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!