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Old 08-29-2018, 05:06 PM
luigi_from_italy luigi_from_italy is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 29
Default Thoughts on ditching after a big accident with my RV7 in 2015

You may recall a big accident happened in Italy on 31st May 2015 during an Airshow along the Adriatic sea. My close friend and formation flying pal, Marco Ricci, died in the accident, I could ditch my RV7, I-AMEL, in the sea and come out with a minor brush on my left hand.
There’s a great analysis that AOPA USA have made on it, just to help to recall and there are some interesting thoughts that I would like to share with you on the ditching itself. Here's AOPA Live:

AOPA Live 4 June 2015

Few words on the accident itself which was deeply analyzed by our national NTSB (ANSV): we flew this routine so many times during our formation training with the help of formers Frecce Tricolori pilots (Frecce Tricolori are the Italian Blue Angels), including the day before for the saturday “test” of the Airshow. Therefore it was absolutely a surprise (for me) the abrupt “recovery” from the inverted flight of my pal (while I was flying under it), Marco Ricci. That was not the plan, no radio call for distress and no usual recovery from inverted flight without loss of altitude.
Everything has been X-rayed from the italian NTSB: “luckily” (in order to understand the probable cause of the incident), that day we had many GoPro mounted, including one in the cockpit of Marco, directly facing the pilot. The GoPro was initially lost in the sea, but found by someone and sent anonimously to the Italian Coast Guard 2 days after the accident. From this video and the post mortem, the probable cause has been found on the incapacitation of the pilot for a “stroke” (not exactly a stroke, I am not a cardiologist).
You can download (unfortunately in Italian) the full PDF report on, maybe using Google Translate.

Why am I writing only now?

Well, first of all, I restarted flying with my own plane (actually an Extra 330 LT). I continued flying almost immediately; a friend of mine, just 1 month after the accident, lent me his RV10 for a tour in Italy and I continued flying as a flight instructor on Tecnams, but it’s not like having your plane.

Another reason is how valuable is this forum and, as you will read later, there are lessons that I have red on this forum which came handy (and actually remembered!) during my ditching (believe it or not). I am sure that I can give some suggestions in the unlikely (as the PA on airliners say) of ditching with an RV.

Quick note, I have a full video (which is not pubblic) of my ditching (one GoPro was mounted facing forward on the back of my RV7), so what I am writing here, is clearly visible, so no “allucinations” after an accident.
Anyway you can see a lot of videos on YouTube (there were TV and more than 50K people on the beach), just search for “Incidente Alba Adriatica” (Incident in Alba Adriatica, which is the city along the coast where the Airshow took place).

My experience on RV7 is consistent, I made my FAA License in 1994 then European one in 1995 and I logged more than 1.000 hrs as a PIC on my RV7 (sliding canopy, O-360-A1A and Sensenich then Hartzel Scimitar Prop), flying X-countries (also from Italy to Morocco, which is not a short hop), pylon races with the 3R British Association and a lot of short grass fields in Italy, usually 1.500 ft, no IFR. One thing that should be mentioned is that just 2 years before my ditching, I have made a water egress training test with a professional guy in a pool (although I am a good swimmer, I am 1.90 mt tall and thinking of ditching in the relatively small cockpit of the RV has been always something that I thought possible due to long X-country on open waters).

The whole thing from the mid air collision to the egress from the cockpit lasted a little bit more than 2 minutes (2 minutes and 20 seconds), but lot of things happened and many things were thought, analyzed and made.

In the whole process of ditching, things were really calm (until a certain point that I will explain) and that’s not because I have steel nerves, but just for one simple and understandable reason.

A catastrophic mid air collision is something that you can hardly tell and that’s what I thought during the big collision: I clearly remember (you can see from the video) a lot of noise, litterally falling from the sky with a lot of negaive g's, a big shade in the cockpit, my canopy obscured by the wing of the other aircraft and the nose down 30 degree (starting at just 500 feet AGL) with the sea approaching. I thought: OK, now it’s going to finish. This is so vivid.

For pure luck, although left wing was really damaged, prop bent, engine out, left flap bent and after a difficult recovery at just 40 feet from the sea, I found the aircraft controllable (almost) with light again “ON” in my cockpit.

I was so surprised (after being 100% sure that I was going to die) that I thought: “OK, I have to ditch, but the worst has passed, prepare yourself”.

Part 1

Last edited by luigi_from_italy : 08-29-2018 at 06:19 PM.
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Old 08-29-2018, 05:58 PM
sailvi767 sailvi767 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Charlotte NC
Posts: 921

Looking forward to reading the rest of the story. Thank you for taking the time to post.
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Old 08-29-2018, 06:08 PM
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DeltaRomeo DeltaRomeo is offline
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Location: Highland Village, TX
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THANK YOU for posting this. I can't imagine how gut wrenching all this must have been for you, your family and friends. Thank you for taking the time to detail your thoughts so that we can learn from it.

Kindest regards,
doug reeves.
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Old 08-29-2018, 07:15 PM
climberrn climberrn is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Carson City, NV
Posts: 305


Thank you for posting this. A lot of thoughts go through your head after a crash, and hearing your story helps me, as I am sure it will help many others.

Kudos to you for talking about it.

RV-7A at CXP
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:08 PM
rackley16 rackley16 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Oceanside, California
Posts: 90

Wow. I have watched that video taken by beach goers a few times before. I am eagerly awaiting the part 2.

Thanks for sharing. I hope to learn things that could help me in the event of a similar ditching that I hope to never encounter.
2019 dues paid.
RV7 empennage acquired and the "journey" has officially begun. Wings are here!
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:18 PM
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erich weaver erich weaver is offline
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Location: santa barbara, CA
Posts: 1,614

Water landing segment at about 4:20 on this video

Thank you for sharing your story Luigi

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Old 08-29-2018, 09:57 PM
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jcarne jcarne is offline
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Worland, Wyoming
Posts: 912

I also have seen this video in the past many times and wondered about the story. Thank you very much for posting your tale!
Jereme Carne
RV-7A Emp. done
Wings mostly done
Fuselage almost done
Finish kit arrived
Exempt but gladly paying!
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:16 AM
luigi_from_italy luigi_from_italy is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 29

I cannot remember my airspeed, but it was sure high (I cannot remember exactly how much), because we were performing at IAS 150 knots @ 500’ and considering the sudden descend (let’s call it in that way), I am sure that I picked a lot. Starting an emergency with plenty of airspeed is surely a good thing, especially if you are few feet from sea surface. More time available to pick the best suitable place for the emergency, it was immediately clear to me that my engine was out.
It was not the “silence” of the engine, it was the sight of my prop. The Hartzell was simply completely bent, very similar to turboprops when the pilot “flags” the props. It was just moving very slowly and I will tell you one thing that is unbelievable, but it’s 100% true: I thought “OK, now the props are giving very low resistance, expect a better glide ratio”. I am still surprised on what I thought in those few seconds, especially considering the other things that were performed afterwards.
Again, no particular steel nerves, aircraft untangled and controllable, that was the miracle and I had only to do what my instructor always said, “just fly the airplane”.
By the way, the props was “free castoring”, it was really giving low resistance and I actually had the feeling of a better glide ratio.
The really awful image was my left wing and my left flap, you can see them from the photos, actually I could see the spar so my first worry was losing the wing, that’s why (again, really intended) I just blew off speed by flying low over the sea (in case of teared off wing, I thought to minimize gravity).
And that’s why I did not deployed flap: the idea of one flap lowered (the right) and the other now (the left), I thought could be a snap roll (maybe not, but that what I have thought).
Then there was the spot to choose to put down the airplane. There were a lot of people on the beach (again, big airshow, around 50K bystanders), but around 10 meters from the beach it was fenced (good policy of the airshows in Italy) so, theorically, it would have been possible to land there.
My main concern was the aircraft: would I lose the wing in seconds? This is what I really thought: a big disaster on bystanders. So the choice was made: I will land as close as possible to the beach, but in the water, where the area has a tipically few inches of depth (again, swimming was fobidden during the airshow and also no boats or whatever is permitted in the waterfronts).
It was time to organize the aircraft, mixture pulled off, but I forgot the Master (more on that later).
Open the canopy?
Big deal and this is what I remember from some topics in Vansforum regarding that. What you can see from the video is that I open slightly for an inch or something, holding it to see what happens for some seconds and then I fully open it. No big deal, as far as I can remember, but for sure my airspeed was bleeding off, maybe in the area of 100 knots.
Then the headsets (which were expensive almost new Bose A10): I thought (or I red somewhere that they could be an obstacle in the egress, because could entangle you), so I throw them at my right side outside the airplane.
Ironically, again clearly visible from the video, I broke the cord of the A10 one month before while exiting the aircraft (my feet “pulled” the cable and broke the connectors), while the A10, during the emergency, remained attached, hanging on the right side of the fuselage. I recovered them (but not repaired).
Last thing, I pulled as hard as I could my seat belts (5 points, standard) and here I was.
First (maybe useless suggestion) whenever you have to land in a short field or soft field or any area where you think that RV might flipover, pull those seat belts as hard as you can, I had no absolutely consequences (head against the cockpit during the flip).
All the things that I have mentioned were done in less than 1.5 minute, it seems unbeleivable to me too, but that’s the reality.

Part 2 (at 3 ends, no worries).
Luigi Wilmo Franceschetti
Brescia, Italy
Former RV7 Owner & Pilot
Now Extra 330 LT Owner & Pilot
Instagram luigifranceschetti

Last edited by luigi_from_italy : 08-31-2018 at 05:18 AM.
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Old 08-31-2018, 07:01 AM
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AndyRV7 AndyRV7 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Hudson County, NJ
Posts: 1,035

I'm glad you posted this. My one immediate takeaway from the videos back when the accident happened was I would ditch further offshore if I had to. It looked like the shallow water would lock the canopy on you and you could drown trying to get free. I always wondered what your opinion was after the egress.
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Old 08-31-2018, 07:18 AM
Mark_H Mark_H is offline
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Wharton, TX
Posts: 86

Outstanding handling of the emergency. Given the options it seems like you did almost everything right. With the crowd right there to help I think close to them was the right call. If you were unconscious, deeper water would have been a death sentence. As a guy on the beach my first thought would have been to flip you back over the prop and get you upright and away from the water unless you were already unbuckled. Thanks for sharing the story.
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