NTSB Identification: ERA11IA110
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Incident occurred Wednesday, January 05, 2011 in St. Petersburg, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/06/2012
Aircraft: MOONEY M20E, registration: N7828V
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various sources and may not have traveled in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft incident report.

As the pilot was making a night, overwater instrument approach to a coastal airport in the borrowed airplane, he attempted to extend the landing gear normally via the Johnson bar, which he could only partially raise. He checked to see if anything was blocking it then attempted to raise it again without success. He tried a third time before calling the tower air traffic controller and reporting that he had a landing gear problem. About 1/4 mile from the runway, the pilot applied more pressure to the Johnson bar, and it clicked into place; however, the airplane immediately banked to the left. The pilot was unable to turn the yoke to the right, and the airplane continued to roll while descending, at one point approaching a 60-degree bank. The pilot declared an emergency with the tower controller and was cleared to land on any runway. He then retracted the landing gear, but the roll continued. The pilot then retracted the flaps, reduced power, and added full right rudder. He was able to stop the turn with the airplane in a left slip with about 15 to 20 degrees of left bank. After completing about 315 degrees of a 360-degree turn, the pilot saw that he was about to be lined up with the runway again. He lowered the landing gear, and with a right crosswind and left slip, the airplane touched down well left of runway centerline and came to a stop.

A subsequent examination of the airplane revealed no damage. However, below the cockpit, a small flashlight of unknown ownership was found jammed between the aft side of the aft nosewheel well bulkhead and the landing gear bellcrank, adjacent to the aileron control linkage and below where the Johnson bar went through the deck. When the Johnson bar was raised, a 3- to 4-inch hole could be seen in the old, worn boot above where the flashlight was found, which likely allowed the flashlight to fall through. The airplane had been rebuilt between 2004 and 2006, and the latest annual inspection was completed in April 2010 with the airplane determined to be in an airworthy condition. Per Federal Aviation Administration Order 8130.2F, the term “airworthy” is not defined in United States Code; however, for an aircraft to be so, it must conform to its type certificate, and it must be in a condition for safe operation. The Order further defines the condition as being relative to wear and deterioration and states, as examples, skin corrosion, window delamination/crazing, fluid leaks, and tire wear, but nothing relating to interior items. Researched government, industry and advocacy group publications did not emphasize that the condition of interior items, such as boots and covers, could affect aircraft airworthiness.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be:

An inadequately maintained interior cockpit boot, which allowed a flashlight to fall through and subsequently jam the airplane's flight controls. Contributing to the incident was a lack of emphasis by government, industry, and advocacy groups that the condition of interior items, such as boots and covers, could affect aircraft airworthiness.

Full narrative available

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