This Week In Gear-up Landing News (Revised)


For news outlets equipped with gyro-stabilized copter cans, gear-up landing videos are a staple. One that occurred in San Jose last week was caught from three angles. As an added bonus, more footage from a gear-up in Phoenix. Both generate some takeaways. For more on gear-up landings, see this AVweb video.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Someone once said: “fly the airplane as far into the crash as possible”. Wise words.

  2. Funny that the pilot called and waited for a runway to be foamed….. and then misses it! Classic bad flying.

  3. Why would anyone ask for the runway to be foamed? That’s a movie myth. The foam used by airport fire crews today is Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). It is designed to smother a fire, deprive it of oxygen, and cool the fire area. It has no purpose on a runway. What was the pilot hoping for, a slipperier runway? AFFF isn’t going to prevent any aircraft damage, and as we saw in this video, it is better in the truck so they can spray it on the airplane after it comes to a stop.

    • The pilot was hoping that any fuel leakage+sparks would be abated by the foam and make the environment less conducive to fire.

      1. He missed the foam
      2. He stalled it in

  4. I have never had a gear up landing but have had several gear indication failures. On airplanes that don’t have secondary gear indications, you just have to trust the gear horn not sounding when you pull power to idle. Paul is correct about gear up landings on grass instead of pavement. I watched a friend land his C182 after losing the nosewheel (strut remaining) on the grass next to the runway. When the nose strut contacted the ground the airplane flipped over and trashed the entire airplane.

  5. Totally agree with pavement v grass…way too many factors in a grassy or field landing v. a nice smooth pavement. Yes, sparks are inevitable however very doubtful a massive fire would erupt given the A/C we witnessed.

    I do question the call for foaming the runway.

  6. I haven’t done it … yet. My neighbor did though, and unlike the video pilot he made a smooth, perfect landing, doubtless because also unlike the video pilot he was unaware the gear was up. So in some cases, too much knowledge can be a bad thing!

  7. C’mon…I doubt many pilots would know that they use “Aqueous Film Forming Foam” or whatever. I fly for the airlines and I sure as hell didn’t. Or maybe I was still trying to figure out the duty time tables when they covered it in ground school. Either way, I guess we are all informed now.

    Its wet and slippery, so in my ignorance, my common sense logic would’ve been “yep, thats probably good” too. Agreed it being a little ironic to miss the foam and stall it in, but let’s give the guy a break.

    I think Ernest Gann said something along the lines of “Eventually airplanes expose us all for what we really are…weak, scared, and easily confused”. Good to remember this when judging others from the lawn chair in front of your hangar.

    • Scripture also says: Aviation is not inherently dangerous…it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity, or neglect.

      Physics does not give you “a break”. Anyone who sits left seat had better know that it IS dangerous if you let feelings or panic influence you. This is judgment by physics and we need to use it as an example of what it is: what not to do.

  8. I’m surprised that no one here questioned why alternate means of lowering the landing gear in these situations weren’t tried? It’s not often that a landing gear gets “stuck” and unable to be lowered because of a purely mechanical issue. Maybe what we should be talking about here is making sure we intimately understand the backup means of lowering the gear or what to do if only one hangs up. They did save an XB-70 from a gear accident using a paper clip across a relay, ya know).

    Then … there’s the numbskull at St Augustine, FL who chased a (I think) Piper Arrow down the runway with a BMW with a sun roof. The “alternative method” was some crazy 2nd guy who was standing up in the sunroof and grabbed the gear and pulled it down UNDER the airplane in flight over the runway. No damage to airplane and actuator guy still had his head.

    Another incident I was involved with at Edwards AFB was one of many T-34A gear up landings but THIS one was notable for a different reason. An SR-71 pilot (sic) came to the Aero Club to do a night flight in the T-34A. HE fueled the airplane but failed to properly secure the R fuel cap. In the “A” model with a pressure carburetor, higher than normal fuel pressure does work inside the carb and then excess fuel is returned to the L tank … so you always start burning off the L tank. (For Navy guys, the B model fuel selector is just on and off … they like it simple). Well, this numbskull — I named him “Terrible Tommy” (last name redacted) takes off, decides the Club rules don’t apply to him because — after all … he flies the SR — so he leaves the local area headed to George AFB (now SoCal Logistics airport). He then decides the airplane is R wing heavy so he switches to the R tank without first looking at the gauge with is correctly registering empty because all the fuel was siphoned away in flight. When it flames out, he decides he’s had an engine failure instead of going back to a tank that was working. He has the foresight to call George AFB tower to tell him he’s going down (at night in the Mojave desert, no less) but then ignores the checklist which says leave wheels UP if you can’t see where you’re landing. That faux pax likely saved his life and the airplane. When he landed with wheels down, the airplane only slid about <50'. Lucky for him because he had landed in the midst of a Joshua tree forest (google 'em) and never hit one. We had to rescue that one using an Army CH-47 to pick the wreck up out of the forest because wheeled vehicles couldn't get to it. Incidentally, that airplane had a 5 second cameo role in the movie, The Right Stuff (sitting next to a hangar, mid movie), was traded to a T-34 guru guy in El Paso and was totally rebuilt to look like a USAF Thunderbird. Moral here … sometimes it's good to ignore checklists (although Terrible Tommy didn't do it with any forethought).

  9. Even C-5A Galaxy’s land gear up !!
    If you can access Facebook, see:

    This occurred in 1986 at Rhein Main AB, Germany
    The guy appears to have missed the foam as well but did a spectacular job of saving a very big airplane.

    It happened again in 2009 when a C-5M used Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards AFB to land his stricken jet:

    And if you want to see some CRAZY main gear retraction operating on the C-5, see: