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Steering Problems Suspected In United Accident

September 14, 1988

DENVER (AP) _ A United Airlines DC-10 that skidded off a runway at Stapleton International Airport may have experienced steering problems before the accident occurred, a federal aviation official said.

One person out of the 207 aboard suffered minor injuries in Monday’s mishap.

The pilot ″had some problems with the steering, he went off the runway, and they evacuated,″ said Bob Shelton, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s regional office in Denver.

″They did have some steering problems. ... The nose tire did show some chafing, which meant it was sliding, which usually indicates a steering problem, like you’re dragging it sideways across the pavement,″ he said.

Pilots who witnessed the incident said the pilot apparently overshot the runway landing area, touching down 4,000 to 5,000 feet from the start of the runway, instead of within the 3,000 feet required by FAA regulations.

Federal records also showed that the plane had problems with its landing gear three times this summer.

Tracks left by the jetliner’s tires indicate that it veered from the rain- wet runway on a high-speed taxiway about 1,000 feet down from the touchdown point.

After it landed, the plane traveled nearly 2,000 feet on grass and dirt beside the 10,000-foot-long runway and bumped over two taxiway crossings. Its nose landing gear collapsed near a third taxiway crossing, said Stapleton spokesman Norm Avery.

Loren Steiner, president of Golden Eagle Charter and a licensed air transport pilot, watched the plane touch down from his office near the runway.

The pilot, he said, ″was at the normal altitude and speed (for landing) but he was too far down the runway. There was a lot of black smoke and debris flying; it may be that he blew a tire then.″

In two previous incidents involving the landing gear, crews flying the plane reported that nose-wheel warning lights went off as the aircraft was preparing to land, the FAA said. On a third occasion, warning lights for all three of the plane’s landing gear illuminated as the aircraft took off.

In each instance, the problem was corrected, and no accident occurred, the FAA reported.

Although the cause of the accident is still under investigation, United Airlines spokesman Joe Hopkins said the airline concluded the type of problems reported on the landing gear earlier could not have been a factor.