The Demise of the Cosmic Fish

Demise of the Cosmic Fish



The “She Said” version for the non-pilot reader 🙂

“Hi Linda, I have good news and bad news,” I heard my husband’s voice on the phone.  “The good news is that no one was hurt,” Lewis paused, “The bad news is that we crashed the airplane.” 

Choosing the Cosmic Fish

My husband Lewis is a professional pilot, flight instructor, author, and experimental aircraft builder.  This project is a Q200 design he lovingly named “The Cosmic Fish” after a scene from the “Muppets From Space” where Gonzo wants to meet his family and receives instruction from some “cosmic fish.” Lewis chose the name as a perfect fit for this latest shop project.

The goal was to create an airplane that is cheap to own and cheap to fly.  As an airplane enthusiast, he wanted a cheap trainer to teach our kids to fly.  This airplane runs on car gas which is less expensive than airplane fuel and the plane can be disassembled and taken home on a trailer.  It is also a good cross country airplane that flies reasonably fast and comfortable.  Therefore the Cosmic Fish seemed to check off all the boxes and the construction began in 2007.

Building the Project

Many projects take longer and cost more than expected and this project was no exception.  Nine years later it was finally complete and ready to begin the flight testing process.  Nine years is a long time.  For reference, that means that our youngest daughter was in kindergarten when he started and she is now in high school.

Test Flying

He had finally finished building the airplane and had begun the test flying process.  When you build an airplane you don’t simply hop in and take ‘er for a ride.  There is a careful process of testing and making corrections before it is ready for flight and an even longer process before it is ready to take passengers.

The first step is to take it to a quiet airport and taxi it down the runway several times making observations and taking careful notes.  After the initial taxi test, the plane is taken back to the hangar, or in our case, back home to the shop, where any necessary corrections are made.  This process is continued until the taxi test is perfect.  The next step is a brief test flight around the traffic pattern and landing, again taking careful notes and making corrections.  Repeat the cycle until the test pilot is confident that everything is perfect.  It is a technical and tedious process, but Lewis has done it before and I had every confidence that it would all turn out perfect in the end.  I wasn’t even worried.

On this particular day, he has already done the preliminary taxi test, made notes, and was in the process of making corrections.  After the last correction, he loaded the airplane into the trailer and drove to the Tooele airport excited to be making progress.

The Demise

Then came the fateful call that he just crashed the airplane.  Wait?  What?  When he was doing the taxi test, he applied the brakes and one side stuck and one side didn’t.  He lost control, ran off the runway, ground looped the plane and hit a runway light.  No one was hurt, but the plane was destroyed.  The crash tore off the landing gear, ripped off part of the wing and wrecked the propeller.  The damage was irreparable.  Nine years of work and tens of thousands of dollars were gone in an instant.

The Aftermath

Lewis came home frustrated and demoralized.  He brought the wreckage home and salvaged the parts that were still useful and sold them.  Even the damaged air-frame was purchased by another builder for spare parts.  Nothing is left of the project but a few photos and a bad memory.

After the catastrophic failure, Lewis hesitated beginning another project, but is driven to create and couldn’t sit still for long.  He built a lightweight canoe to get the inertia going again, and after that success, he is now in the process of building a Europa airplane.

I have a good feeling about this one.  I think it will be all the things the “Cosmic Fish” was supposed to be, but wasn’t.