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Those Who Have and Those Who Won’t

True, most gear-up landings don’t cause great injury or damage to the airplane, but it can still take months (and tens of thousands of dollars) to fix the plane -- and the cost does *not* go away.True, most gear-up landings don’t cause great injury or damage to the airplane, but it can still take months (and tens of thousands of dollars) to fix the plane -- and the cost does *not* go away. The mishap will have a lasting effect on the resale price of the aircraft and the pilot’s insurance premiums. The sad truth is that mechanically induced gear-ups are very, very few in number. Translation: It’s usually the pilot’s fault. Therefore, almost all gear-up landings are preventable if you establish procedures and follow them consistently.

IFR Pilots: Always EXTEND THE LANDING GEAR AT THE FINAL APPROACH FIX (FAF) inbound. If you need a greater rate of descent, reduce power *after* gear extension.

VFR Pilots: EXTEND THE GEAR WHEN YOU’RE ABEAM THE 'NUMBERS' of the active runway.

ALL Pilots: NEVER GO BELOW YOUR 'GEA' WITH THE GEAR UP. Compute a gear extension altitude (GEA) for each arrival. Your GEA should be 1000ft above the field elevation at your destination. Use the same GEA *every time* you fly and write it down next to the destination airport’s arrival frequencies.

Winning Mentality: It’s the landing gear, *not* a power reduction, that initiates final descent. Why: In most airplanes, gear extension will create nearly the perfect rate of descent for an Instrument Landing System (ILS) glideslope -- with no change in trim or airspeed. So, VFR or IFR, the drag created by gear extension produces a textbook final descent.

DOWN AND...
Make sure the gear is down and locked. Begin checking when you throw the gear lever down...

  • Listen to the gear motor or pump, and the sound the wind makes.
  • Observe the proper effects of the gear on attitude and airspeed.
  • Check the indicating systems as soon as possible after gear extension.
  • Kill the approach (go around) if anything 'sounds,' 'feels' or 'indicates' abnormally.
  • Expect a problem. This will promote a vigilant mentality -- and cater to your hero complex...
  • Don’t depend on alarms to protect you from a gear-up landing. Accident reports are full of stories about people who were saturated with other tasks and simply didn’t notice warnings.

Bottom Line: Landing gear -up is the ultimate 'failure to follow standard procedures' accident. ESTABLISH PROCEDURES and DO THINGS THE SAME WAY EVERY TIME YOU FLY.

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About This Author:
Tom Turner is a widely published author and regular forum speaker at EAA's Oshkosh/Airventure and American Bonanza Society. Tom holds an M.S. in Aviation Safety with an emphasis on pilot training methods and human factors. He has worked as lead instructor at FlightSafety International, developed and conducted flight test profiles for modified aircraft and authored three books including: Cockpit Resource Management: The Private Pilot's Guide and Instrument Flying Handbook (both from McGraw-Hill). His flight experience currently spans 3000 hours with approximately 1800 logged as an instructor. Tom's certificate currently shows ATP MEL with Commercial/Instrument privileges in SEL airplanes.
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