Preliminary Report: Merlin nosegear fails

 - January 31, 2007, 9:07 AM

SWEARINGEN MERLIN IIIA, GRAND JUNCTION, COLO., NOV 18, 2003–Merlin IIIA N332BA, owned and operated by Key Lime Air, Englewood Colo., was substantially damaged when it crashed at approximately 7:21 a.m. (MST). The aircraft was on a landing roll at Walker Field (GJT), Grand Junction, Colo. The pilot, who was the only person on board, was not injured. Operating as a scheduled cargo flight under FAR Part 135, the airplane was in VFR conditions and did not have a flight plan on file. The flight originated at 7:09 a.m. local time at Rifle, Colo (RIL).

According to the pilot, he was told to enter a left base and was cleared to land on Runway 11. The pilot told the investigator that when he lowered the landing gear, he “heard the gear come down,” and he “verified three green [lights] in the gear indicator.” The pilot landed the airplane on the “main wheels first,” and slowly let the nose drop. Both main landing-gear assemblies remained down and locked; however, the nose of the airplane continued to drop and it struck the runway. As the nose dropped, both propellers hit the runway and several fractured propeller pieces hit the left and right sides of the fuselage, resulting in substantial damage to two bulkheads.

The bulkhead forward of the nosegear well was also substantially damaged due to contact with the runway. After initial nose impact, the airplane slid approximately 3,000 feet. (According to FAA preliminary reports, two more Key Lime Swearingens collided while taxiing for takeoff on December 3 at Denver International Airport. No one was injured, but both aircraft were substantially damaged.)