Fred Caron Report
On Saturday November 30, 2002 Fred Caron and Tim Johnson perished in the tragic crash of Fred's new Seawind.
The following information has been edited from an email received from ISPA member Wally Weller on December 7, 2002. Thank you Wally.
[What follows is a list of a few of my observations about Fred's airplane and crash that] I will discuss with the NTSB investigator.
1. Fred was anxious to fly off the test and get the plane home.
2. He had had a problem with no gravity feed from the right wing to the header in flight. Good flow on the ground. Check valve? Vents? The no flow situation existed on Friday's flight and probably Saturday's. In flight they balanced right to left to use right tank fuel. Another Seawind I know had experienced no flow from the right wing, and found a stuck check valve. I will not use check valves between the tanks and the header! I will have a panel controlled ball valve to stop cross flow when desired. You will not be able to push throttle for T/O without busting your knuckles on the ball valve pull knob. (If it's pulled)
3. He experienced an engine stoppage on Friday in cruise. Mixture rich, boost on, the engine restarted. He thought fuel pressure was normal because the Vision Microsystems did not give a fuel pressure alarm. O.K. thereafter. (What's the lag time between press. loss and alarm sounding? I don't know.) On Sunday December 8, 2002 Graham Woodd sent in a clarification to this item. In his email, Graham states the following: "Point #3: The incident was described to me as a momentary loss of power in cruise, not an engine stoppage. I find it hard to believe [that] Tim would fly the plane after an engine stoppage without investigating the cause."
4. I think the most likely scenario is stall/spin. The NTSB investigator seemed to think so also after interviewing several witnesses. He seemed to think it was a tightening spin, and asked me about the tank configuration, wondering whether fuel could have been forced from the main into the aux, thereby aggravating the spin. Looks like it could, through the vent line, but not much in a minute or so. It did impact with the nose quite low, and not much left after the fire.
5. The plane had 30# of permanent lead in the nose, and required another 39# for solo. I believe only the first flight was solo. Joanne and I pulled the plane out one time, and it was all I could do to keep the nose down.
6. Twice I saw the unattended plane in my hangar after a flight with the elevator trim tab up at least an inch. Unusual after an approach unless it had been reset, which leads to #7.
7. The 4 yoke top buttons are small, sensitive, and close. L and R is nose wheel steering. I mentioned my "up tab" findings to Graham, and he said it could have been from steering input. When he and Fred were taxi testing, Fred inadvertently input pitch trim while steering without knowing it. They noticed the pitch trim LED's changing, which leads to #8.
8. The MAC trim indicator is labeled TRIM UP and TRIM DOWN, which is the opposite of nose up and nose down. This lead to a backward rigging situation, which was caught in time and not a factor, but it's something that everyone should pay particular attention to. Consider the nose, OR consider the tab. I think the indicator should tell you where the NOSE is going, not where the TAB is going, and be so labeled.[ ]
The following safety related information is provided for the use of our ISPA members and Seawind pilots. It is paraphrased from a short entry in the August, 2002 SNA* newsletter about Seawind stall spin characteristics. Since there was no incident or consequence of this stall / spin event, it is doubtful that any record would exist in the NTSB files.
According to the article, the spin was reported by Vince Rossi and his flight instructor Fred Thompson. Fred stated that "...he pulled the Seawind into a deep stall and while holding it, he got it into a spin." Recovery from the spin required the addition of power, "Fred said that the spin continued until he applied power and [only after re-applying power] the spin ended in about a quarter turn." Also from the article, "With power off, the Seawind idling propeller blocks air flow across the rudder." [and elevator]
Not from the article, but a separate observation: It would also seem, that in a stalled or spin attitude, not only the prop, but the fuselage as well, would inhibit air flow to the rudder and elevator. [ed]
*(The ISPA has no affiliation with SNA Inc., the producer of the Seawind kit plane.)
The following is from December 3, 2002 news reports.
Tim was a highly experienced, expert, and cautious test pilot. He had logged almost 10,000 flight hours. He was a demonstration pilot for Glastar / Glasair. He had flown two other Seawinds before the crash. An article about Tim can be found in the November, 2002 issue of the AOPA magazine.
December 6, 2002: Friends, Family Mourn Loss of Tim Johnson
Principals and employees of New Glasair/New GlaStar LLC, Mission aviation organizations, and EAA’ers mourn the recent loss of Tim Johnson, demonstration pilot, who, along with the aircraft’s owner [Fred Caron], lost his life while flight testing a Seawind amphibian aircraft in the vicinity of the Arlington, Washington airport on Saturday, November 30. Tim, 66, began his flying career for the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) in the 1960’s. With an aviation career spanning four decades, Tim logged over 9,000 hours flying Helio Curriers over Brazilian jungles, DeHaviland Beavers on floats and, since 1995, has earned the reputation as the worlds most accomplished GlaStar pilot with over 2500 hours logged.
Tim recently completed his own GlaStar and had become a much appreciated flight instructor, demonstration and test pilot among the GlaStar builder community. “GlaStar builders consist of two groups, those who have had the privilege of flying with Tim and those who were anxiously waiting for the opportunity,” said Mikael Via, President of New Glasair/GlaStar. The company is making arrangements with the EAA Aviation Foundation to have his name placed on the Oshkosh Memorial Wall at AirVenture 2003.
To many, Tim was affectionately known as ‘The Whistler’ because of his habit of whistling a tune everywhere he went. It is said that whistling is an indicator of contentment and a happy heart. Those who were fortunate enough to have known Tim Johnson would agree that he was a man content with serving God as a missionary, serving his family and serving the aviation community. He will be greatly missed by many.
The Johnson family has requested that those who wish to honor Tim make a small donation in Tim’s name to either of his favorite charitable aviation organizations, rather than send flowers. These organizations are:
Mission Aviation Training Academy (MATA)
P.O. Box 3655
Arlington, WA 98223
Jungle Aviation & Radio Service
P.O. Box 248
Waxhaw, NC 28173-9988