The Airplane Factory Sling, which flew around the world during July and August 2009 crashed into the sea at Tinley Manor Beach on Saturday 13 February 2010.
Mike, James and the Airplane Factory team are devastated to have lost their round the world Sling, but are hugely relieved that no-one was seriously hurt in the accident. The accident took place when the test pilots, Carlos Garcia-Cabral and Sean Fraser, were doing spin testing of the aircraft. In initial tests the aircraft recovered predictably and quickly. In the interests of testing the aircraft above and beyond the ordinary requirements, and in view of the sterling performance of the aircraft up to the point of the accident, the pilots on board, both qualified test pilots, decided to increase the number of spins before recovery. It appears that at the end of the second turn the spin flattened and the spin speed increased. Unfortunately the pilots were unable to recover the aircraft in the altitude available to them. At 4 000 foot they cut the engine and deployed the ballistic chute. While the rocket deployed, it appears that the inertia of the main chute, together with its surface area against the “relieved hole” rivets in the parachute escape hatch prevented the main chute from escaping. The test pilots were able to exit the aircraft and parachute safely onto the beach.
While the owners of The Airplane Factory are extremely disappointed to have lost the aircraft in which they flew around the world, they recognise that testing aircraft beyond the limits which ordinary pilots will ever have to face is inherently risky. Mike said, “If one is going to lose an aircraft, I suppose that the best possible way for it to happen is in testing aimed at ensuring the final safety of members of the public. The flight formed part of a structured test program, which was why both pilots were qualified test pilots wearing parachutes. No member of the public is likely ever to be placed in the position in which the pilots found themselves.” James said, “While we are obviously devastated to have lost our prototype aircraft we are proud to have been testing it to its outer limits. It was because the plane performed so flawlessly during initial spin tests that it was tested further. We’re just glad no-one was seriously injured and The Airplane Factory will continue to ensure that its products are tested and proven to the highest levels. It’s not without reason that the test pilot who was flying the aircraft when it crashed had said of the Sling ‘If someone kills themselves in this aeroplane, then they’ve got a death wish.’ Its precisely because TAF is willing to perform this kind of testing that the Sling is as safe an aircraft as it is.”
At the moment we are awaiting more news from Mike & James from Tinley Manor Beach, as they are looking at the possibility of recovering the Sling.