Student’s improper rudder input leads to runway excursion

The flight instructor reported that, during takeoff with the student pilot on the flight controls, the Cessna 172 veered slightly to the left. She assisted with rudder input and they corrected the veer, but then the airplane veered left abruptly. The instructor assumed control of the airplane, pulled the power, and applied brakes and rudder. But, the airplane exited the runway at the airport in Morristown, New Jersey, to the left into the grass, and the nose landing gear collapsed.

The student reported that, upon reflection, he recalled the instructor telling him about the left turning tendencies and having to correct with the opposite (right) rudder. He reported that he may have corrected with the wrong rudder during the takeoff.

The airplane sustained substantial damaged to the engine mount and fuselage.

The flight instructor reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The automated weather observation station located on the airport reported that, about 10 minutes before the accident, the wind was from 290° at 7 knots. The airplane was departing Runway 31.

The FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-3B, provides information and guidance in a section titled “Normal Takeoff” which states in part:

As the airplane gains speed, the elevator control tends to assume a neutral position if the airplane is correctly trimmed. At the same time, the rudder pedals are used to keep the nose of the airplane pointed down the runway and parallel to the centerline. The effects of engine torque and P-factor at the initial speeds tend to pull the nose to the left. The pilot must use whatever rudder pressure is needed to correct for these effects or winds.

Probable Cause: The student pilot’s improper rudder input and the flight instructor’s delayed remedial action during takeoff, which resulted in a loss of directional control, a runway excursion, and the landing gear collapsing.

NTSB Identification: 99025

This February 2019 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.

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