On June 8, 1996, about 0645 Atlantic standard time, a Piper PA-32R-301, N821RR, registered to a private individual, was substantially damaged on landing at the Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport, San Juan Puerto Rico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 instructional flight. The student pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The flight originated about 15 minutes earlier.

The student pilot failed to observe and remove tape that was covering each static port during the preflight inspection of the airplane. He stated he used the manufacturer's inspection checklist, but it indicates that the static ports are required to be inspected to verify that they are clear. The purpose of the flight was to perform touch-and-go landings and after departure during the downwind leg, the airspeed indicator indicated 0. He lowered the landing gear selector handle but the landing gear did not extend and the landing gear indicator lights circuit breaker popped. He reset the circuit breaker several times and continued in the pattern flying over the runway about 50 feet above ground level. The flight remained in the traffic pattern and the circuit breaker again popped several times. While on final approach during the second pattern, all three landing gear down and locked lights were illuminated and he landed the airplane just beyond the threshold. During the landing roll the landing gear collapsed and the airplane came to rest upright. The pilot did not activate the alternate static source and he stated that the nose baggage door opened at touchdown.

Witnesses on the airport reported seeing the airplane flying in the traffic pattern at near full power. One witness stated he did not detect a change in engine sound between the initial climb and the descent for landing.

According to an FAA airworthiness inspector who examined the runway and airplane the day of the accident, he reported that he observed 10 propeller ground scars on the runway. He also reported that the nose landing gear down lock mechanism was sheared and both main landing gears exhibited evidence of being forced rearward and upward. Also noted was that both main landing gear strut assemblies were bent aft. Ground scars on the runway indicate that after the landing gear collapsed , the airplane slid on the ground then became airborne momentarily before coming to rest upright on the runway. Additionally, the three propeller blades were observed to be curled forward and both upper engine mounts were failed. Both trunnion fitting assemblies for each main landing gear were failed. Visual examination of the fracture surfaces of the engine mounts and the trunnion fitting assemblies revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction. The FAA inspector also stated that the damage to the airplane was consistent with a hard landing and he observed tape over each static port. The airplane was equipped with an alternate static source.

According to the Director of Maintenance for Caribbean Helicorp., he placed electrical tape over both static ports 2 days before the accident in preparation for washing the airplane. Another company employee washed the airplane but both failed to remove the tape over each port.

The pilot had accumulated a total of 3.6 hours solo in the accident airplane and had performed no more than 15 landings during solo flight.

Flight testing of a different airplane equipped with a similar pitot/static system and both static ports taped was accomplished. The flight test revealed that the airspeed indicator would indicate during the takeoff roll and also during the initial climb. While climbing through 500 feet, the airspeed indicator began to decrease and at 500 feet indicated 0. The airspeed indicator again began to indicate at 300 feet.

Supplemental information prepared by a metallurgist provided by the pilot indicated that "...the wings were permanently damaged due to the bending force exerted by the impact during the touch down."

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