Re: Allen Barklage's fatal mishap, was: Gyrocopter Speed

On 2005-06-07 13:43:59 -0400, Dennis Fetters <fettersbuiltco@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> said:

Kevin O'Brien wrote:
The experience of flying a lot of different helos probably would have helped. I think that negative transfer from a lifetime of flying Bells was as big a contribution to the demise of Allen Barklage as the exhaustively-discussed engine-out characteristics of the Mini-500.

I don't care about the rest of your discussion here, so no comment. But, you got it wrong about Allen Barklage an his accident in his Mini-500. The Mini-500 has excellent engine-out characteristics, as demonstrated at almost every major air show.

I recall one of them pranging at Sun n Fun, I think it was. A yellow one? Indeed, it might have been your demonstrator? Engine seize led to a hard landing and rolloever, IIRC, but I will look it up and get my facts straight if you want to argue about it.

If properly set up by the builder, it could autorotate and land safely as low as 40 mph.

What about the nose tuck? I have Rick Stitt's answer to that, and I wonder what yours is.

Allen had great experience in his Mini-500 and was an expert at demonstrating autorotations.

I'm aware of Allen's Mini-500 experience. He was probably the second or third highest time pilot in type at the time of his death, wasn't he? There was another fellow who had some 800 hours at the time, IIRC.

Where would lack of transition time from one helicopter to another have anything to do about Allan's accident, in the way you just tried to convey here? None whatsoever.

I'm not suggesting that it was transition "time" but negative transfer of skill, of experience, and of "muscle memory" under pressure, to use the latest fad term. Allen had done at least five for-real autos in the helicopters he was most familiar with, Bells.

The Bell teetering rotor system has, as you well know, some similarities with the Mini and some rather pronounced differences. The biggest difference being (IMHO) rotor inertia. A standard drill at Army flight school is (or was in Allen's day, at least) to set the machine down, pick it up, pedal turn it 180 degrees, and set it down again.

You wouldn't pull that off with a low-inertia design like the Mini -- or the R-22 for that matter. But you can do it with a Bell 47, UH-1, or 206/OH-58. Having had for-real autos in these machines, a pilot has a "feel" for what he can do. Like stretch a "glide" over some wires. Except you're not in the Bell, you definitely can't.

I think negative transfer also contributed to some of the Robbie mishaps that led to the SFAR on training in the R-22.

(FWIW, F.R. now says that if he knew his helicopter would have become the most popular trainer, he'd have designed it completely differently. He intended it to be a light, responsive machine for the experienced pilot seeking a sport or transport helicopter. He built the machine he wanted to fly himself).

In a related matter, of fitness for purpose, I note that RHCI's very effective ads stressed all the cool things you could do and places you could go in a Mini-500. They imply it was easy as a bicycle and safe as mother's milk -- neither of which is true, you'll admit, of any helicopter.

Allen took off in his Mini-500 after it had an engine seizure due to improper jetting a flight before. He didn't bother to inspect the engine for seizure damage, and just flew it away as if nothing wrong had happened.

NTSB does not mention any prior seizure, or anything to do with carburettor jets. They do say: "A loss of engine power due to cold seizure of the power-takeoff cylinder." They retained the engine for examination after releasing most of the wreckage.

Worse yet, he hugs the ground during his flight, and flies over a power line complex without gaining altitude.

Witness: "It was approximately 200 feet above the ground." Source:


The engine finally failed over the lines, and he tried to milk the rotor rpm for more than any helicopter could have offered, and nosed into the ground after stalling the blades.

The witness also noted that "The helicopter did not do a nose tuck," which indicates some familiarity with the type, if he was expecting that.

Simple as that. It had nothing to do with transition time from one helicopter to another. It had already been determined that there is probably no single engine helicopter built that could have lost it's engine at that time and auturotated that distance at such a low altitude and landed safely.

"It had already been determined" -- the passive voice is a bit evasive sounding here? Who determined that no single engine could lose its engine at 200 ft. and climbing (Witness: ""He was level and climbing, going away from me when all of a sudden, the sound (engine sound) went quiet, followed by a pop." - same NTSB narrative) and autorotated safely?

I'm curious as to why your narrative is at such wide variance with NTSB's. They don't list RHCI as a party to the investigation, either. Buit I don't believe RHCI folded until one or two big shows after Allen's demise.

Sorry for the belated reply, Dennis, and all. I don't check the newsgroups very often these days.


Rule #1: Don't hit anything big.