On May 13, 1997, at 1000 central daylight time (cdt) a Beech BE35, N144GM, was substantially damaged when the airplane's landing gear collapsed during takeoff at the Liberty Airport, Liberty, Missouri. This was the airplane's first flight following an annual inspection. The airline transport rated pilot was uninjured in the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot was interviewed by the investigator in charge (IIC) on June 3, 1997 by telephone. The pilot reported that the taxi out and run up were normal before the planned departure. He reported that at approximately 65 miles per hour he lifted the airplane off the runway. The airplane then encountered a gust of wind and it settled toward the runway at which time he heard a loud bang, the engine stopped and oil filled the windshield. The pilot reported that he was sure the landing gear selector was in the down position before takeoff, and that the manual indicator near the nose wheel area was in agreement with the selector switch. The manual indicator in the nose wheel area is not interconnected with the retraction switch position.

An FAA Inspector examined the accident airplane on June 2, 1997. The inspector reported that all gear legs of the airplane showed signs of damage and the damage was not limited to the nose, or the nose gear area. The inspector reported that one of the checks that is accomplished during the annual inspection is a manual gear extension. The inspector reported that the normal sequence used is to put the gear up and down normally to check operation of the aircraft systems, and then to retract the gear using the aircraft system followed by a manual extension using the hand crank located behind the front right seat of the airplane.

The IIC requested a copy of the last annual inspection from the pilot. The IIC also asked the pilot if any adjustments had been done on the landing gear during the last annual. The pilot said he was unsure if any landing gear adjustments had been completed. As of June 30, 1997, no documentation of landing gear problems had been received by the IIC from the pilot of the accident airplane.

The IIC examined the maintenance manual airworthiness directives (AD's)and similar flight manuals as the accident airplane. One manual reports that the squat switch is located on the right landing gear and normally activates when the right oleo strut is 3/8 of an inch before maximum extension. A review of the AD's issued for this airplane did not reveal any problems of inadvertent landing gear retraction. Two airplane flight manuals of similar model aircraft were reviewed by the IIC. Both manuals reported that the normal speed for lift off is 65 miles per hour.

The airplane's nose area and integral fuselage engine mount were bent and crushed. The main gear doors were bent and scratched.

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