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On July 1, 2009, about 0930 mountain standard time, a Cessna R172K, N1055V, made a hard bounced landing at the Page Municipal Airport, Page, Arizona. The airplane was substantially damaged. Neither the private pilot nor the two passengers were injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules flight plan had been filed for the personal flight. The airplane was operated by Spitfire Aviation, Santa Barbara, California. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and it originated from Kingman, Arizona, about 0700.
The pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that Spitfire Aviation's management had authorized her to rent N1055V for the several day duration round-robin cross-country flight. The pilot had previously rented airplanes from this flight school, where she had taken lessons from its owner and learned to fly.
In the pilot's completed Safety Board "Aircraft Accident Report," form 6120.1, the pilot reported that she had departed from Santa Barbara on June 30, 2009, with two passengers. En route to Nevada, the pilot's first landing was at Kingman, where she completely refueled the airplane. The following morning, July 1, the pilot continued the flight and flew to Page, where she made a hard landing.
Regarding the landing, the pilot stated that no crosswind existed during the traffic pattern approach and touchdown. The airplane touched down on its main landing gear and then bounced 10 feet into the air. The pilot further reported that during the second bounce, she recalled that the airplane was in a nose high attitude before it bounced the third (final) time. The last impact on the runway was the hardest, and the pilot stated that she was shaken up by the experience.
Following the hard landing event, the pilot communicated with a certified flight instructor (CFI) employed by Spitfire Aviation, the flight school from whom she had rented the airplane. The pilot requested guidance from the CFI regarding possible reasons for her hard landing and follow-up action regarding the airplane. The CFI provided the pilot with the requested information and guidance.
The pilot requested that a local airplane mechanic look at the airplane before she departed Page to continue her cross-country flight. The Safety Board investigator interviewed the airplane mechanic. The mechanic reported that he performed a brief visual "walk-around" inspection of the airplane. His work was performed for the pilot on a gratuitous basis. The mechanic stated that he did not remove the engine cowling, and no work order was opened. The mechanic reported he informed the pilot that he did not observe any obvious external structural damage. However, he did notice that oil had been leaking from the engine compartment, and the airplane's belly was dirty.
On July 4, the pilot concluded the flight upon returning the airplane to Spitfire Aviation's Santa Barbara fixed base operation.
The aforementioned CFI reported to the Safety Board investigator that on July 13, he went to Spitfire's maintenance hangar where N1055V was located. The airplane's engine cowling had been removed. The airplane's firewall was found bent so badly that it had twisted some of the airplane's instrument housings.
According to the Spitfire mechanic who performed the initial structural examination for damage, major wrinkles in a "V" shape were noted on both the left and right side of the cockpit floor near the center pedestal, and sheet metal on the floor was deformed. The left and right side of the lower firewall was bent. The mechanic reported to the Safety Board investigator that the damage "was consistent with a hard landing event." The Safety Board investigator's subsequent review of Spitfire's records showed that replacement parts were ordered. The airplane had undergone a major structural repair that included repair of the firewall.
Airplane Operation and Repair
After the accident pilot returned the airplane to Spitfire Aviation on July 4, the operator placed the substantially damaged airplane back on its rental flight line. The airplane was subsequently rented.
The Safety Board investigator interviewed the aforementioned CFI. The CFI stated that on July 11 he had detected binding of the airplane's elevator control system but elected to fly the airplane with a student/passenger. After completing the flight, the CFI alerted management of his observations, and the airplane was removed from service to undergo maintenance.
Spitfire's "Daily Schedule" and rental records indicated that N1055V was listed as being continuously in maintenance from at least July 13, 2009, through September 7, 2009. There were no reports of other accidents or incidents involving N1055V between July 4 and July 13 when N1055V entered maintenance.
Contrary to a written insurance loss statement signed by the pilot on August 17, which asserted that the bounced landing event had occurred upon landing in Santa Barbara on August 12, the pilot informed the Safety Board investigator that she had not flown N1055V since returning the airplane to Santa Barbara on July 4. The pilot verbally acknowledged to the Safety Board investigator that the hard landing had, in fact, occurred in Page on July 1, and that the FBO's owner had required her to report that the accident had occurred on a subsequent date. (See the Safety Board's docket for additional information regarding the pilot's first reported date for the landing mishap, airplane rental records, mechanic's statements and ordered parts.)
Accident Notification and Documentation
The National Transportation Safety Board did not receive notification of the accident pursuant to 49 CFR Part 830 from either personnel at Spitfire Aviation who observed the airplane's damaged condition, or from the accident pilot who had been informed of its damage.
On October 20, 2009, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel received initial information from a former Spitfire Aviation employee that disclosed an accident had occurred that had not been reported. FAA personnel communicated relevant information about the suspected event to the Safety Board investigator.
Spitfire Aviation's owner and its chief airplane mechanic refused to disclose to the Safety Board investigator information about the mishap. They refused access to airplane operation and maintenance records. As a result and after repeated requests for records, on January 22, 2010, the Safety Board issued Spitfire Aviation's owner a subpoena duces tecum.