On October 5, 2011, at 1700 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 180J, N180RN, registered to a private owner, departed the left side of the runway and collided with a ditch during takeoff roll at Hampton Roads Executive Airport (PVG), Norfolk, Virginia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the airframe. The certificate private pilot was not injured. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

The pilot stated he completed an engine run-up prior to taxiing into position on the runway. As he started to taxi onto the runway, he noticed the airplane was hard to turn. He thought the tail wheel had not locked into position and continued the turn. He lined up on the center line of the runway, pulling forward to give the tail wheel time to lock into position. He then applied full power to initiate the takeoff roll. He lifted the tail up as the airspeed increased and the airplane pulled to the left. He thought the left brake was dragging, and told himself, "get off the brakes," and realized his foot was not on the brakes. He attempted to straighten the nose out with rudder, but the left main landing gear went off the left side of the runway. He immediately applied brakes and reduced power. The airplane turned 90- degrees off the left side of the runway and was heading towards a ditch. The airplane collided with the ditch before he could stop.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, both brakes appeared to be in good condition, and free to turn. The brakes pads had been replaced during the last annual inspection on December 3, 2010, and had accumulated 36 hours since installation. The brake hydraulic system could not be checked by the FAA due to the brake hydraulic system being breached after the right main landing gear separated. Further examination of the brake system by a mechanic, at an authorized FAA repair station, revealed mud was packed around the axle, brake disc, and cylinder. The mud and debris was removed and the wheel was free to move with a slight drag. No anomalies were noted with the brake wheel cylinder guide pins. The repair station stated in a subsequent email, “Attached please find a photo of the nut and washer that presumably came from the right main gear bolt on N180RN. Obviously it was not attached as the threads are dirty which would be consistent with a nut that was not attached to a bolt. This nut and washer were found in the belly/gearbox area”.

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