On July 3, 1996, at 1745 central daylight time, a Beech BE95-A55, N2992F, registered to Italian Aviation Services Inc., and operated by Versatile Helicopters Inc., as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 flight, exited the runway during the takeoff at the Ardmore Downtown Airport, Ardmore, Oklahoma. The commercial/multiengine rated pilot and the commercial/multiengine flight instructor were not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the planned cross-country flight and a flight plan was not filed.

During personal telephone interviews, conducted by the investigator-in-charge, the operator reported the following information. The flight instructor had trained the commercial/multiengine pilot for his multiengine rating, which was obtained in April 1996. The commercial/multiengine pilot purchased a block of flight time (50 hours) in the airplane and the instructor pilot agreed to fly with the commercial/multiengine pilot acting as pilot-in-command, while he would act as the safety pilot for emergency situations and for insurance purposes. Approximately 26 hours of the block of flight time had been completed. The operator further reported that the flight was departing for Denton, Texas, for aircraft refueling in preparation for a trip the following morning to Dayton, Ohio. During takeoff, the airplane exited the runway, struck a fence, and came to rest in a ditch. Structural damage occurred to the propeller, gear, wings, flaps, and fuselage.

During telephone interviews, conducted by the investigator-in-charge, the commercial/multiengine pilot and the flight instructor reported the following information. The commercial/multiengine pilot was pilot-in-command for the flight. The commercial/multiengine pilot was performing the takeoff on runway 17 while the instructor called out airspeeds and directed his attention inside and outside the cockpit. After the airspeed reached approximately 80 mph, the instructor maintained vision outside the cockpit. The commercial/multiengine pilot felt the airplane "hit a few dips in the runway." Both pilots heard a "loud bang" from the right side of the airplane and the flight instructor took command of the flight. The airplane "ballooned into the air, settled onto the left main gear, and then veered to the right." The instructor realized that the propellers had struck the runway. Subsequently the airplane veered to the left, "hit a dip near the taxiway sending the aircraft airborne over the taxiway and [skidded] into the ditch where the airplane stopped."

The flight instructor further reported that the hand of the commercial/multiengine pilot was on the throttles during the takeoff roll; however, once the 80 mph airspeed callout was made, he was not aware of the pilot's hand position. During the previous 10 days, the commercial/multiengine pilot had flown the airplane 26.1 hours with the flight instructor.

The commercial/multiengine pilot reported that the flight time was personal and the flight instructor neither instructed nor manipulated the flight controls until taking command during the accident sequence. The pilot recalled having moved his hand to the trim; however, he "did not remember touching the gear" selector switch.

The operator examined the gear system and determined that "the damage occurred to the activating mechanism by the gear retracting upon lift-off from the runway." He did not observe "any major component failure or lack of continuity in [the] gear retraction torque tubes or bellcrank."

The FAA inspector examined the site and the airplane gear system. He reported skid marks on the runway and ground slash marks left of the runway. The inspector reported that damage to the gear doors was consistent with closed gear doors.

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