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On August 18, 2009, about 1445 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-12, N7556H, was substantially damaged following a runway excursion after landing on runway 26 at the South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY), Mount Holly, New Jersey. The certificated commercial pilot and non-pilot rated passenger were not injured. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.
The pilot departed VAY about 1400, and conducted a "completely normal" local flight before returning to the airport for landing. When the airplane was on the final leg of the traffic pattern, the wind "picked up," and the pilot decided to make a "wheel landing to a full stop." The pilot stated that he touched down on the upwind wheel, and noticed a "squealing" sound, "like a tire being skidded." As he lowered the tailwheel onto the ground, the airplane became "squirrely" and started "veering to the left." The pilot attempted to correct the airplane's trajectory with the application of "full left rudder and brake," but the airplane continued towards the edge of the runway, and departed into the grass on the left side of the runway, where it ground-looped.
In a written statement, the pilot said that the passenger had his foot on the left brake pedal during the landing. The pilot stated that he had briefed the passenger prior to the flight regarding the brakes, since the passenger was not familiar with the airplane's heel brake system. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, who responded to the scene, reported that the passenger stated that his hands and feet were clear of all flight controls during the landing.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine and instrument airplane, and a ground instructor certificate. He also held a private pilot certificate with a glider rating. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in July, 2009. According to the pilot, he had approximately 4,600 hours total flight experience, and approximately 155 hours in the accident airplane make and model.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1946. The pilot reported that the most recent annual inspection was completed October 1, 2008, at which time the airframe had accumulated a total time in service of 3,900 hours.
The VAY 1454 automated weather observation included variable direction winds at 4 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, and few clouds at 4,200 feet.
According to FAA information, VAY was equipped with a single asphalt runway that measured 3,911 feet by 50 feet. The runway was reported to be dry at the time of the accident. VAY was not equipped with an air traffic control tower.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
According to the FAA inspector who responded to the accident scene, the airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing spar and the fuselage.
The FAA inspector reported that his examination of the tailwheel assembly revealed that the centering mechanism was "weak," and that the tailwheel could "easily" be moved out of the centered position. The right main landing gear brake line was fracture-separated from the airframe. The mechanical linkages that remained attached to the landing gear were able to be moved freely with light pressure from a screwdriver. The inspector reported that the brake calipers and disc appeared "mechanically sound," but no functional tests were accomplished on the right brake.
All left brake components were visually inspected and found to be "normal." The FAA inspector stated that a functional check of the left wheel brake system was conducted, and that the system functioned satisfactorily, but he did not specify the method used to conduct the functional check. The wheel bearings were not inspected, and the FAA inspector did not report whether the wheel was free to rotate.