SEA01LA007
SEA01LA007

On October 23, 2000, approximately 1515 Pacific daylight time, a Beech N35, N1255Z, was substantially damaged when it departed the runway, struck a runway light and taxiway sign and suffered a nose gear collapse during an attempted takeoff from runway 34 at Arlington Municipal Airport, Arlington, Washington. The runway light and taxiway light the aircraft struck were also destroyed. The private pilot-in-command, who was the airplane's sole occupant, was not injured in the accident. Visual meteorological conditions, with northwesterly winds at 5 knots, were reported by the pilot for the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed for the 14 CFR 91 flight bound for Renton, Washington.

The pilot reported that he lined up on the runway centerline before advancing power (NOTE: According to the U.S. Government Airport/Facility Directory, Arlington runway 34 is a 5,333-foot-long by 100-foot-wide asphalt runway.) He stated that as he started the takeoff ground roll, he had full right rudder applied to compensate for engine torque, and that the aircraft started drifting to the right. The pilot reported that he then "slacked off on the right rudder, and the plane started to drift off to the left." The pilot stated that he "tried to correct to the center line, but nothing seemed to happen." The pilot stated that he then recalled a strong swerve to the right and another back to the left, which he thought was in response to left rudder input. He reported that as the aircraft "was reaching near takeoff speed", the aircraft was running off the left side of the runway, and that "From the time the oscillations began until I went off the runway, I didn't have time or presence of mind to reduce power." The aircraft ran off the runway at the south side of taxiway B2, hitting a runway light and then the taxiway identification light head-on with the propeller and nose gear. The pilot stated: "I heard a single loud 'bang' when the gear made contact, and the next thing I knew I was sliding along the grass with the nose on the ground...." Following the collision with the taxiway sign, the aircraft traveled about 300 feet on its nose before coming to a stop.

In his NTSB accident report narrative, the pilot reported that no mechanical failure or malfunction "that can be defined specifically" was involved in the accident, but characterized the accident aircraft as "more difficult than most to control during taxi and takeoff." He stated that "This particular Bonanza always has had a slight bit of free play in the nose wheel steering", although he reported that the free play was within specifications on the aircraft's last annual inspection (conducted on May 5, 2000, according to the pilot's accident report.) In a subsequent letter to the NTSB investigator-in-charge dated November 25, 2000, the pilot (who stated he was a retired Boeing aeronautical engineer with 38 years of aircraft design experience including control system design and analysis) expressed a retrospective belief that a combination of excess stiction in the nose wheel steering system components and elasticity effects, rather than free play, may have imported "non-linear" response characteristics to the nose wheel steering and rendered the aircraft susceptible to overcontrol on the ground. According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Engineering (McGraw-Hill, 1997), stiction is defined as "Friction that tends to prevent relative motion between two movable parts at their null position."

In his NTSB accident report, the pilot made a safety recommendation to "emphasize during flight training and BFR that if there is any sign of impending loss of control during takeoff ground roll, retard the power & slow down rather than continuing while trying to regain control."

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