On October 26, 1996, about 1455 central daylight time, a Bellanca 17-31ATC, N444TL, owned and operated by a private owner as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, was substantially damaged following a loss of control while landing near Lubbock, Texas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a VFR flight plan was filed. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured. The flight originated from Odessa, Texas, at 1415.

The pilot reported in a telephone interview with the investigator-in-charge and in the Pilot/Operator Accident Report, the following information. After "nose-gear touch down," with "full yoke into the wind," the aircraft made an immediate uncommanded 30 to 40 degree turn to the right. "The pilot attempted to brake and stay along taxiway A [Alpha] where it is diagonal to 17R;" however, "he got only momentary, minimal response, followed by total inability to control the aircraft." The aircraft continued turning right "until the left wing clipped a taxiway sign. This apparently flung [the] aircraft back to the left, where it came to rest with collapsed gear."

The passenger reported that during the approach to runway 17, he noticed there was a crosswind. As the airplane touched down, he "felt contact between the wheels and the runway, it was only momentary, the plane then began to pitch right. The plane was up on its right side [left wing up] throughout the accident." After the airplane skidded off the right side of the runway it began to slide. As the airplane continued to the right, "the left wing clipped a runway sign."

A witness in the Air Traffic Control tower reported observing the following events. The aircraft's approach to the threshold of runway 17R was characterized as "normal." The aircraft continued in flight past the threshold, and "appeared to have touched down" somewhere between the threshold and 1,500 to 2,000 feet down the runway. Immediately the aircraft was observed airborne. The aircraft "was further observed as exhibiting maneuvering as if attempting to overcome the effect of gusty cross winds." One of the aircraft's wings was observed "momentarily high." Then the aircraft "touched down passed [beyond] the 2,000 foot marker and began a right turn excursion off runway 17R, across the grass, Taxiway ALPHA, subsequently striking the taxiway light assembly."

Examination of the accident site by the FAA inspector revealed tire marks exiting the right side of the runway just past taxiway Alpha. The skid marks continued to the right, crossed taxiway Alpha, passed near the runway identification sign, and came to a stop at the aircraft's location. The winds at the time of the accident were from 120 degrees at 14 knots.

Examination of the airplane by the FAA inspector revealed that the nose landing gear and right main landing gear were folded under the aircraft, and the left and right wings were structurally damaged.

Further examination of the nose landing gear assembly by a FAA airworthiness inspector revealed that the nose wheel fork was sheared off at the bottom of the fully collapsed strut. The right steering rod and steering collar attachment were intact. The left steering rod was deformed and separated at its rod end bearing. The threaded portion of the rod end bearing was bent. The right drag strut was bent and its bracket exhibited a "new break," and the left drag strut was intact.

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