On July 7, 2009, about 1200 Alaska daylight time, a tailwheel-equipped Douglas DC-3C airplane, N777YA, sustained substantial damage while taxiing after landing on a gravel-covered, off-airport site, about 24 miles west of Skwentna, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by Bush Air Cargo, Inc., Anchorage, Alaska, as a visual flight rules (VFR) on-demand charter flight, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. The airline transport captain, the commercial first officer, and the sole passenger, were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed the Palmer Airport, Palmer, Alaska, about 1100.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge on July 7, the captain reported that after an uneventful landing on the gravel-covered site, he elected to roll to the end, turn around, then back-taxi to parking at the opposite end of the site. He said that after completing the 180 degree turn, he and the other pilot heard a loud “thump”, and he stopped the airplane about mid-way along the site.

The crew’s inspection revealed that the airplane’s tailwheel had collapsed, and as a result, the fuselage adjacent to the tailwheel sustained substantial damage.

On July 10, a Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness inspector from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office traveled to the operator’s maintenance facility in Girdwood, Alaska, and examined the airplane after it was recovered. The inspector reported finding a fractured tailwheel shock absorber linkage, part number 2115849-1, which was part of the tailwheel swivel assembly.

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