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Aircraft crash blamed on landing gear

The plane after it crash-landed near Barham
The plane after it crash-landed near Barham

A report into a light aircraft crash has blamed the incident on weakness in the landing gear.

That has been attributed to continued use of the “undulating” airstrip and the fact that the aircraft was carrying relatively high weight as the pilot had a passenger with him.

The 61-year-old pilot of the 1999 built Brandli Cherry – Reg G-BXUX – and the passenger walked away from the crash at Clipgate Farm airstrip, Barham, unhurt.

However, the aircraft, owned by Michael Fountain of Alkham Valley Road, Alkham, Dover, was seriously damaged.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch report into the crash, which happened on the evening of July 21, last year, says that while taking off the aircraft suffered a partial failure of the wooden structure supporting the right main landing gear.

The report says the aircraft climbed away safely and, after several low passes along the runway for observers to assess the damage it came into land. However, the landing gear collapsed on landing.

The report continues: “It was determined that the structure which failed had probably been weakened over a period of time by the aircraft’s operation from the undulating grass surface of the runway at its home airfield.”

The report says the landing gear and associated mechanism and propeller were damaged and the engine was “shock-loaded.”

“The aircraft was based at Clipgate Farm airstrip, whose grass runway is, in places, uneven. The pilot had planned a short local flight with a friend, who was also a pilot,” says the report.

“The takeoff progressed normally until rotation (the point just before take-off), at which point a significant 'crack/bang’ was heard. The aircraft continued to accelerate and climbed away.

“The pilot climbed the aircraft to circuit height, but found that he was unable to retract the landing gear. Both occupants thought that a part of the gear may have broken off, although no debris was visible on the runway surface.

“The passenger used a mobile phone to contact the airfield owner, who asked for someone to attend the airfield in order to inspect the landing gear while the aircraft conducted a low pass.

“This was done and the observer advised that the right landing gear leg appeared to be partially retracted and trailing rearwards.”

The report says that the pilot of the damaged plane then contacted the pilot of another aircraft by radio, who was a Light Aircraft Association inspector who had taken off earlier, and asked him to land and conduct a similar inspection during another low pass.

It continues: “These observations confirmed the earlier findings and additionally noted that the left main gear and nose leg appeared to be in their normal extended positions.

“The pilot and passenger decided to request that the emergency services attend the airfield, following which they would carry out what they expected to be a crash-landing.

“After the arrival of the emergency services, the pilot flew a long, flat approach and touched down approximately 60m beyond the threshold.

“The landing gear collapsed immediately on touchdown and the aircraft skidded on its belly for about 40m before coming to rest.

“Both occupants were uninjured and left the aircraft without difficulty. Initial examination of the aircraft revealed that the right wheel had completely detached from its leg during the landing.”

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