I met Dr. Hanson a few times - he was a great guy. Saddly he passed away last sunday.
I have very limited knowledge of the situation but from what I have heard so far this is my take on things!
It was a Stinson with a gas selector of left/right - no Both setting. When it was hauled out of the ocean one gas cap was missing? Speculation is perhaps the gas blew out and that tank went empty and since he was over water he freaked out and forgot to switch to the other tank once the engine began to sputter? It's also possible he simply ran the tank dry and since he was over water when the engine began to sputter he just freaked out and forgot the most basic of all things - switch tanks. The NTSB will get to the bottom of it -but since the engine was rebuilt 200 hours ago - I doubt it was anything major.
a witness said the plan was at about 40 feet and nosedived into the water - sounds like a stall to me. Bashed his head all in since he had no helmet, Also because the airplane had no shoulder harness. No life jacket either. A helicopter dropped a life jacket but he was so messed up from the head wound he drown.
i'm told he did manage to get the life jacket on but could not inflate it. He was only 100 yards from shore.
In the news paper picture you can see him about 100 feet away from the sinking airplane. I sure would have stayed with the airplane until it was gone - they say it took 20 seconds to sink. I'd rather be standing on it for 10 seconds and collect my thoughts and get ready for a swim - than to immediately go after a lifejacket floating a couple hundred feet away. a near buy fishing boat on the way to rescue can cover alot of ground in 10 seconds! Just stay with the airplane and collect your thoughts and get ready to swim once it's down! Heck I imagine in some situations it might be in 10 feet of water - so once it hits bottom you might be able to stand on it and wait a few for a rescue boat!
There seam to be lots of little things which if done diffently might have lead to a much better outcome. Probably most imporant was NOT stalling the airplane and nosediving it into the ocean. Why do so many pilots forget to fly the airplane! When you are over water - you can only count on YOU to save YOU. Don't think anyone is necessarily going to come right away. If you bash yourself all up landing in the water you are going to be in a bad way!
It's so sad to think that just a few tweeks of one thing or another could have kept him alive! first just fliping the gas selector might have solved the problem. There aren't that many things we can do if the engine quits - I sure would start flipping things if mine quit! Gas selector, mags, pump the primer! Second accepting the fact that you are landing in the water and just making a nice landing would have made it easier for him to swim. Staying with the airplane 10 seconds might have let a boat get closer. Installing shoulder harnesses and buying a helmet might have lead to a way better outcome too.
This one really bothers me and i'll soak up all I can on it and hopefully learn something from it. All of the things I have done to my airplane would have helped tremendously if I'd been in his situation. I was just over that area with my son landing on Richmond Island a few weeks back. We both had life jackets on and I was always within glide distance of shore.
So for those of you who don't yet have helmets - I sure recommend getting one. Cessna did some studies and determined an alarming number of pilots would be alive today if they just had a helmet. If you don't have a shoulder harness - you should get it! The helmets are painfully expensive ($325) but heck buy a bike helmet at walmart for $25 - anything is better than nothing!
I also installed a fuel selector which is Left-Both-Right & I always keep it on both.
You never know when your time is up. It's just so sad when something stupid ends a life. Like Text messaging while driving - another example taking a strong hold in the country today & ending lots of young teen lives!
I also spent a ton of money putting on Dakota's slotted wings - they are truly amazing. I don't know why so many wealther aviators doen't load their airplanes up with such safety features! I also put a complete cross brace above my head - I see lots of cubs without it - they say if you crash in the trees the wings can crush you. My wings are about impossible to stall - they just mush down - bring you down like a helicopter. I know there is no end to what one can spend on safety features but I sure see alot of pilots I know can afford a helmet who chose not to fly with one! I don't get it!
Well I'll keep you all posted on updates to this accident. Fly safe and have a nice weekend.
Cliff Dow in Maine