On April 24, 1999 at 0940 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N38968, operated by the Vagabond Flying Asscociation (VFA), received substantial damage during landing rollout on runway 36 (4,000 feet by 75 feet, asphalt/dry) at Morris Municipal Airport, Morris, Illinois. The private pilot was a member of VFA. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was not operating on a flight plan. The private pilot and all of two passengers reported no injuries. The flight departed Dupage Airport (DPA), West Chicago, Illinois, at 0907, en route to Morris Municipal Airport (C09).

The pilot reported, that during takeoff from DPA, the landing gear nose wheel was vibrating and kept pulling the airplane to the left. The pilot stated that he eased the nose wheel off the ground and continued his flight to C09 which was reporting, through the automated weather observation system, a wind of 4 knots. The pilot stated that there were no landings by other aircraft on Runway 36 at C09 prior to his landing. He stated that his final approach speed was 70 knots and 65 knots over the threshold. The pilot stated that he was lined up with the centerline runway 36 while touching down. At approximately 50-100 feet down runway 36, the right main landing gear wheel touched down first followed by the left at which point the aircraft "scooted over to the runway lights". The pilot stated that he then lowered the nose wheel which caused the airplane to turn more to the left. The pilot further stated that to avoid the runway lights, he tried to go diagonally through the lights and off the runway while keeping back pressure on the control yoke. He reported that the aircraft went down and then up through a drainage ditch located along side of the runway. The pilot added that there was a crosswind component and a wind gust during his landing attempt. He also stated that he had overheard two other people at the airport who also experienced wind gusts during landing.

In a written statement, the pilot reported, "Upon reaching Morris (C09) the windsock indicated the winds were from the NE at 8-10 knots. Entered the pattern for runway 36. As the mains were touching down, a strong gust of wind from the right blew the airplane towards the left side of the runway near the runway lights. As the nose wheel touched down the airplane pulled to the left again. In order to avoid hitting several runway lights attempted to guide the airplane between the lights into the grassy area to the left of the runway. As the airplane was being slowed in the grass, a drop off of about 5 feet into a drainage area appeared. The airplane went over the drop off. The nose strut was bent backwards and the prop struck the ground. The engine was at idle at this time. After the airplane came to a stop everyone exited the airplane unhurt".

The Aurora Automated Surface Observing System, located approximately 21 nmi north of C09, reported at 0953, the wind to be 101 degrees at 9 knots with no gusts.

The airport manager reported that the winds at C09 were 090 degrees at 10 knots with gusts to 15 knots. He also reported that one runway light, located approximately 500-1,000 feet from the threshold of runway 36, was damaged.

A VFA member reported that he had flown the accident aircraft on the previous flight for 2.1 hours. He had performed six takeoff and landings during this flight. He also reported that he had been flying the aircraft regularly and that the aircraft did not have any problems with the landing gear nose wheel steering prior to the accident.

Inspection of the aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration revealed no mechanical anomalies.

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