparently. when i make a descending turn i don't consciously add pitch, the bar stays approx. at cruise angle am i inviting a problem? my turns feel co-ordinated!!! i wish you'd write more of your 'how to' articles, we could all fly better with that input. i do realize that flying anything can kill, but you should have to work a bit harder than apparently this wing requires, to reach that level. i've long time bitched about the lack of 'ability required' standards with the many wings out there. i've always been shot down by the gurus, but even with my fairly extensive experience riding and racing motorcycles since the 1950s i wouldn't dare ride a gp bike with 200+ hp and weighing 250# top end 200mph+,( only ten or so riders in the whole 6 billion of us can!} it would probably kill me, so why would wings not be similar? over the years i've read similar tragedies to this one are apparently due to the line between control and not in control be so close? and yet there isn't a 'wing chart' listing 1 to 10 control ease-dificulty level, etc. i'm laying out my 'naivite' regarding the finer points of trike piloting, but it is distressing to read of apparently acceptable number of fatalities with certain wings/trike combos. A bit like 'granny buys a corvette.' no disrespect to grannys i'm married to one! But, horses for courses.


  • Tussock

    Shucks, guys. I'm not a guru.

    I guess the statement above could do with expanding. The 'foible' that all trikes have is billow shift. We know manufacturers build it into our wings so that they respond adequately to sideways weight shift and generate roll... billow shift is our equivalent of automatic, weight shift operated ailerons. If everyone is with me on that, the next thing to consider is...

    ...SLIP. When we fly wing down without coordinating the turn, the wing slips a little towards the centre of the turn. This would be no big deal, except that our wings are are a wee bit floppy. The lower, inside leading edge feels more pressure from the airflow than the higher, outside leading edge when the wing slips, and this pushes the lower leading edge backwards just a smidge. This encourages the lower wing to billow, which further encourages roll. Fine and dandy so far... ...but you don't want the roll to continue, unless you're trying to barrel roll. So you weightshift to the high side, and that's where the problem starts. Billow shift is telling the wing to roll, and roll is telling the wing to billow shift, and slip is telling the wing to billow shift, and now you come along and try and stop all that with weight shift. Two contradictory messages are going into the wing, and your weight shift is fighting all that billow shift. And the winner is...

    ...weight shift most of the time. On most wings and in most circumstances, the slip won't be sustained or sufficient to hold enough billow shift into the lower wing, and weight shift wins. But not always, andf there's the rub; this is what occasionally kills pilots of ALL wings. So what's the deal with the Arrow?

    Less sweep, low twist, anhedral, high nose angle, flat tip profile... if you ask it to slip, it says "yeah, sure". In some circumstances - more common than on most wings - that slip gives enough billow shift that you can't overcome it by weight shift alone. The answer is give a wee bit of a forward push on the bar. Now, with the turn coordinated, billow is equal on both wing halves, weight shift is 100% effective, no drama. If we always flew with coordinated turns, we wouldn't lose control in roll, which I believe is the biggest killer in our sport and one which is often confused with stalling.

    Those winglets that you mention, Rizzy, turn a slip into a coordinated turn without input from the pilot. They make the wing a little more foolproof, but they also take away some of the fun of flying the wing. I don't like them, personally, preferring to have a more manual control of the wing.

  • Tussock

    Monty, you raise a couple of good points.

    Firstly, we do have a lot of sheep in NZ. Dolly says hi.

    A descending turn with the bar back and the throttle closed is a fine thing to do - great for losing height, punching through a gradient, and energising a slower wing. You just need to be aware that IF it is slipping - and a lot of wings are so good at weathercocking into the relative wind that there isn't really much slip - you're fighting that billow when when you roll level. I think it's a good technique to have in your tool box with that proviso.

    And rating wings is difficult. The Arrow S is a really, really easy wing to fly well - and safely; easier than, say, a Wizard. If your goal was simply to go solo as soon as possible, the Arrow would be the better choice. The Wizard requires more from the pilot. But obviously there's more energy in the faster wing. The Arrow is a much better wing in mountains, or tough conditions. I'd rather see my son learn on a Wizard than an Arrow, because he'll be a better pilot in the end. At the end of the day, if you can fly one wing with proper technique, I believe you can fly any - there's differences of degrees between wings, but they're all flown the same. I feel that it's the pilots and their ability to transfer proper techniques between wings that's the key thing. Personally, I'd rather see pilots rated than wings.

  • white eagle

    Ive never heard such a profoundly acurate description for it! The trick is not to overcarve or undercarve youre cordinated turn everything in measure .

  • white eagle

    Tussock have you had any exsperience with northwing wings. Ive flown the gt5 and i really liked it. Its handling in turbulance was excelent. Your analogy and discriptions i find quite understandable and informative!
    Just wondering what your views on aeros , and american made wings like rival s , quest gt5 is?
    Ultamately i think it comes down to talent as well.
    Since trike pilots are actually flying the wing which actually produces less drag than stick and rudder. Their are some talented pilots that can make any wing look good . So i think comparisons should be made carefully and with understanding for the different skills of a pilot.
    Like you said a pilot is the one needing the rating and then matched to a wing. Which i think is kinda the way it is.
    So dont get me wrong iam not trying to put the arrow down . Just not the wing for me . But i do think when a significant number of fatalitys happen in a paticular wing .We must look at what was the skill level of the pilots. A wing manufactured for the public that can be flown by a diverse catagory of pilots. It deserves to at least be look at in a open and fair to the facts manner.
    We dont want to hurt the limited manufactures in our sport and we certainly dont want to hurt pilots and unaware passangers as well.
    Now to achieve performance for advancing pilots trade offs are always made. You effect one aerodynamic principal you reduce another.
    So in say in a crash like johns he may have been flying in conditions not suitable, or his skill level was below standards for the wing. Or a whole other host of variables. A pilot may have risky behavior . Flying crazy low. So even if a consistant number of fatalitys happen in a particular wing that still dosnt nessasaraly mean their is a fatal design flaw in a wing. Their maybe a large amount of pilots flying the newest available wing and soon as their instructors are out of the picture the ignore the rules and fly wrecklessly. Fatalitys can come with fads as well and that may make a particular wing look bad. Example the 80s and the comet. It was the newest thing on the market pentration and good speed flatter glide .everyone rushed out to by them and the good exsperienced pilot went for the cloud streets. But they were also more dificult to turn and fly. So an advancing set of pilots bit the dust and fatalitys were high. Now that may make a manufactured wing look bad . But the truth may be more of skill level rather than the wing. The wing did what the wing was designed to do. Rating level may not nessasarilly be a good example of skill and talent. A rated pilot may fly for a long time with bad skills and poor training.
    Every pilot outside of rating should do a real time evaluation of his own skill level. Also evaluating your fear factor. A good motto know thy skill level and talent and fly with wings and machines that match your skill and talent level.
    A pilot such as myself. Ive flown alot but i dont concider myself a talented flyer. I have skills but you know i can stay alive flying and still enjoy the sport with a good mustang wing and enjoy a good envelope of safety.
    But then theres joe hes got real skills advances picks things up quickly he might do just fine flying that arrow.
    Well thats about how i see it. Iam not the most skilled or knowelgable pilot but i have been flying scince the 70s and iam still here. And when iam not i would hope people think of me fondly.
    For are departed friends on a different shore.

  • Monty

    Tubsocks, i appreciate your 'un-foible-ing the arrow wing, and the dificulty of rating wings. Rating pilots would open up a can of worms better left shut. No more officialdom than we already have, but, each trike pilot, in his own mind,should have an idea of where he, she or it, is in the 'ability' scale, rating say a 4 or 5 pilot with a 8+ wing would leave a gap for lady luck to fill in! Your explanation of the forces at work to allow us to fly around a 'corner' with the pointy end not quite in line is gonna keep me up tonite, reading and re reading it, to try and fully absorbe it ( now i see what dolly sees in you!).

  • Tussock

    Minty, if you can bear to drag your blazing eyes over to the tattered remains of the post-Monty Dark Side, there's currently a video up that makes all this clearer than I can put into words.

    While we take the Mickey out of the Dark Side, I'd like to give some credit where I see it due: Larry Mednick offers sound advice that is worth listening to, and works hard at promoting safety in our sport. No one seems to have as clear an understanding of the dynamics of flying that affect our safety, or pushes safety issues to forefront like he does. His video on slipping turns covers the topic brilliantly.

  • Tussock

    David, I couldn't agree more. My understanding is that John was flying the Arrow for the first time, alone. This is very second-hand information, and I cannot vouch for the truth of it, but if it is true it seems there is little doubt that had a competent instructor been with him he would still be alive.

    The only US manufactured trike wing I've flown is a Sport, and I really liked its handling. There isn't a lot of choice down here. There is only one trike that I just did not like, and that was from Europe. From a design perspective, it's easy to have two of these three together: speed, efficiency, handling. Getting all three from one wing is much more challenging.

    I like to think that a pilot's attitude is more important than their aptitude. I think most people could learn to fly a trike really well, given good instruction. Cultivating a good attitude in students is something that I think should be right up there with teaching flying skills.

    David, you said something earlier in this thread which really resonates with me: don't stop doing what you love. I'd hate to think that I killed myself from lack of knowledge or skill, but I'm also prepared to take an educated risk to get what I want from flying - and life, really. A good attitude can be many things to many people, but to me, striving to become better is a big part of it.

  • white eagle

    Remember tussock that saying the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat? Its all encompassing. That one central speck that in the pondering of a moment you briefly encompass it all. It all just for a thought and reflection brings the mind and the heart into a plain of contentment wrapped in suttle warmth. What is that speck enbedded in are chemistry formed out of the dust of a star.But a mustard seed that when found transforms us to some distant endless beach if only realized for a second! Few that in a lifetime find it. We find areselves apart enlightened far from the noise of the flocks chasing the fishing boats for scraps of sardines!
    Just one encompassing moment , humbled i can see all time , all before me and after. All that i have loved ,all that i have lost ,all the thrills and all the defeats. Then i realize why why i have to fly. To defeat death if only for a moment. And for that moment i realize eternity!
    For my friends on that distant beach

  • white eagle

    Heres a link to help anyone understand a cordinated turn

  • Jozinko

    I didnt know John but its very hard to hear that our flying friend is not among us.
    In my opinion Arrow wing is great wing into his flying envelope. I flew it in YFT and i made flying stability tests with Peter on board and without him too. in high speed it have great rate of stability. But I foud out than near min speed the wing is easy falling to the side. Not spiral. Spiral is normal flying procedure when the wing is working well. We teach it our students and I use spiral for faster or emergency height reduction. Near min speed the Arrow is able very quickly fall. If you wont to react very quickly it coluld be fatal. It happened to Steve and Michelle. I did a crazy turns with Arrow/XT912 about 3-5 meters over ground over cangaroos with more than 60°tilt but I was only one think in my mind: the speed! We had there more than 70mph.
    From the photo it seems to me he "ladned" from the left side cca 320°The impact is about 2 meters in front on the left. Then he slips an impact to the ground by right side of the trike and complete trike overturned. I dont know why it happened, but Im sure he flew right side of the trike in front when touched ground.
    White Eagle know my opinion about landing procedures in Australia, most of the USA and ours.