On December 18, 2001, about 1330 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 185F, N5172R, ground looped on landing at Reno, Nevada. The commercial pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot and one passenger were not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight departed Carson City, Nevada, about 1315. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot stated the landing was uneventful until he lowered the tail to the ground. The airplane suddenly veered to the right. The pilot locked up the left wheel brake, but the airplane continued to the right. Just before the airplane stopped, the left wing and horizontal stabilizer contacted the ground.

The Federal Aviation Administration inspector completed a preliminary examination of the airplane. The pilot told him that on several previous occasions the tail wheel seemed to stick initially and cause the airplane to deviate from the selected track, but would free up and track straight. The inspector determined the tail wheel rotated freely until he moved it to its maximum left deflection limit, and the tail wheel locked in this position.

A mechanic examined the tail wheel and filed a report with the inspector. The mechanic felt that the tail wheel stuck right of center. He detected wear on both sides of the thrust plate spacers (part number 3407-00). He suspected that the tail wheel springs (part number 3233-00) were binding on the thrust plates. He recommended replacement of the thrust plates whenever they showed wear on either side.

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