On September 15, 2010, about 1500 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-34-200T, N2872S, operated by the Citrus County Sheriff's Department, was substantially damaged when the nose landing gear collapsed while landing at Inverness Airport (15FL), Inverness, Florida. The certificated commercial pilot and the passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local public use flight.
According to a written statement submitted by the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to conduct three practice takeoffs and landings in the local airport traffic pattern. Following an uneventful takeoff, the pilot performed the before landing checklist while on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern. After verifying that all of the indications were normal, he utilized a short field landing technique while landing on runway 19. The pilot applied the brakes and retracted the flaps, then heard a "bang" as the nose landing gear collapsed and folded up into the wheel well. The pilot attempted to keep the nose of the airplane up as long as possible and to shut down both engines. The nose subsequently settled onto the runway and both propellers struck the runway surface. The pilot steered to the east side of the runway as the airplane skidded for about 200 to 300 yards.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane following the accident. According to the inspector, the nose landing gear actuator mounting bracket had separated from its respective bulkhead. Further inspection by the operator's maintenance personnel revealed that the rivets attaching the bracket to the bulkhead had sheared vertically. The mechanics also found that the upper nose landing gear drag link attachment bolt was bent, and relayed to the inspector they had observed similar bending following previous hard landings.
The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on April 4, 2010. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accumulated 4,042 total flight hours, and since that time the airplane had accumulated 1 additional flight hour. A mandatory service bulletin issued by the airframe manufacturer, dated April 20, 2006, emphasized and expanded upon the periodic inspection requirements listed in the maintenance manual, and introduced modified, design-improved parts. The service bulletin specifically advised to inspect for loose mounting rivets that attached the actuator mounting bracket to the tunnel aft of the attachment bulkhead. According to the operator's maintenance personnel, they were not familiar with the service bulletin, but stated that the inspections specified would be completed during a routine annual inspection.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with numerous ratings, including airplane multiengine land. The pilot reported 3,200 total hours of flight experience, 640 hours of which were in the accident airplane make and model. The pilot reported 11 hours of flight experience within the 90 days preceding the accident, 10 hours of which were in rotorcraft, and 1 hour of which was in a single engine airplane.
According to FAA airport data, runway 19 at 15FL was 3,762 feet long by 60 feet wide. The pilot reported that on the day of the accident, only 2,500 feet of the total runway length was available due to construction.
The 1455 recorded weather at Crystal River Airport (CGC), Crystal River, Florida, located about 14 nautical miles west of 15FL, included winds from 100 degrees at 11 knots, few clouds at 5,000 feet, 10 statute miles visibility, temperature 33 degrees C, dewpoint 20 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.02 inches of mercury.
Interpolation of a PA-34-200T landing distance performance chart showed that given the weather conditions that existed on the day of the accident, assuming a short field landing procedure, about 2,100 feet of distance were required to clear a 50-foot landing obstacle.
The purpose of the flight was to conduct practice takeoffs and landings in the local airport traffic pattern utilizing a short field landing technique. During the landing roll, the pilot applied the brakes and retracted the flaps, then heard a "bang" as the nose landing gear collapsed and folded back into the wheel well. The nose of the airplane subsequently settled onto the runway and both propellers struck the runway surface. Postaccident examination of the nose landing gear revealed that the rivets attaching the nose landing gear actuator bracket to its mounting bulkhead had sheared vertically due to the landing. Additionally, the upper nose landing gear drag link attachment bolt was bent, consistent with a hard landing.