N101BX Homebuilt Lancair IV-P downed by reported icing . . .


FlightAware Flight Tracker N101BX Homebuilt Lancair IV-P, two persons on board fatally injured, in North Carolina - reported icing.

Local News Story , News site


Tracklog… Looks like it must have gone straight down from 15,000…

Thoughts & prayers to the families


Sad news,

I second that, Thoughts & Prayers to the families!


Why did he slow to 92 knots in the last hour? Perhaps to extend his flaps to generate more lift?


Extending flaps in an iced plane is a very bad thing to do. You are already a test pilot flying an experimental wing shape with icing and you don’t want to add to the variables by extending flaps.


In my experiences, the only time I see flaps giving “lift” is in ground effect. (great for short and soft field takeoffs)

Otherwise it’s a drag literally and figuratively.

If I was a betting person, that 92 knots is an “extrapolation” rather then actual ground speed (maybe lost radar contact) but still had communications.

As CAFlier already indicated, deploying flaps would be a big no no. Best thing is to not expose anymore of the plane to the elements, and by deploying flaps, the accumulating ice to the newly exposed surfaces would add to the weight factor.


N.b. the FAA will often repeat the last known position, speed, and/or altitude when a new one isn’t recieved. The first “35.50 -77.75 92 15000” at 13 minutes past the hour is probably the last legitimate position, an the speed/altitude may be repeats of the report at 10 minutes past the hour.


More dangerous than the weight of the ice build-up is its disruption of the airflow over the wings and control surfaces. The vertical and horizontal tails are the surfaces that will accumulate the most ice due to the relatively small leading edge radius (compared to the wing). By lowering the flaps, the downwash angle at the horizontal tail is increased and, due to the accumulation of ice on the suction side of the wing, this might cause a tailplane stall which, needless to say, is quite hazardous when it comes to the stability and control on an aircraft.

Just asking : how did you know he was test pilot ?

This is truly sad news… My condoleances to the families.


He wasn’t a test pilot per se beyond the fact that he was flying into new and unknown areas of iced wing performance.


The general rule of thumb in GA aircraft is that the first amount of flaps generates more lift than drag and the final amount of flaps generates more drag than lift.

Because he was flying a plane with wings and control surfaces altered in new and unpredictable ways by ice that have never been tested before. So the pilot was testing flight characteristics of this new, and changing, aircraft in real time under challenging circumstances, which effectively makes him a test pilot.


I should’a looked at the coordinates :blush:


Also, looks like the registration was pending. The number was assigned to a different aircraft not too long ago. I would speculate that the builder just completed it, essentially making him a test pilot anyways, regardless of ice.


OK ! I though you were saying that he was a professional test pilot…

Seems to me like flying into ice makes you more of an unfortunate pilot than a test pilot though !


Status Certificate Issue Date Airworthiness Date Last Action Date
Assigned 2008-05-15 2003-01-03 2008-05-15


When an unqualified test pilot flies an undesigned, asymmetrically ice-shaped airfoil it often results in an unfortunate pilot.


When an unqualified test pilot flies an undesigned, asymmetrically ice-shaped airfoil it often results in an unfortunate pilot.

What I meant was that the pilot was not a trained test pilot working for Lancair. Pilots wanting to become test pilots have to go through training and learn how to maneuver the airplane in such a way that its stability derivatives, oscillatory modes and other behavior can be properly evaluated to see if they corroborate computational predictions (among other things !). That’s not what the pilot was doing: he wasn’t flying through known ice conditions to test the airplane’s response. He was flying an experimental airplane beyond its capabilities and sadly lost his life. He wasn’t an unqualified test pilot flying beyond his or his aircraft’s capabilities purposefully, he was an experimental airplane pilot who lost control trying to recover an ice-laden aircraft.


What you say above may true out in the literal sense, but in the aviation community, we call 'em test pilots :wink:



agree, though I think ISide is focusing a wee bit too much on the word and not enough on the concept. Every Lancair pilot is an experimental pilot (or more accurately a pilot flying an experimental plane) as the Lancair is not certified by the FAA or other major regulatory bodies that I’m aware of. When you look inside a Lancair, you will see in large font the word EXPERIMENTAL to acknowledge that. When you fly any plane, whether experimental or certified, outside of its known flight envelop, you then become a test pilot whether you are a trained and qualified test pilot or not.


Actually, a “kit aircraft” producer such as Lancair must hold a production certificate for their kits. And when a builder completes a kit aircraft an operator must have that aircraft inspected for comformity during and after the process in order to have a special airworthiness (nee experimental) certificate issued, to legally operate the aircraft.
FAA Link


I was talking about the finished aircraft, but agree that the kit is certified by the FAA. The FAA does not certify the completed airplane, nor does it require a certified A&P to work on it, so it is labeled an experimental aircraft.