On January 13, 1996, at 1330 mountain standard time, a Bellanca 17-30A, N4109B, departed the side of the runway during landing roll at Belen, New Mexico. The private pilot and his passenger were not injured and the aircraft sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for this local area personal flight conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight departed Belen at 1245.

According to the pilot, the weather was clear with little wind. He said he had noted on previous flights that the aircraft occasionally pulled to the left and exhibited intermittent directional instability during takeoff and landing roll. The pilot stated that on previous landings during this flight, the aircraft had tended to pull left during landing roll but was easily controlled. On the landing during which the accident occurred, the pilot said the landing was smooth and the aircraft veered left immediately upon touch down before the nose wheel was on the runway. The attached pilot statement and diagram provide information that the aircraft exited the side of the runway and was brought to a stop on the median between the runway and taxiway after clearing a culvert without contact.

According to the pilot, initial inspection of the aircraft by the pilot and a mechanic did not reveal damage sufficient to meet the NTSB accident definition. Examination by an FAA Airworthiness Inspector revealed damage to ribs and stringers adjacent to the left main landing gear attach point and he found that the right main landing gear was loose in the mounts and the torque link was improperly chimed. The right main landing gear condition was found when the aircraft was on body jacks with the gear free. The FAA inspector said he could find no damage directly attributable to the runway departure.

The FAA inspector who examined the aircraft said he could not determine when the damage adjacent to the left main landing gear attach point took place or how long the right main landing gear had been loose in the mounts. He did say that it was possible that these conditions had been present for some period of time.

The pilot said he purchased the aircraft on December 14, 1995, and according to his flight time, provided as part of completing NTSB Form 6120.1/2, he had flown the aircraft approximately 23 hours since it was purchased. During a telephone interview, the pilot stated he had no maintenance performed on the landing gear since purchasing the aircraft.

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