At about 1213 Eastern time, the airplane collided with a taxiway sign following a rejected takeoff. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.
The airplane had been undergoing avionics installations for several weeks prior to the accident flight. While passing through 80 KIAS on the takeoff roll, the pilot’s canopy began to open. The left wing came up and the pilot rejected the takeoff. The airplane began to settle and the landing gear collapsed. The airplane departed the right side of the runway and struck a taxiway sign. The airplane came to rest in the grass, adjacent to the runway.
Examination revealed the landing gear extend/retract switch was installed upside-down in the newly replaced instrument panel. The switch was in the “retract” position during preflight and takeoff; however, the safety squat switch on the landing gear prevented gear retraction on the ground. Once weight was removed from the landing gear during the takeoff sequence, the gear retracted.