Back on December 26th, 2009 my wife Kathleen was flying with an instructor in the Citabria that we owned half of as part of her ongoing flight training toward her Single Engine Land pilot rating. (She’s already a rated glider pilot.) They were flying out of Reid Hillview (KRHV) in San Jose, our home airport.
They were practicing short-field landings. That means they were coming in slower and more steeply than normal–but not dangerously so. On their second (and soon to be final) landing of the day, the right landing gear snapped off upon touching down.
The picture above was shot the next day after it had been out in the rain. That’s why you see rust.
The result is that the landing gear, still attached by the brake line, swung around and punched a hole in the right rear fuselage before coming off completely.
The missing landing gear also resulted in a multiple prop strikes (meaning that the propeller hit the runway and bent). That resulted in internal engine damage.
Eventually, the right wing hit the ground and they lost directional control. The airplane ended up in the grass between runway 13L and 13R but they were uninjured–thankfully!
Our mechanic, who has been working on these airplanes about as long as I’ve been alive, had a look at it and told us he’d never seen one break like that before. The steel itself broke–not the fuselage attach bolts which are the typical “weak link” on a Citabria.
Thankfully the airplane was insured. After seeing the pictures and description of the damage and ballpark estimated repair work, they decided to buy the airplane from us and payout fully on the claim. They called it a total loss.
A few days later, N5156X was hauled away to an aircraft scrap yard where undamaged parts of it will presumably be sold off.
I’m going to miss N5156X. It was the airplane that I did the bulk of my private training in, including my solo cross-country flights.
We also flew it out to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone last summer.
You can see more of the photos in my Citabria N5156X Landing Gear Accident set on Flickr.