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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Thursday, March 30, 2006

When it rains...

I thought that flying into ice-filled and turbulent clouds over the mountains was enough excitement for one week, but obviously not.
After 8 hours of flying, which took us from Manassas to Raleigh, Atlanta and back, there was more. At night, of course.
On a right base for runway 16L at KHEF, we failed to see the three greens that usually illuminate upon activating the gear lever in the down position. In other words, our wheels may not be down, which obviously presents a problem. I immediately called tower to ask if we could circle while troubleshooting the issue.
Ron, my flight partner, cycled the gear a few times, while I shone my flashlight outside the window in a futile attempt to see the reflection of the nosegear in the engine nacelle-mounted mirror. Nothing. Or at least nothing that I could discern in the dead of night.
After glancing over at the landing gear indicator light circuit breaker, I told Ron to bring the power back to see if the horn would sound. The annoying sound usually acts as a reminder to forgetful pilots to lower the gear. Sure enough, it blared at us as the "gear unsafe" light failed to go off.
We definitely had a problem: the gear was stuck in the wheel wells. Not the end of the world though, since we could use the emergency gear extension.
In the Seminole, hydraulic pressure holds the landing gear in the up position. The gear lever, when it works, lowers the gear out of its wells into the locked position. Failing that, the pilot could just flush that pressure by pulling the red knob, which allows the wheels to freefall and lock into position. However, the procedure has to be done below 100 knots, or the gear may not lock properly. So we had to do this right.
I told Ron to slow to below the prescribed speed and told him to expect a bang but not to worry. As he pulled the knob, the reassuring thud sounded. Being cautious, I called tower and told the controller we'd like to overfly the runway in hopes that he could confirm that our gear was in fact down.
"It appears to be," he said as we whizzed by the tower.
On downwind, I briefed Ron about what we'd do if the gear wasn't in fact locked and we ran through the before landing checklist again. As we turned onto final, I ran him through the landing: nice and slow, hold it off as much as possible to touch down softly, but not quite enough to plump it down on the tarmac.
He did a nice job and put the aircraft down gently, without further excitement.
This, of course, happened at night, after a long 8 hours of flying.
Luck, however, was on our side as the controller shut the tower down for the day as we parked the aircraft. At least we had someone to help us down.
Something new every day...


Anonymous phil said...

good job.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Sean meehan said...

good work man. nice job. i had the same thing happen in the arrow while working the pattern at HEF one night. Its a shady experience to say the least.

2:21 PM  

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