Acknowledgements: Thomas P. Turner – Mastery Flight Training Inc.
(Ed Note: The following relates to an actual gear-up landing incident at Daytona Beach, Florida, and if you view the two video films included in the report you can understand the value of calm control, and the advisability of regular refresher training on potential emergency situations).
A reader wrote:
“Tom, I wanted to let you know that I had a gear up landing in my Baron last week. The FAA and the local shop are getting ready to put the plane on jacks to look into a root cause …..“
Tom’s thoughts on viewing the filmed incident:
“Two things are obvious from the video posted by a witness on Face-Book, and which was forwarded to me by the pilot involved. To see it, follow the link below:
• The amazing display of sparks (amid an impressive scraping sound) beneath and below the airplane as it slid down the runway. Twilight conditions made the sparks very visible. Although we do not see the sparks in a full-daylight gear up landing, they are there even in the bright light of day.
• The speed and efficiency with which the pilot, an adult passenger, and two young children evacuated the aircraft and moved well away, toward first responders. The visible sparks and smoke in the cabin, as reported by the pilot, emphasized the need to evacuate.
Although the sparks may not be as visible in full daylight, there is good reason to swiftly evacuate after a gear-up landing. Although it is rare, I have heard of several cases in which post-gear-up airplanes erupted into flame as much as half an hour after ending their runway slide.
The rapid evacuation was no accident—it could only have been done with forethought, and then with active direction by the pilot. In a local television news video, the pilot is quoted as crediting annual training for the success of his landing. Follow the following link for the TV report:
When the gear would not extend either normally or manually using the emergency extension procedure, the pilot told me, he used his training to plan and execute the emergency landing.
This included a decision to divert from his destination, his home airport, to the Daytona Beach airport because of its rescue response capability and the length of its runways.
Investigation revealed a pre-impact mechanical failure of the landing gear motor. When the motor seized, the design of the Baron’s gear extension system made it impossible to put the wheels down. Fortuitously the gear was fully up when the failure occurred, the pilot told me, although he quips that he would prefer it to have stuck down!
This event serves to remind us that despite a pilot’s actions machines sometimes break. When that machine is an airplane the pilot will have to make many decisions, perform many actions, and above all, uphold his/her responsibility to passengers - all while flying the airplane.
The pilot of the Baron was ready. Would you be?"