On October 25, about 1020 Eastern Daylight Time, a Piper PA-34-200, N16397, was substantially damaged while landing at Hopedale Industrial Park Airport (1B6), Hopedale, Massachusetts. The certificated flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local instructional flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The flight instructor stated that his student completed some airwork, they returned to the airport for landing, and the student flew the airplane. The landing gear was extended as the airplane was entering the traffic pattern, at 1,300 feet. Checklist items, including confirmation of three green landing gear lights were completed, and the approach was normal. The airplane settled from about 5 feet in the air onto the runway. The airplane touched down on the main landing gear first, followed by the nose gear, then the nose gear collapsed. It skidded about 600 feet, and came to rest on the runway. The instructor added that the landing was not soft, but he would not consider it a hard landing. He stated that he had experienced harder landings in the past. He believed that the nose gear may have encountered harder landings in the past, and failed during the landing.

The student pilot stated that she completed some airwork and was returning to the airport. She reduced power on both engines below 14 inches of manifold pressure, and heard a landing gear warning horn. About 5,000 feet, she extended the landing gear to silence the horn. She descended, flew a normal traffic pattern, and completed the checklist items. Three green landing gear lights were confirmed upon entry into the traffic pattern. The airplane settled onto the runway from about 5 feet in the air, and the nose gear collapsed.

The wreckage was examined by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector. The Inspector observed damage to both propellers and sections of the fuselage. He added that the nose landing gear actuator had separated. No other damage to the nose landing gear was observed. The actuator was sent to the Safety Board for further examination.

The actuator was examined by a Metallurgist at the Safety Board's Materials Laboratory. According to the Materials Laboratory Factual Report, "Examination with a scanning electron microscope showed that most of the fracture face contained quasi-cleavage features typical of an overstress separation."

According to a representative from the airplane manufacturer, there were only two scenarios in which the landing gear actuator could separate, without any other damage to the nose landing gear. Either the landing gear was improperly rigged, or it was still in travel as the airplane landed on the runway.

The FAA inspector reviewed the airplane maintenance records. According to the records, the rigging of the landing gear was checked during the last annual inspection, and no maintenance work was performed on the landing gear between the annual inspection and the accident.

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