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Home > Flying the Plane > Is it possible for an airplane to land safely with a defective landing gear?
Is it possible for an airplane to land safely with a defective landing gear?
Flying - Flying the Plane
Wednesday, 12 December 2007 22:20

Hi Capt Lim,

Is it possible for all aircraft to land if one of the landing gear fails to engage? Or is it just certain types of aircraft?

A few years ago, the left wheel of the landing gear on a BMI flight in to a UK airport failed to engage. The pilot was forced to attempt an emergency landing - balancing the plane on the front and right wheel when hitting the runway. He successfully landed the plane with no loss of life or aircraft damage (which I remember as being a Boeing 737).

In the newspaper report some time later, the reporter said that pilots in simulators tried to replicate the problem. They failed to land the plane "normally" on all 20 attempts. Can you attribute this to - a very experienced pilot in the real scenario, overly pessimistic simulators, or both?

Is landing a plane on defective landing gear something that pilots practice in normal training? I assume that if none (or one) of the landing gear deploys, and there is no water around to do a amphibious ditch - you're in trouble!

Yours sincerely and inquisitively,

Thomas Slattery.

Hi Thomas,

When one of the landing gear fails to extend, then it is an emergency. The landing gear system design of the latest jets are getting more reliable. Notwithstanding that, Murphy law states that it can still fail. So there is still a check list for this emergency in all jets today. This check list gives some guidelines on how to handle any combination of landing gear problems.

It is difficult to replicate these problems in the simulator. For instance, if only the left main and nose gear are extended, the procedural guidelines recommend the pilot to land the plane towards the left side of the Runway and holds the right wing up as long as possible during the deceleration. When the right wing runs out of lift and comes into contact with the Runway, the airplane would swing towards the right as it comes to a stop. Hence, the recommendation to land on the left side of the Runway. This part of the exercise is difficult to simulate but pilots are constantly trained on the evacuation exercises in the aftermath of the emergency landing. Of course, a lot of skill is required on the part of the pilot, especially when you have additional factor like a strong cross wind affecting the directional control. So, it is almost never possible to perform a 'normal' landing with a gear problem.

I would not say that landing with a defective landing gear is altogether a dire emergency unless a fire erupts. It is safer to land on the hard runway than trying to ditch on the water with any gear problems. Experience has shown that there are many successful landings with defective gears.

Have a safe flight always ...with all the gears extended :-) !

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