On April 27, 2011, about 1500 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172, N4072F, nosed over after landing at Falcon Field Airport, Mesa, Arizona. The student pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The pilot was uninjured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage to the vertical stabilizer and rudder. The local flight departed Mesa about 1445. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot stated that he planned to perform three touch-and-go landings on runway 22R. During the first landing roll the airplane began to drift to the left. The pilot applied right rudder input, and the airplane nosed over.

Postaccident examination by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the left-hand steering tube rod end had separated from the nose gear steering assembly with the threaded portion remaining within the assembly. The rod end fitting was fractured through the shank between the locking nut and the head of the rod end. The inspector examined the remaining steering controls and reported no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The left side of the nose wheel rim exhibited scratches and scuffing.

The rod end was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board Office of Research and Engineering Materials Laboratory for examination. Magnified visual inspection revealed that the fracture was through the last full thread in the fitting shank. The fracture features and deformation patterns were consistent with a bending overstress separation, and no indication of preexisting cracking, such as fatigue, was present.

The pilot reported a total flight time in all aircraft of 27 hours, all of which was flown in the accident airplane make and model.

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