On May 1 2011, returning home from a weekend of flying at the West Coast Formation Flying clinic, I was faced with a gusty direct crosswind. I made a nice wheel landing on 25R and brought the tail down and applied some brakes to make the closest right turn off. Just as I was beginning the turn to the right, a strong gust of wind caught under the right wing and popped it back up in the air. The left wing dragged on the payment. The left gear remained firmly planted on the ground, but the right gear was up in the air. I gave hard left rudder and aileron to get the right wing back down again and was successful in getting it going straight and level again, but not before the wing-high, sideways movement caused two solid sideways crow-hops on the left main landing gear. The RV-8 gear is made to take pretty good bounce loads directly down and back, but definitely not much in the way of sideways loads it turns out. The plane came to a stop on the runway and a cursory look around didn't yield the perception of any damage, so I taxied back to the hangar. I noticed that the left wheel seemed to be a bit "out of balance", but other than that everything seemed fine.
Well, back at the hangar, everything wasn't exactly "fine". A closer inspection reveled that the sideways loads on the left landing gear had done quite a number on the left gear tower and side of the fuselage. The dog ear mount between the fuselage and the fuel tank was displaced upward about 1.5" inches and the end rib of the fuel tank took most of the stress. Basically, the whole left gear mount and underside is up about 1.5" all around, and the left gear tower is buckled. Amazingly, the Grove Airfoiled Gear did NOT break, although the left one is pretty badly bent at the axle end. The left wing fiberglass tip is cracked in a few places and the left aileron is bent where is scraped on the pavement as is the outboard aileron hinge. No other damage to the left wing and the right wing, tail, engine, and prop are all fine.
There's basically no way to "fix" the fuselage. The nature of the damage is such that it isn't practical or really even "safe" to try and repair. Not to mention it would look like a giant Band-Aid. Fortunately, Van's has a new QuickBuild fuselage in stock, so I will have to start with that. But, that means that there's going to be a sizable amount of work to get the 'ol RV-8 back in the air. Basically all of the internal wiring will have to be redone, and that's a lot of wiring. There are quite a few things that can be salvaged from the old fuselage like the interior and carpet and many of the various side panels. The instrument panel and most of the wiring directly behind it will likely be salvageable as is. Unfortunately, the front windshield and the beautiful mold-in-place fiberglass bezel will not survive the disassembly of the fuselage to recover the instrument panel and other bits. That fiberglass windscreen bezel is probably the one thing that I am the most disheartened about. It was an incredible amount of work and I dread having to start over from scratch on that. :-( All of the electronics and autopilot servos and controls will be salvageable as is. That will save a lot of time. I'll have to rivet the turtledeck top skins on again which was moderately stressful. Firewall forward should simply unbolt and bolt right onto the new fuselage assembly.
The lesson learned here is DON'T TRY TO MAKE THE TURN OFF. If you don't have it made without applying brakes, don't try to make it. Just coast down to the next one or go around. Its not worth the chance of a rather disappointing afternoon. :-(
Under the Category "Rebuild", I will detail the rebuild process from start to finish. I hope to be back in the air by the Spring of 2012. Photos of the carange and start of the rebuild process begin here: