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From The Logbook - Gear Up!!

Reprinted with permission from Jim Trusty, 2007

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 aviation community.

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 up.

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 safer.

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)

Jim TrustyJAMES 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 THEREFORE PREVENTABLE!

"ALL LIMITS ARE SELF-IMPOSED".