The pilot reported that while taxiing for takeoff in the Cessna 172P for a local flight with passengers in Mitchellville, Md., the right rudder felt “stiff.” Once in the air, the rudder operated normally, however, the pilot’s first landing was “hard.”
After picking up a second set of passengers, he noticed that while taxiing back to the runway, the right rudder felt even more stiff. At one point during the taxi, he “stomped” on the rudder to steer the airplane right, but did not think much of the anomaly, as the plane seemed to move normally after applying additional engine power.
During the subsequent takeoff, he noticed that the right rudder pedal continued to feel stiffer than it had during the previous takeoff.
During the second landing, the plane veered immediately left upon touchdown and departed the runway. The pilot attempted to correct the course, but the right rudder pedal was unresponsive. He then attempted to abort the landing, but once in the air, he realized the plane would not be able to climb above approaching trees and decided to land in a farm field.
During the landing the nose landing gear collapsed and the plane nosed over, resulting in substantial damage.
An FAA inspector examined the airframe and flight controls following the accident and confirmed that the rudder was free to move, but that the nose steering system of the airplane had been compromised during the accident and its pre-impact functionality could not be determined.
When asked how the accident could have been prevented the pilot stated, “After a hard land[ing] have the plane inspected – Don’t takeoff even if it seems normal.”
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s decision to depart with a known deficiency following a hard landing. Contributing to the accident was an anomaly of the airplane’s nosewheel steering that could not be replicated during post-accident examination.
NTSB Identification: ERA13CA377
This August 2013 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.