From The Logbook - Gear Up!!
Reprinted with permission from Jim Trusty,
I have seen it happen, been in the airplane
behind someone who did it, come close myself after coming
out of maintenance, and have seen the handiwork of a Gear Up
Landing on a dozen different aircraft over the years. All of
those involved, pilots and looky-loos alike, readily agree
that the slide down the asphalt did nothing to improve the
aerodynamics of the machine or their standing in the
This article came about after an instructor
buddy slid a Cessna 337 to a perfect no point landing with a
new buyer who had zero time in the craft. Guess who the
Federal Aviation Administration says was the Pilot in
Command? I'm not sure exactly who is going to carry the
entire burden of blame in this incident/accident, but I'll
bet it won't be the new owner/pilot. And there are also some
insurance money issues that someone will have to resolve.
THE PROBLEM: It really starts in the
transition stage when the student leaves Welded In Place for
Retractable Gear. The instructor should start their spiel
with good coverage of the following: For the rest of your
aviation life, no matter the machine you are flying,
consider whatever you are in as a Retractable Gear. That
means doing GUMPS (Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Props,
Switches) on every single landing. It means that they must
pick a point where the gear is thrown every single time. It
means teaching that checking with mirrors or just looking
out is permissible. It means verifying that the gear is down
with whatever resources you have available, including a
tower flyby with some very carefully chosen words (remember,
they are recorded).
WHAT HAPPENS: Getting behind the
airplane is the usual cause. Mistaking the Gear Horn for the
Stall Warning Horn. Not knowing exactly how the gear works
in an actual emergency. Not being prepared for a go-around
if you discover the gear is not down. Not knowing what to do
with all that metal when you hear that first scraping noise.
Not using the pre-landing and landing checklist on the
ground before the flight to familiarize yourself with how it
flows, and then getting too busy on final to even pick it
THE CURE: You are driving a machine that
came from the manufacturer with a notion in their minds that
you could possibly land with the gear up so you need to take
some private time and look that bird over. No one cares if
you make a personal checklist from scratch or use one from
the factory or order one from a company that specializes in
checklists, but you simply must use one on every flight or
problems, like the gear, are going to happen far too often.
I fly a twin-turbine on a Corporate 135 ticket and we use a
12-page checklist. I think sometimes that the only reason we
have to fly with two pilots is so that one can read the
checklist. Seems good to me, and it certainly makes our runs
THE AFTERMATH: Someone is in trouble!
Someone is going to have to pay for all that damage. Someone
is responsible for any injury to a person or passenger.
Someone is going to be introduced to a Federal Aviation
Administration crash team and be asked to explain why the
aircraft was landed GEAR-UP.
AT THE END: I can't stress enough the
importance of flying the airplane correctly on each flight,
and that includes being the Pilot in Command, controlling
each phase of the flight, the passengers, and certainly
every movement required to get from "A" to "B" and land
safely. It is a stressful position to be in but you chose
this seat and it's up to you to fill it.
THE FAA POSITION: I'm told that it
varies with each Gear-Up. If it can be proven to be a gear
malfunction, that might help. If this is a continuation of
bad habits on the pilot's part, that doesn't bode well. If
anyone is injured or dies as a result of the slide, there is
trouble on the horizon for someone. The inspectors assigned
to investigate are given wide latitude in assigning the
blame and the penalties. You would think that the
incident/accident embarrassment for the pilot would be
enough, but that is usually not the case.
THE AFTERMATH: The seriousness of this
mental malfunction will never go away, no matter the length
of your aviation industry career. Even if you go to the moon
on one tank of fuel and do a perfect landing there, you will
always be known as the pilot who did the GEAR-UP!
YOUR ROLE: Prior Planning Prevents P---
P--- Performance. According to statistics, 78% of the time
it is entirely up to you whether you land Gear-Up or not.
And my final words on this subject are: CHECKLIST and GUMPS!
Oh, lest I forget, the slider and scraper
that brought this article on. We spent some enjoyable time
together and eventually agreed that, unable to find someone
else to blame, it was his fault. How? (He asked that
numerous times.) Since no one but he had any time in the
craft and since he was performing the duties of an FAA
Certificated Flight Instructor and had also agreed to check
out the owner and the son-in-law, VFR, and they were the
only airplane in the patch, by the process of elimination he
was elected. I think he learned something that many
Instructors forget and that is, just because you flew
something once does not make you qualified for life. Just
because you sit in the right seat does not make you an
instructor, and just because the other cockpit resident sits
in the left seat does not necessarily mean he can pilot the
airplane, and lastly, having a certificate in your pocket
does not keep you current.
I like this guy and that scraping noise will
remain with him forever, which isn't such a bad thing. He
has learned the value of GUMPS without any blood being shed.
Money spent? Yes. Ego bruised? Yes, but anyone hurt? No! Did
I get you to thinking? Which option do you choose, #1 or #2
or to be #3, the pilot who never lands Gear Up?
Written permission from the author is
required to reprint this copyrighted material (2007)
JAMES E. (Jim) TRUSTY, ATP~CFI~IGI was named
the FAA/Aviation Industry National Flight Instructor of the
Year for 1997, and the first ever FAA Southern Region
Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year in 1995 and then again
in 2005. He still works full-time as a Corporate 135 Pilot~
"Gold Seal" Flight & Ground Instructor FAA Safety Team
Program Lead Representative~ National Aviation Magazine
Writer. You have been enjoying his work since 1973 in
publications worldwide. If you have comments, questions,
complaints, or compliments, please e-mail them directly to
him, and he will certainly respond. Thanks.(Lrn2Fly@Bellsouth.Net)
JUST REMEMBER, ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED AND
"ALL LIMITS ARE SELF-IMPOSED".