So many gear-up accidents have happened through the years that one of our popular aviation cliches is, “There are two kinds of pilots, those who have landed gear-up and those who will.”

    One of my students accomplished this feat recently, without injury to himself or anyone else.  This incident was in a Piper Arrow, which somebody describes as Piper’s attempt to “make an unscrewable pooch”, without success.

    My own gear-up story happened several years ago, during an instructional flight. 

    My instrument student was flying a practice VOR approach in his aircraft, a Cessna 182RG.  “Jeff” (not his real name) had flown this approach several times during the training, and had settled in to a routine that looked safe for the aircraft:  He stabilized the airplane outside the VOR on the approach course, crossed the VOR, started the timer for the approach, lowered the gear, reduced power, and established the inbound airspeed for the non-precision descent. 

    This airplane had a green light to indicate gear down and locked, and a yellow light to indicate gear unsafe.  It also had a warning buzzer that sounded if the power was reduced below a pre-set level when the gear was not down and locked.  Our procedure during approaches was to observe the main gear leg on each side coming down into place, look at the indicator light, and confirm to each other, “I have a wheel and a green.”  We would both look at the mirror mounted on the left wing strut to confirm that the nosewheel was down, and verbally confirm to each other that we saw the nosewheel.  These crew actions would be done in the first few seconds after crossing the FAF inbound. 

    Before landing, we would then re-confirm “I have a wheel and a green light”.

    On this approach, the active runway was a crossing runway to the approach runway, necessitating a circling approach.  We did the cross-checks for the gear as usual.  After executing the approach, the pilot crossed over the airport, flew downwind, base and final for the active runway, and touched down.  After the wheels were on the ground, the gear legs folded back and the plane settled onto its rear fuselage and horizontal stabilizer, the nosewheel having stayed down and locked.  The plane  yawed gently off the runway into the grass and stopped with the engine still idling.  The tower controller asked if we needed assistance, and we answered, “yes”, and exited the airplane after shutting down the engine and switches. 

    The results of the investigation into why the gear came back up were inconclusive.  The repair shop was unable to duplicate the gear coming down but not locking.  The stabilizer, elevator and some fuselage skin were replaced and the airplane flew well after the repairs. 

    “Jeff” and I remained mystified as to how we possibly missed something in our procedures.  After the gear-down indicator came on, something happened.  But it didn’t make the warning horn sound when “Jeff” pulled the power all the way back for the landing.  So it’s still a mystery after 20 years.  Other 182RG gear-up reports state that the gear warning horn did not sound......

    Possibly, we had a moment of complacency - did we really both see a green, or were we so used to seeing a green when the gear motor stopped running and the wheels came down that we missed an indication that something wasn’t right?  Could the gear motor circuit breaker have popped just before the mains locked?  We’ll never know.  But the incident made me more determined to always do multiple checks of “gear down and locked” before landing. 



Gear-up landings