It's always better to learn from the mistakes of others and this problem is just as significant here in OZ. The following safety article and photograph is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Red Star Pilot's Association in the USA. http://www.flyredstar.org/ AWAL applauds safety-related input but, pending official review, does not necessarily endorse the stated views.
This aircraft was in an unrelated landing accident
"Yak on final - Gear - Gear!"
This radio call over CTAF at an RPA fly-in a few years back helped divert a major gear up incident that year. The RedStar community has an increasingly improving flight safety record, especially in light of the type of flying this community enjoys most (close formation, aerobatics, etc.). As we ready for the 2007 fly-in season, let's take a moment to look at the gear up issue and how we can, collectively, avoid such incidents at our clinics and at the home field.
Gear mishaps will always be a "hot item" for our community, especially in the Yak and Nanchang aircraft as they make up the largest numbers. As most Nanchang owners know, their aircraft have a visually identical flap and gear knob, leading to the opportunity to confuse the two if reached for in haste during ground operations. We have had 70 hour PPL pilots and 20,000-plus commercial pilots raise their gear handles on the ground, causing at least some aluminum damage and a prop replacement. Coupled with the occasional pilot failing to lower the gear off the perch/prior to landing, the gear mishap rates have become a focus in the community.
Some have suggested the idea of universal aircraft modifications to install mechanical/visual/oral gear warning devices. Actually, we already have one of the most cost effective and potent gear warning devices available on the market, already fully installed and functioning, and it's absolutely free:
Here are some recommendations we would like all Fly-In Event Organizers and pilots consider integrating in to their flight ops/events in 2007:
A few years back we asked that a policy be put in place at RPA fly-ins that mirrored the gear down call in place in the USAF and USN flight ops. This protocal works, and we should retain it universally in the RPA. Event organizers should communicate this practice in their 8:00AM morning flight schedule briefs to our members:
1. The Base Gear Down Call
Event organizers, If your clinic/fly-in is at a towered airport, you probably already brief the tower cab supervisor of your upcoming event. They need to be familiarized with formation (element/interval) takeoffs, landings and the expanded use of the overhead landing procedures. Brief them on the practice, at RPA fly-ins/training clinics, of the universal use of a "gear down" call by formation/RPA aircraft in the overhead pattern, and that this call will be combined with any normal/required base position call. For non towered (CTAF) airports, the flight call(s) would sound something like this:
"Porterville Traffic, Raven 1 is Left Base, Gear Down, 36, Full Stop, Porterville"
...while subsequent flight members would call...
"Porterville Traffic, Raven 2 is Left Base, Gear Down, 36 Full Stop..."
...and on through the flight numbers as they come off the perch and complet their gear and systems checks...
Are folks applying this procedure now? You bet, and to good effect. At Waycross some of our most active groups apply this call to not only clinic flying, but all formation flight ops.
2. The Internal Gear Down Call
Many of our formation instructors have been in the backseat of a pilot's aircraft at the clinic and heard them over intercom checking each system prior to takeoff; "air valve open, prop forward, full rich, air up...". They aren't verbalizing this checklist for our benefit - their doing it for theirs. But sometimes we notice these same folks stop this practice during critical pre-landing checklists. So solo or dual, you may want to retain the practice of self-verbializing your pre-landing checks over hot mic/Intercom with a visual of your gear indicators. The USAF and USN have a student protocal of verbalizing the gear down action such as; "below 150 knots, gear coming down" - the net effect is whether dual or solo, that verbalizing of the action sticks with you, reinforcing the habit pattern of being "gear aware". This same concept works very well in our critical pre-landing checks; "Prop forward, air up, gear down" ....or as your aircraft systems require.
3. The $5.00 Sliding Gear Lock Lever Challenge
Our prop aircraft have a sliding lock that if actuated, will prevent pulling the gear up on the ground. Whether it's your partner in the airplane, or your wife, you may want to set up a $5.00 no quibbling charge for everytime that level is left in the unlocked position on the ground. To prevent fumbling with the lock lever when raising the gear after takeoff, you may want to incorporate this in your pre-takeoff line-up check: "Gear lock lever released". And relock the gear (down) either after your gear handle is down prior to landing, or after exiting the runway when it's safe to do so. Note: if locking the gear prior to landing, a go around will require reversing this action to raise the gear.
4. No checklist items on an active runway
"The pilot landed and as he rolled out he decided to raise the flaps just prior to turning on to the taxiway. The aircraft's landing gear subsequently collapsed"
Here's one from the major airlines; no checklist items until clear of the runway and safe to do so. After fully exiting the runway, come to a full or near stop and take the time to insure it's the flap knob that is in your hand, and not the idential gear knob. Flight leads can help this practice by briefing this flight policy and they will, normally, rejoin the flight for taxi-in after the overhead landing - and in those cases, request all configuration changes be executed in sequence.
Thanks for listening and here's to the best, and safest, year yet for the RPA.