July 2019 Aviation Articles

How to Manually Extend Your Gear in an Emergency

Complex airplanes can be a large variety of different types of planes. Federal Aviation Regulations in the Airplane Flying Handbook define a complex aircraft to be "an airplane that has a retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller." So, this can be different types of jets and especially general aviation planes.

Most commonly, we see general aviation planes such as a Piper Cherokee featured here on the GlobalAir.com Aircraft for Sale area. Planes like these are usually the roots of most pilots when they were working towards a complex endorsement. Nonetheless, every pilot should be ready for a gear extension failure regardless of the plane they're flying. 

The first step to realizing you've had a gear extension failure is after vocalizing gear in transition, checking to see that the gear is fully down. There will be an absence of a light on the indicator (in most cases it's green). Some planes may have 3 green lights for each wheel, and some may just have one. Regardless, if any of the required indicator lights are absent, you've got an issue.

Here, you want to do a quick check to see if it's the lightbulb that's the issue and not the gear itself. Ensure your master and alternator switches are on, and if able pull the outer cover of the light off to see the lightbulb. You can easily touch it or lightly twist it and if it comes on, then it's the lightbulb that's malfunctioning. Always check your circuit breakers as well. If the gear circuit is out, push it back in one time. If the light comes on, again it's an electrical issue there and not the gear. However, if the circuit pops back out again leave it alone. It's popping out for a reason, so don't push it in again and especially don't hold it in. 

If you've ran through these first steps and have diagnosed it's not the landing gear position indicators that are out, now it's time for a manual gear extension. Let ATC know (if you're talking to them) what's going on and what you're about to do, and if you're coming in to land (which you most likely are) that you'll be going ahead with a go around. It doesn't matter if you get the gear down safely in time for touchdown, take another lap in the pattern. This reverts back to safe decision making.

Next, follow your emergency checklist according to your POH here to start emergency gear extension. Check airspeed is below what's published-because the gear may not be able to drop down without hydraulic power if you're too fast-and hit the landing gear selector down. Now grab your emergency gear extension lever and drop it down. Here you should feel the gear drop down, as you'll feel the drag and airspeed will slow.

You're not done yet. Now, you have to make sure the gear is locked in place. The last thing you'd want is to have followed a good emergency gear extension checklist, then touchdown and have a wheel collapse. You can ensure this by checking your landing gear lights are all lighted. 

But what if you have an electrical problem (reverting back to earlier) and can't see a light, or it still isn't lighted? That means you have to "wiggle the plane" so to speak and push the gear into place. Yaw the aircraft with rudder to both sides, and this should push the sides into locking. The nosewheel should have locked into place given that you let the gear down below airspeed. 

Now, you're ready to land. Again, let ATC now know what is going on. On a VFR day at a controlled airport, tower can even help you out by spotting you and letting you know if they see all your gear is down. This also goes at an uncontrolled field if someone else is in the vicinity and talking on the CTAF. Think of out of the box ideas like this to help you, it's all about managing the resources available and making safety a priority. 

In the worst case scenario that gear still isn't down, go then to your gear up landing checklist. If you haven't already, now it's time to officially declare an emergency.

Now matter what follow your checklists, use your available resources, revert back to your training, and most of all stay calm. Panicking is the worst thing to do in any emergency because you can't think straight and can now easily stray away from your procedures. 

Have any stories about doing a manual gear extension or any emergency scenario stories in general? Comment below and stay tuned for more posts!

Effects of Summer Flying and How to Overcome It

First and foremost, let's state the most obvious effect of summer flying: it. is. hot.

Being a pilot from Texas, I can personally say you should check on your southern friends. There's a good chance we're dehydrated and .2 seconds away from passing out due to heat exhaustion. 

Okay, maybe a little overdramatic....but it is hot. 

When flying in the summer, whether as a student, flight instructor, or any type of general aviation pilot we need to understand the effects of the weather changes. 

Rule number 1: Always carry water. Even if you just hydrated before your flight and don't think you need it, grab water anyways (and by the way, try to go green and make it a reusable water bottle while you're at it). From first-hand experience, dehydration and heat exhaustion can have a bigger impact on flying than you'd think. Your decision-making skills and effectiveness on hand-flying the plane start to deteriorate. If ignored, dizziness and a headache can start to occur. This becomes even more important on long haul flights. Don't be the newest accident statistic due to poor flight preparation.  Even if you're in a rush, take 2 extra minutes and grab that water. 

Rule number 2: Take into account the changes it can have on aircraft performance. If you're taking off from an airport with a short runway, even if a ground roll is normally adequate, double check it. The hotter it is, the longer ground roll you need. That point you're used to rotating at or obstacle you're used to clearing might not be your friend today, especially as the heat rises continuing into August. A great tool to help gauge the temperatures at the surface and at altitude is the GlobalAir Aviation Weather Temperatures Tool. Just click the "national weather" tab, then click "temperature" and see it all illustrated on an analysis chart. A quick tip: if you're using it to plan a flight for later in the future (and not 30 minutes from now) make sure you click for the right time frame! 

Surface Temperature

Rule number 3: Still on the weather subject, check your winds before heading out. You're most likely to encounter gusts of wind on a hot summer day with calm winds at the surface. I've also experienced this firsthand, so it became a learning experience. As soon as I reached 1500 ft the wind picked up, and it didn't stop. The turbulence actually reached moderate for me that day, so I cut my flight short and went back. No sense in taking chances to keep going and fighting the plane the entire time! For any situation with undesirable weather or even maintenance issues remember this: it's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground. The GlobalAir Winds Aloft Tool is also a great resource in planning for this. Be sure to check this and local METAR/TAF for each upcoming flight to ensure you don't get in a situation making you wish you were on the ground. 

Have any other tips for summer flying? Or maybe just good stories to tell that others can learn from? Feel free to comment them below. In the meantime, have a safe flight and happy landings!

Avoiding Drug And Alcohol Testing "Gotchas"

Avioding Drug and Alcohol Testing Gotchas in Aviation Law

The drug and alcohol testing requirements of 14 C.F.R. Part 120 and 49 C.F.R. Part 40 continue to cause issues for aviation employers. An initial decision in a recent civil penalty action, In the Matter of Regency Air, LLC, highlights two areas of potential confusion and risk faced by an aviation employer.

In Regency the FAA assessed a civil penalty of $17,400 against the employer for alleged violations of drug and alcohol testing regulations in connection with its hiring and use of mechanics. As you may know, aircraft maintenance is a “safety-sensitive function” that may only be performed by an employee who is included in the employer’s drug and alcohol testing program. Regency appealed the FAA’s order and a hearing was held before a Department of Transportation Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) which highlighted several drug and alcohol testing “gotchas.”

In one instance, Regency argued that the mechanic performed his work as a favor to Regency and since Regency did not compensate the mechanic for the work, the mechanic was thus not an employee subject to drug and alcohol testing. However, the ALJ rejected that defense stating that an "employee is an individual who is hired, either directly or by contract, to perform a safety-sensitive function for an employer”, and an individual is “hired” for a safety-sensitive function when he or she is retained “as a paid employee, as a volunteer, or through barter or other form of compensation.” Thus, even though the mechanic was a volunteer working without compensation, he was still considered an employee when he was performing safety-sensitive functions on behalf of Regency.

Another issue in the case arose from a mechanic’s employment by two separate employers. Although the mechanic was included in the first employer’s drug and alcohol testing program, Regency had not added the mechanic to its program. In analyzing the issue, the ALJ initially observed that “an employer may use a contract employee without including the contract employee in its own drug and alcohol testing program if: (1) the contract employee is subject to testing under the contractor’s drug and alcohol testing program, and (2) the work is performed on behalf of that contractor. The ALJ then determined that the mechanic performed the work in question it was performed on behalf of the first employer as a contractor for Regency, and as a result, the mechanic did not need to be included in Regency’s drug and alcohol testing program.

Drug and alcohol testing regulations can be tricky and complicated. However, misunderstandings and/or non-compliance with the regulations are serious and potentially very expensive. If you have questions about the regulations or whether you are complying with the regulations please contact me and I will be happy to help or any professional aviation law attorney, but don't wait until it is too late.

Greg Reigel
Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP
9201 N. Central Expressway, 4th Floor, Dallas, Texas 75231
Direct: (214) 780-1482 - Fax: (214) 780-1401
E-mail:  greigel@shackelford.law
Website:  www.shackelford.law
Twitter:  @ReigelLaw

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