Piper 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!

Where Are They Now?

Ever wondered what happens to students after they graduate?  Ever notice how their news on lives suddenly tapers off in our modern-day world where social media this time of year used to be filled with this class and that class, hockey games, football games, etc.?  Well, this summer I had the chance to catch up with a recent University of North Dakota (UND) graduate, Tony Batson, at the 2016 AirVenture in Oshkosh and learn about how he started at UND and what he’s up to these days.  

That Chicago Kid…

Tony grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, IL and not surprisingly, had exposure to aviation from a young age.  His father was a big part of his interest in aviation as he was told stories about aviation in World War II as a young kid.  Tony was also into model aircraft building as well as Remote Controlled Aircraft (RCA).  His interest for aviation piqued in high school when he had his first Discovery Flight at Chicagoland Aviation and soon he was working for the company as an aircraft detailer and in their office at the Lewis University Airport (KLOT).

Tony began his search for an aviation university in high school and looked at schools such as Purdue University, and others.  One of his managers was actually a UND alumni which greatly factored in his decision as he heard of how professors at UND would go above and beyond for their students. On a “freezing, cold October day”, Tony made the trip to the upper Midwest and the rest was history.

Being at UND…

Like most students, Tony’s first year was a bit of a culture shock – especially coming to the Midwest after living in the suburbs of a major U.S. city.  His roommate, a local to Grand Forks, took him under his wing.  Tony remembers when they first met his roommate offering his cars and spare keys for whenever he needed to use it.

Flying didn’t always come naturally for Tony and sometimes lessons were challenging, but Tony “hit the ground running”.   He wasn’t just involved in flying – he was also involved in different student groups on campus.

There were many groups that focused on aviation at UND, but Tony remembers Alpha Eta Roe as the “one club I really stuck with”.   As soon as he joined, he had a position – he worked his way through different leadership positions and ended up as the President of the aviation fraternity.  He remembers it as a way to network with leaders of other student groups on campus and what a benefit it was.

After UND…

College wasn’t always about Alpha Eta Ro as he remembers advisers and professors alike as being a positive influence on his time at UND.  However, the fraternity proved to be more than just a spare time activity as his work with the president of Piper Aircraft on a recent visit to UND landed him a job as a graduate intern in the Marketing Department.

He enjoys working with Piper Aircraft as it is something new every day.  Some days he could be working on developing checklists, or he’s working with Sales and matching sales leads with regional dealers or making that first contact.  Recently, he’s been working on marketing the new fleet of Piper aircraft being built to replace the aircraft at UND (and doing a great job, by the way).

Some Words for Students…

I often wonder what graduates would say to students at UND, almost at UND, or fellow graduates.  Tony advises prospective students to get involved and get to know people while his advice to current students is to work hard because it’s a great time for pilots right now.  Grads have some special advice that he tries to embody on a day-today basis:  pay it forward and help the people behind you.

Where Are They Going?

After catching up with Tony, I couldn’t help but be excited about his aviation journey which is just beginning.  I also ruminated on how his current job and experiences were because of UND and the groups he was involved in while a student there – UND is truly a great place to be.

Are you a UND alumni?  Feel free to comment with your memories as a student there or any other school you attended!

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