IT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN TO YOU
COMANCHE ACCIDENTS, 3.2003, AND A CASE
by Omri Talmon
COMANCHE ACCIDENTS, 3.2003
3.1 Date: 03/07/2003. Acft: PA-24-250. Descr: ACFT GEAR COLLAPSED ON LANDING. Damage: None. 4 occupants, no injuries.
3.2 Date: 03/10/2003. Acft: PA-24-250. Descr: ACFT LOST ENGINE AFTER TAKEOFF AND MADE AN EMERGENCY LANDING ON I-35, OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES ARE UNKNOWN. Damage: None. One occupant, no injuries.
3.3 Date: 03/14/2003. Acft: PA-24-250. Descr: ACFT RAN OUT OF FUEL AND BELLY LANDED WEST OF BELEN, NM. Damage: Substantial. Two occupants, no injuries.
3.4 Date: 03/15/2003. Acft: PA-24-260. Descr: WHILE PRACTICING EMERGENCY LANDING PROCEDURES AT A PRIVATE AIRSTRIP NEAR WILLIAMS, AZ, THE ENGINE FAILED ON SHORT FINAL, AND THE AIRCRAFT CONTACTED THE RUNWAY, DAMAGING THE LANDING GEAR. THE PILOT FLEW THE AIRCRAFT TO THE WILLIAMS GATEWAY AIRPORT (IWA) AND LANDED GEAR UP AT 0709 PST. SUBSTANTIAL DAMAGE, NO INJURIES TO THE 3 PERSONS ON BOARD. Damage: Substantial.
We know by now that the most frequent cause of accidents/incidents in our fleet (and among General Aviation retractable piston engine aircraft) is the landing gear. Yet, there are seldom any NTSB reports on such accidents. Nothing to write home about, it usually only amounts to minor damage. It so happens that the Lessons My Comanche Taught Me, for April, has an article by one of our most experienced pilots who landed gear up. Here is a copy of an NTSB case I found.
As the pilot was entering the pattern, he made a 360 degree turn to allow time for another aircraft to depart. As he reentered the pattern, he failed to recheck the checklist, which he had on his instrument panel. He continued the pattern and, during touchdown, realized he had forgotten to lower the gear.
The pilot forgot to extend the landing gear before landing. Factors relating to the accident were: an interruption of the pilot's habit pattern, when he circled to provide time for another airplane to take off as he entered the traffic pattern; and his failure to follow the available checklist.
On July 2, 1996, approximately 1045 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-24-250, landed wheels-up at Bear Lake County Airport near Paris, Idaho. The airplane was substantially damaged in the landing. According to the FAA preliminary accident notice, the pilot was on a 14 CFR 91 local pleasure flight.
He had departed Bear Lake County Airport about 15 minutes earlier in order to give some friends a ride around the area. The flight was being conducted in visual meteorological conditions, and no flight plan had been filed. There was no report of an ELT activation. According to the pilot, he made a 360 degree turn while entering the pattern in order to provide an aircraft that was taxiing out time to depart. When he reentered the pattern, he forgot to "recheck" the checklist that was on his instrument panel. He continued around the pattern, and upon touchdown realized that he had forgotten to lower the gear.
We all develop habits, which sometimes become second nature, or conditional reflexes (does the name Pavlov ring a bell?). An interruption of the habit is cited here as a contributing factor.
What can we do about it? Develop habits with as few loopholes as possible.
For example: Each interruption of a procedure should reset the clock and we should start the checklist again, from scratch.
With specific reference to the landing gear: On very short final, typically where the minimum for an ILS approach would be, check one last time that the landing gear is down and locked. At that stage of the game it is not too late to go around and take the time to fix any problem.
Every flight in general, and every landing in particular, should be considered as your first solo.
Training means learning the rules, experience means learning the exceptions.
Omri Talmon, born in 1936, lives in Tel Aviv, Israel. He holds degrees in engineering, business administration and accounting. Presently a consultant, he worked for many years as an executive for several hi-tech companies. Omri is a private pilot with both Israeli and U.S. certificates. His ratings include SEL, MEL, Instrument, Glider, and CFI (glider). Since 1974 he owns and flies a 1966 PA-30-B, registration 4X-CAO.