Ways to Avoid LGRMS
by ANN Correspondent Rob Finfrock
It's an axiom at least as old as retractable landing gear on
airplanes: when it comes to landing with the gear up, there are two
types of pilots: "there are those who have, and those who will."
Perhaps you've even done it yourself, only to have felt that
sickening feeling in your stomach exactly one-half second before
the fuselage of your airplane made contact with the pavement.
Tom Turner does not believe that this scenario is inevitable for
anyone who chooses to fly an airplane that tucks its gear up.
Through extensive research of all landing gear related mishaps
(LGRMs) in the United States over the past five years, he has
arrived at some ways for pilots to avoid this airplane - and ego -
bruising mistake. AirVenture 2005 attendees had the chance to hear
his thoughts at his forum "Those Who Have and Those Who Won't:
Avoiding Landing Gear-Related Mishaps."
"To think that you will inevitably have a gear up landing, or
have your landing gear collapse, just because you fly an RG
airplane - that's similar to saying that all pilots, if they fly
long enough, will eventually run out of fuel," said Turner, now the
operator of Mastery Flight Training in Wichita, KS, as well as
Manager of Technical Services for the American Bonanza Society.
According to statistics Turner obtained from general aviation
insurance company Avemco, as many as half of all certified,
piston-engine, retractable gear aircraft mishaps reported to the
insurance company are landing gear related. In addition to those
incidents where the landing gear failed during the rollout after
landing, or suffered a mechanical problem, "about 35-percent of
those are the classic gear up, 'oops, I forgot,' type of
accidents," said Turner. "There are techniques and procedures we
can follow that allow us to avoid aviation mishaps such as
To lessen the chances that forgetfulness or distraction might
cause an LGRM, Turner says that above all pilots should change
their attitudes while flying an RG aircraft, beginning during
training. "Habit patterns employed in fixed-gear airplanes can at
times set a pilot up for LGRM when flying with retractable landing
gear," commented Turner. "The traditional "three times around the
patch" RG checkout does not provide enough time to replace the law
of primacy with the law of practice, which states we do what we
practice the most, and the law of recency, that we do what we
learned most recently."
In keeping with that philosophy, Turner believes that the
traditional "touch-and-go" practice procedure should be
discouraged. "You're actually defeating a habit pattern of waiting
until you get to the end of your landing roll to clean up the
airplane. A touch-and-go encourages a rapid reconfiguration of the
airplane, and that's what we're trying to avoid."
Pilots should also become familiar with the types of gear-up
warnings that their aircraft utilize, and in what conditions those
warnings may not function. For example, most aircraft use a system
that notes the position of the flaps relative to throttle setting.
To sound the gear horn, the flaps usually need to be fully deployed
with the throttle at a reduced power setting -- a system that might
not work when flying an approach into strong or gusty winds.
"You're carrying power into the headwind, and most of us have
been taught to land with less than full flaps in strong winds,"
While nearly all LGRMs are nonfatal, and usually result in
little personal injury (apart from the aforementioned pilot's ego,)
they are very expensive. According to Avemco, the average insurance
claim amount is more than $45,000 for repairs to aircraft damaged
from LGRMs, mostly due to the costs of engine rebuilding following
a prop strike.
An even more sobering figure: eight percent of all dollars paid
out by Avemco for aviation claims - "including multimillion dollar
payouts on claims that had nothing to do with LGRMs," according to
Turner - have gone to repairing aircraft damaged from landing gear
"Just think of the reduced costs of aircraft repair and
insurance if we can significantly reduce this cause of nearly half
of all RG-airplane accidents."