Lancair 400 Test Aircraft Lost In Spin Test

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Test Pilot Len Fox Safe

The malfunction of an emergency recovery system led to the loss yesterday morning of the prototype Lancair Columbia 400. At about 10:30 a.m. local time, after a series of spin tests and successful recoveries, test pilot Len Fox activated a small tailcone-mounted "spin chute" when his control inputs failed to induce recovery form a (final) well-developed spin. Deployment of the chute caused nose-down pitch, slowed spin rotation and allowed Fox to recover. However, an equipment malfunction of unknown nature prevented release of the chute and precluded a safe landing. Fox departed the aircraft and used a parachute of his own to choreograph his safe return. The abandoned aircraft crashed in a field near Millican, Ore., and burned.

The Lancair Columbia 400 is the turbocharged version of the Lancair 350. It "approaches King Air speeds while burning 20gph," Mark Cahill told us at AirVenture 2003. Cahill said the aircraft will sport dual, fully redundant, fully independent electrical systems and deicing, built-in oxygen, full authority digital engine control (FADEC) and a special "spin-resistant feature," (which may need some tweaking). Certification for the $436,900 aircraft was (prior to this incident) projected before the end of the year with deliveries as early next year. "Our mission is to make high performance flying more accessible -- lowering the price point and making it safer simpler and more available to more people," said Cahill. Few missions are as easily achieved as they are stated.