On May 31, 2009, about 0715 mountain daylight time, a Cessna T188C, N9955J, ground looped during takeoff near Rock Springs, Montana. The pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. The certificated commercial pilot was not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the wing spar and aft fuselage structure. The local aerial application flight was departing from a private airstrip. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported that at the time of the takeoff direct crosswind conditions existed, gusting between 15 and 25 knots. During the takeoff roll the airplane departed the runway, spun around, and came to rest facing opposite the direction of travel.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector responded to the accident site. He observed the outer section of the right main landing gear leg and wheel located 20 feet behind the airplane. The leg had separated into two pieces, 6 inches above the wheel axle. The fracture surfaces of the failure where granular in appearance, and exhibited 45-degree sheer lips at their edges.

The FAA inspector reported that the tailwheel spring was attached to the airplane’s bulkhead, but had failed at the attach point. Pictures taken by the inspector revealed that the tailwheel assembly had rotated 90 degrees around the airplane’s longitudinal axis.

According to the Pilot Operating Handbook applicable to the accident airplane, the takeoff and landing maximum demonstrated crosswind velocity is 16 mph (14 knots).

The airplane was sold by the owner before the NTSB investigator-in-charge could inspect the tailwheel assembly in more detail.

The pilot reported in a written statement to the Safety Board that the accident could have been prevented if he had waited for the wind conditions to subside.

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