For several months we’ve been looking at the pandemic Landing Gear-Related Mishap (LGRM) rate in certified, piston-engine, retractable gear airplanes. Wrapping up, here are 10 Tips for Avoiding LGRMs:
1) Recognize the threat. Simply being aware there’s a continuing hazard associated with RG airplanes should help you work harder to avoid LGRMs.
2) Spend time on training. Review proper landing gear extension and verification discipline, and practice it enough that the patterns become second nature. Perform the emergency landing gear extension procedure (using the checklist) at least once in the specific airplane you fly, so you’re familiar with the process in case you need it.
3) Review the Pilot’s Operating Handbook. Knows how the gear system works, and how manually extend the gear if it doesn’t. You’ll find a lot of information not only in the Normal and Emergency Procedures of the POH, but also in the Limitations, Systems Description, and Handling, Servicing and Maintenance sections.
4) Develop and use Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). To the extent possible, follow the same techniques every time you land. Recognize when conditions cause you to deviate from your SOPs, and take that recognition as a warning to be especially vigilant. Use a prelanding checklist (printed and/or mnemonic).
5) Verify gear extension. Don’t just move the landing gear switch; confirm that the gear goes down and locks. I like to physically hold onto the gear extension switch as a reminder until I have the time to scan the down-and-locked indicators. Many airplanes have external mirrors that allow you to see when the gear is down, and in high-wing designs you can see at least the main wheel on your side of the airplane. Ask passengers to confirm a visible wheel on the other side-to report ‘I see a tire.’
6) Consider distractions you may face. Make sure you’ll remember to lower the gear when other things intrude on your attention.
7) On landing, don’t reconfigure the airplane until it comes to a complete stop. In almost half of the LGRAs the pilot inadvertently retracts the gear during the landing roll in the rush to ‘clean up’ the airplane. Landing gear ‘squat switches’ are supposed to prevent gear movement when there’s weight on the wheels, but FAA reports and practical experiments show they won’t always do so.
8) Avoid ‘touch and go’ practice in RG airplanes. A lot happens in a very short time during a touch-and-go, and many times the pilot inadvertently retracts the landing gear (instead of flaps), causing a mishap. Make all your landings ‘full stop’ to reinforce the discipline of stopping before reconfiguring the airplane.
9) Watch for the warning signs. Certain factors correlate strongly with LGRMs. Make an extra effort to verify proper gear extension when landing in high winds, when flying multiple takeoffs and landings in a single flight, if your airplane has electrical troubles or if you’re practicing unusual maneuvers or procedures.
10) Instructors, be vigilant. If you’re instructing in an RG airplane, you’re the last line of defense in avoiding a gear-related accident. Pay attention to everything that’s going on.
BOTTOM LINE: The landing gear-related mishap epidemic eats away at the active airplane fleet, costs innumerable dollars in repair costs and airplane down-time, may render the offending pilot uninsurable for years, and affects the cost of airplane insurance even for pilots of fixed-gear airplanes. Sometimes it even hurts someone. No one wants to land an airplane gear up, or accidentally retract the gear on the ground. Actively work to avoid having a LGRM.