On March 27, 1997, about 1400 Alaska standard time, N4855C, a Cessna 185 airplane equipped with wheel penetration skis, sustained substantial damage while landing at the Birchwood Airport, Chugiak, Alaska. The solo commercial pilot was not injured. The local, 14 CFR Part 91 postmaintenance test flight operated in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan.

The pilot, who is the owner of the airplane and also a certificated aviation mechanic, reported he had just installed wheel penetration skis on the airplane, and was taking the airplane for a short flight to test the skis. As soon as the airplane lifted off runway 19, he said the ski tips rotated full up, into a nearly vertical position. He maintained full power, and was able to fly the airplane around the traffic pattern and land on the snow covered terrain just short of the approach end of runway 01. The skis failed to rotate down to a normal position upon touchdown, and the airplane continued down the runway for about 100 feet. The pilot said as the airplane slowed, side loads on the right main landing gear ski caused the ski to break free of the main landing gear, and allowed the gear leg to penetrate the snow. After the right gear leg penetrated the snow, the right wing and elevator struck the snow, causing substantial damage.

Postaccident inspection of the airplane's ski assemblies disclosed excessively long check cables which attach near the heel of the skis and prevent the ski tips from pitching up too far.

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