The Zodiac Solution: Training Wheels on a Motorcycle

I flew my Zodiac three hours Saturday enjoying a breezy fall morning following the ridge line of the Shenendoah. The plain flew beautifully, hands-off for the most part, and passed its four hundredth hour of flight (70 with me at the helm). Little did I know that it might be my last flight for a while. As I was dancing in the clouds, others were buy putting the finishing touches on their effort to ensure my "safety." The NTSB, FAA, Zenith, The Associations and several foreign bodies had designed the perfect fix for my troublesome little plane: training wheels!

Granted, I have limited understanding of the drawings and policies proposed ( I am a business major not an engineer) but when I read and re-read this is the jist of it. "Flying small airplanes that you may have built yourself is darn dangerous. We have tested everything and investigated everything and found that flying the Zodiac is darn dangerous. We must protect those who fly so here are three pages of drawings to "overbuild" the plane and make it safer." Translation: training wheels.

I am of that very death defying group that also rides a motorcycle, sometimes even to my airplane. I am sure there is carnage every day on the roads due to some poor fellow/lady taking a turn too fast or hitting the brakes at the worst time on their hog or crotch rocket. I think they need to be "overbuilt." Training wheels would make them so much safer, maybe 15%.

God save us from people who want to protect us! The NTSB said, "Zodiacs are falling from the sky", the FAA said, "they were falling at the same rate as other small planes but we will investigate and change our position or not. We will recommend and intimdate rather than mandate a fix since there really isn't any one thing wrong." Zenair said "let's turn lemons into lemonaide from this and make a mint selling training wheels." The Associations said, "Zodiac Schmodiac, let's collaborate to protect the poors souls with business jets."

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Comment by Paul Toone on November 10, 2009 at 3:23am
As I've just said on the main thread for all this, I don't want to be pursued for all eternity through the pearly gates (maybe !) with my wife nagging "You should have done the mods, then you wouldn't have ripped the wing off doing that tight turn." I bought the QB kit having visions of fulfilling my dream to have my own aircraft, being able to go where I liked and when I liked. You can bet we'll go from being 'advised' to do the mods to being mandated by our respective authorities on a 'cover their ar*e' basis. I've had my whinge about the time and ,no doubt, cost of this, but when we're flying over beautiful country and enjoying the freedom, this will all pale into insignificance, until the next set of mods..........................

Paul Toone
Comment by Dr. Edward M. Moody II on November 9, 2009 at 5:00pm
Or in other words, "After further review, the shabby call made on the field stands". 4th and long backed up to our own goal line. I'm going for it.

Comment by John Cange on November 9, 2009 at 4:58pm
If you guys quit flying, you should be professional writers for a sitcom or something!! The only thing we have going is, we're all in this together, and we're screwed. No matter what Grandpa Chris says, it's not going to make the wallet feel any better, unless he's a Democrat and decides to mail us all a stimulus check.
Comment by JG Ginther on November 9, 2009 at 4:53pm
After the review we made a determination that these accidents did not clearly indicate a single root cause. Instead, it implicated the potential coupling of design and operational aspects of the aircraft.

Can anyone translate this? Couldn't this be said about every airplane?
Comment by Roger Lambert on November 9, 2009 at 4:51pm
We have met the enemy, and it is us.

Comment by Dr. Edward M. Moody II on November 9, 2009 at 4:05pm
If they take away my insurance, I'll spend the refund on fuel and go flying.

Comment by JG Ginther on November 9, 2009 at 3:24pm
Ed, I am with you, I hope to keep flying but I suspect the next domino will be insurance cancellation. I would take up knitting but as soon as I get good at it someone will figure out that those needles could put an eye out and I am grounded again.
Comment by Brad DeMeo on November 9, 2009 at 3:14pm
Anyone want a nice sweater? I'll be knitting this winter waiting for the upgrade kit. I know a veiled threat when I see one: the FAR airworthiness threat from the FAA. I don't want to mess with that one. They could enforce it, legally and technically, on the ramp before any flight is even taken. Best call my mom and schedule some what color yarn will go best with my jeans?
Comment by Dr. Edward M. Moody II on November 9, 2009 at 2:31pm
Remember when I told you that I didn't build my plane to be a museum piece? Well I didn't build it to be a hangar queen either. I'll be damned if I will take the plane out of service at 45 hours and do 200 - 300 hours of retrofitting and repainting to make some whiney perfect world type content. Geez, I wish someone could protect me from the people who are trying to protect me!

It's all so silly when you look at the number of XLs that have flown and continue to fly without incident. BTW, the crash rate was approximately double the rate for other similar craft so there was either a tremendous statistical glitch or something different was happening with the XLs. The biggest variables are (1) how well the builder put it together, (2) how fastidiously the plane was maintained, and (3) how conservatively or aggressively it was flown. The NTSB, ZBAG, the FAA, and the EAA focused instead on the design... oddly that is the one (relatively) constant feature among the entire fleet; those that fly well and those that have broken up inflight. I would be more inclined to look for something that is common to the crashed planes and was absent the ones which still fly well, wouldn't you?

The problem is that there is a trend of desperation to "do something" oblivious to whether or not that something is helpful and productive or not. I would have preferred if the retrofit would have been made available as an option to increase peace of mind among the fretters. To have the regulatory agency (FAA) make it a strongly recommended action puts it in a different light before the public eye, including the future buyer and passenger. Still, we should count our blessings that our planes are not grounded by the nannies like in our parts of the world. I'm planning on getting the drawings and making them an addendum to the POH. Another respected friend suggested selling the plane to an LLC as a layer of liability protection. If any routine "manure occurs" type of incident happens to the plane, a hungry lawyer might jump on the absence of the mods as the causative issue.

As an alternative we could join a knitting club.


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