UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED?

THE FAA CONSIDERS JOHN DENVER'S PLANE EXPERIMENTAL, BUT THAT'S NOT THE SAME THING AS CALLING IT TOO RISKY TO FLY

The term experimental aircraft carries an ominous suggestion of danger. If it's experimental, it might still have glitches that could send you plummeting out of the sky in a hurry. Besides, nonmilitary experimental planes are often built from kits out in the pilot's garage or barn. It's pretty obvious that you would need to have a death wish--or at least a reckless soul--to go up in one.

Yet what's obvious isn't always true. The plane in which John Denver died last week was indeed an experimental aircraft, a model called the Long-EZ. But it would be naive to assume that the...

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