On September 20, 2006, about 1645 Pacific daylight time, a Mooney M20C, N5577Q, experienced disconnection of the elevator flight control system seconds after taking off from the Auburn Municipal Airport, Auburn, California. The airplane pitched uncontrollably upward, and the private pilot responded by reducing engine power to idle. The pilot made a forced landing on the underlying runway, near midfield. The airplane was substantially damaged upon touching down hard on the runway, and the pilot received minor injuries. The pilot owned and operated the airplane, and his flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight to Riverside, California.

The pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that nothing unusual was noted with the airplane during his preflight inspection. Seconds after becoming airborne he lost all pitch control of his airplane as it climbed between 30 and 50 feet above the runway. The pilot further reported that he immediately opted to land his airplane.

The airplane, serial number 2977, was manufactured in 1965. Its approximate total time was 5,638 hours, and the time since receiving its last annual inspection in January, 2006, was about 148 hours.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) coordinator performed an examination of the airplane under the direction of the Safety Board investigator. The examination revealed that the elevator's push-pull control rod (part number 914012-15) was broken/separated in the empennage. The rod's breakage appeared to have resulted from bending fatigue. One end of the rod had been connected to a bearing (part number M34-14). The rod end bearing was observed seized; it would not pivot/rotate at its attachment location in the bellcrank assembly. The FAA coordinator stated that the bearing was corroded, devoid of lubrication, and was "bound solid."

In 1973 the FAA issued Airworthiness Directive (AD) number 73-21-01, which was pertinent to N5577Q. The AD required recurring lubrication of all flight control systems at intervals not to exceed 12 calendar months or 100 hours time in service to prevent corrosion that might result in binding or seizure of the joints and loss of flight control. The FAA coordinator reported observing a logbook maintenance entry indicating that the AD had been complied with during the last inspection of the airplane, which was the preceding annual inspection. Thereafter, no logbook evidence was found indicating accomplishment of any further elevator control rod attachment lubrication.

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