In the early 1970s, Tony went to work
as a pilot for Japan Airlines (JAL), where
he flew for three decades and 30,000 hours
(give or take) until his retirement at age 60.
Tony had a keen interest in general
aviation. He was an active CFI with single,
multi, and instrument instructor ratings.
After retiring from JAL, Tony and airline
pilot friend Mike Raney built a pressurized Lancair IV-P (serial No. 76), one of the
most sophisticated, highest-performance kit
planes in existence.
wood producer and the other a member of
Eric Clapton’s band.
Tony had been flying the plane around
the country with the Clapton band member
to help him attain the necessary experience
in it. After dropping off the owner at an East
Coast gig, Tony flew the plane to an avion-
ics shop in Charlottesville, Virginia (where it
remained for four days), to correct problems
with noise in the radios, autopilot wiring, and
problems with the fuel quantity indicating
system. The avionics technician troubleshot
the fuel quantity indication problems
and determined that the right send-
ing unit was out of calibration and the
left sending unit was totally inopera-
tive. Replacement of the sending units
would require wing removal, so Tony
elected to defer the work until the
aircraft was back in California.
On June 16, 2001, Tony commenced
his trip from Virginia to California. He
refueled the airplane in Little Rock,
Arkansas, then flew on to Ada, Okla-
homa, where he asked the mechanics
at Tornado Alley Turbo Inc. (TATI)
to take a look at the engine to find out
why the airplane wasn’t getting as
much turbo boost at altitudes above
FL200 as other Lancair IVs. The TATI techs
pulled the engine cowling and found and
fixed a few minor induction leaks.
While the techs were working on the airplane, Tony went to lunch with a TATI engineer. When the two returned from lunch,
N424E was topped off with 24. 5 gallons of
100LL—almost exactly what accident investigators calculated it should have consumed
during the flight from Little Rock to Ada.
It was hot in Ada that day. Not long after
the fuel truck drove off, the TATI engineer
noticed fuel coming out of the Lancair’s wing-tip-mounted fuel vents. He was struck by the
fact that there was only a slow drip coming
from the left wingtip, but a steady stream
coming from the right one—despite the fact
that the aircraft was on a level ramp. The
engineer remarked about this to Tony, who
responded that it was normal for this aircraft.
Shortly thereafter, Tony took off from
Ada on an IFR flight to Flagstaff, Arizona.
He didn’t make it.
The flight was uneventful until the
engine quit during a visual approach to
Flagstaff airport. Tony radioed the tower
that he was not going to be able to make the
field and made a forced landing in a small
clearing two miles northeast of the airport.
Rescue workers arrived on the scene very
quickly. They found no sign of fuel in either
tank, and no evidence of any post-crash fire.
The Lancair’s beefy composite cabin struc-
ture survived the crash remarkably intact,
but Tony was killed on impact when his
head struck the instrument panel.
Tony became very active in the Lancair
builder community and before long gained
a reputation as a top Lancair guru. And
although he did not hold an FAA mechanic
certificate—just a limited repairman certificate for the aircraft that he built—Tony
ultimately was appointed by the FAA as
a designated airworthiness representative
(DAR), empowered to inspect and sign
off on the airworthiness of Lancairs and
other homebuilt aircraft. Many considered
Tony the most knowledgeable individual
about the Lancair IV outside of the Lancair factory.
When Tony had lunch with the TATI
engineer shortly before the accident flight,
their conversation included discussion of
the speed, fuel capacity, and range of the
Lancair IV-P, as well as Tony’s leaning
habits and fuel burn. Tony told the engineer
that N424E, being an early serial-number
aircraft, had two 40-gallon integral wing
tanks, with 78 gallons usable. Later models
(including Tony’s own Lancair IV-P) had
more fuel capacity: 90 gallons standard, with
110 gallons optional.
Tony said that he normally leaned the
big 350-hp Continental TSIO-550-E engine
to 50°F lean-of-peak in cruise, resulting in
a miserly 15 gph fuel burn (as shown on the
aircraft’s digital fuel flow and totalizer system) and a cruise speed up at the flight levels
around 260 KTAS. Allowing for the higher
fuel burn and lower speed during takeoff and
climb, this would put the aircraft’s calculated no-reserve endurance at about four and a
TONY’S FINAL FLIGHT WAS IN
A LANCAIR IV-P, BUT NOT THE
ONE HE BUILT AND OWNED.
Tony’s final flight was in a Lancair IV-P, but
not the one he built and owned. The acci-
dent airplane, N424E, was an early Lancair
IV kit (serial No. 11) originally purchased
in 1990. The partially built aircraft changed
hands a few times and was finally completed
by professional “hired gun” A&Ps in 1998.
The aircraft was acquired by two friends in
the entertainment business: one a Holly-
It’s 750 nautical miles from Ada to
Flagstaff. The flight encountered 20- to 30-
knot head winds (as forecast) and arrived
at Flagstaff less than three and a half hours
after takeoff. That means that Tony should
have landed safely with more than an hour’s
worth of reserve fuel on board. Obviously,
he didn’t. But why?