Here is a report I hoped I would never have to write!!!
The take-off was uneventful and the air was nice and stable. I first did a few touch and goes. After that I flew to Kittyhawk, where I also did a touch and go. I then climbed up to 6300' (about 1500 AGL) and headed back to Rhino Park to join overhead. Once at my chosen altitude I leveled off and set the throttle at 30" manifold pressure, I wanted to see what cruise speed that would produce. She accelerated nicely, she was flying like a champion and I was really having fun. At this point I had been in the air for around 1 hour.
I had a GPS on the seat next to me, I had a look at it to see how the ASI speed compared to the ground speed. The GPS was on its side so I moved my hand from the stick (center stick with throttle on the left) to turn the GPS around.
Suddenly all hell broke loose, there was a bang and the canopy flew open, as it opened the plane pitched down violently going into a steep dive. Every single loose object in the plane, maps, books and other objects were sucked right out of the plane. My baseball cap and headset also flew off and out, I must have been at negative G for a moment.
I grabbed the stick and tried to pull the nose up. Full up still had me in a dive. I closed the throttle to try and slow things down but I was still diving, I could see the ground rushing closer. I could not believe this was happening to me!!
I realized I had to try and get the canopy closed, even just partial if possible. The KR's canopy hinges forward and it was being sucked open sitting at around 45+ deg open. I grabbed the stick with my left hand and reached up to grab the canopy handle with my right hand. I just managed to get my fingers on it on the third try and I pulled it down, I could not pull it closed all the way, it was still sitting at around 15cm open at the back. I could feel the wooden handle flexing and I was scared it would break, that would have been BAD so I did not force it any further, there was no way I could latch it anyway as it was quite a difficult process at the best of times. As I closed the canopy the plane zoomed up (I was still holding full up with my left hand).
I managed to stabilize the plane level and slightly descending, the engine was at a slow idle but I still needed around 1/4 up elevator travel to stop it from diving. The partially open canopy was really disturbing the aerodynamics of the plane!
I managed to orientate myself and noticed I was on a late downwind for runway 27 at rhino Park, this plane covers a lot of ground quickly!
As I was descending and quite low by now (I lost around 700' during the recovery) I started my base turn, I could see that she was not gliding nearly as well as with a closed canopy and I realized I was not going to make the runway, I tried to shorten my base/final by doing a continuous turn but it was still not enough, I needed a bit more power but there was the problem, my right hand was hanging onto the canopy for dear life and my left hand was holding around 1/4 up elevator, if I let go of either I would have a problem as I was now quite low. There was no way I could reach the throttle, not even with my left elbow, I did try!
The engine idle was very low by now and I could see it was going to stop any moment (Mixture was leaned out), I then realized I had to land her in the long grass/marsh before the runway, avoiding the ridge of the raised runway and a small dam. I was now really low, maybe 20 feet so I started pulling up slowing her down as much as possible. It was incredible how she slowed down, just above the grass I was at full up, nose pointing up and the airframe buffeting quite a lot, I would guess at not much more than 40mph.
The engine had stopped by now with the prop sitting at an angle, I leveled her wings as much as I could and waited to become a passenger. She touched down in a perfect 3 point attitude, for a second all was well then the left wheel hit a hole hidden in the long grass. The nose went down and hit but bounced up again, the plane veered violently to the left and then the right wheel hit a hole as well, down went the nose again, this time I thought she was going over but she did not, finally stopping in a cloud of dust and steam (steam from the dew on the grass on the hot engine)
I finally let go of the canopy and elevator, switching the mags and master off and closing the fuel cock.
My next thought was to get out and I was next to the plane in no time. I did a quick check on myself showed no damage.
The plane did not look too bad!
Touch down point........
That's me, happy to be ok but sad for my baby!
Taking her back to the hangar after CAA gave me an ok to recover her.
I did not have time for a mayday, since the PTT is right next to the throttle I could not reach it anyway and my headset was gone, nobody seemed to notice I went down even though there were 2 planes in the air and a few people at the field but nobody in sight. I started walking back to my hangar, I was around 30m short of the runway.
Soon a plane flew low over me with the pilot showing me a thumbs up asking if I was ok, I showed him yes. He must have radioed the people at the flying school because soon a few vehicles were racing towards me with fire extinguishers and medical help. I told them I was fine! They gave me a lift back to my hangar where I got my camera and a few friends with a 4 x 4 and a trailer. Our local safety officer (Thanks Alex!) contacted CAA, since there were no injuries or serious damage they told us it is ok to move the plane.
Once the plane was back in the hangar I could look at the damage, it turned out not too bad! There was slight damage to the bottom skins of the wing-stub where the landing gear pulled out. The landing gear itself is ok as it was designed to have a weak point, small bolts on each side, that would break separating the landing gear from the metal bar that is bolted to the main spar. This prevents damage to the main spar.
The pitot tube also tore out but there is no damage to the wing, I just need to glue it back in again. The cowling survived well, there is some paint missing at the bottom and three mounting holes were damaged, easy to repair. The prop was broken so that would need to be replaced. The spinner also has a small crack but easy to repair.
Back in the hangar, my one legged baby, paint missing from the bottom cowling
Before flying her again I WILL install 3 more latches on the canopy, one at the back in the middle similar to the one's found on RV's and two smaller latches at the bottom back. I will be able to check all these easily so no more surprises!
After putting her away I went for a nice relaxing flight in my Bush Baby, doing the "getting back on the horse" thing :D
I still love my KR!