Air Attack aircraft lands without landing gear lowered

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After the mechanical malfunction, the crew walked away

landing gear failure

Above: photo from the preliminary report

A malfunction of the landing gear system on a Cessna 337 resulted in the Air Attack crew having to land without the landing gear lowered. The incident occurred August 8, 2018 at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport in Idaho.

Thanks to excellent crew resource management everything turned out about as well as it could have, considering the pilot had to land the aircraft on its belly.

Below is the text from the preliminary report:

At approximately 1730 hrs Nxxx was on a 3 mile final for runway 30: while on final the pilot initiated extending the landing gear. Both the pilot and I had a routine of verifying gear extension/retraction by looking out the window and verifying the correct color of the landing gear lights on the instrument panel. While on 3 mile final we did not observe our landing gear through the window or have “3 green” lights indicating that our landing gear was down and locked.

The pilot cycled the landing gear lever and checked the circuit breaker: our landing gear did not extend. We notified XXX air traffic control tower that we were experiencing an issue with our landing gear and requested a low level fly by to have the tower provide visual confirmation of the status of the landing gear. The tower reported that our gear doors were open: however out landing gear was still retracted. Nxxx gained altitude and requested clearance to remain within the XXX airspace south of the field.

As we gained altitude we verified that we had approximately 1.5hrs of fuel remaining. I offered assistance to the pilot by asking “what can I do to help… what do you need from me?” the pilot handed me the emergency procedure checklist and asked me to find the “landing gear fails to extend” checklist. I located the checklist and began to read the checklist to the pilot over the ics system: actively participating in the emergency checklist trouble-shooting process. The emergency checklist instructed us to pull the circuit breaker for the electric hydraulic pump, extend the manual gear pump handle, pump 95 times and look for the landing gear to “extend”. Both the pilot and I attempted pumping the handle several 95+ pump cycles and the manual handle pumped easily without resistance. Based on the lack of resistance during the pumps we determined that we were not building hydraulic pressure.

During the pump cycles the pilot declared an “in flight emergency” with XXX tower and changed our transponder code. I notified xxx dispatch that we were having mechanical issues with our landing gear and that we had 1.5 hrs of fuel remaining and that were going to continue to circle and troubleshoot the problem. I continued to work with the pilot on checklist procedures and was asked monitor/answer the radio while he made a cellphone call to the company mechanic. The pilot contacted the company mechanic via cell and began to discuss our landing gear problem. The mechanic asked us to locate the hydraulic reservoir at the bottom of the center console. We located the reservoir and pulled the dipstick: the dipstick was dry and showed no hydraulic oil. We checked the dipstick 2 times and relayed the info to the mechanic.

The mechanic asked if we had any fluids inside the aircraft to pour into the reservoir: to build hydraulic pressure. We poured 2- 16oz water bottles into the reservoir and rechecked the dipstick. The dipstick showed fluid in the tank and we began the manual gear letdown pump process again. The pump handle did not show any resistance upon adding the water. The mechanic asked if we had any additional fluids: we located a quart of motor oil and poured that into the reservoir. Once again the handle showed no resistance: the landing gear would not extend.

During our troubleshooting activities: XXX tower notified airport crash rescue of our in-flight emergency. We observed crash rescue pull out of the station and remain on standby adjacent to runway 30. After approximately 1 hr of troubleshooting the problem: we began looking beyond trying to fix the landing gear. We began the process of preparing to land without landing gear. The pilot verified that we had approximately 30 minutes of fuel remaining and we began to review emergency landing procedures: landing without gear, landing on 2 engines without gear, landing on 1 engine, and landing without engine power.

We also discussed our emergency access/egress regarding the aircraft door. We decided to land with the front engine shut-down: the rear engine would provide power for the landing. We decided to open the door while on final, lock the handle forward, and hold the door against the fuselage. Our concern was that if we did not open the door latch prior to landing the door may not open: if damage to the fuselage occurred. I locked my seat in the far aft position to create more space from the dash and increase egress space in the event that something happened to me and the pilot needed to get out first. We notified XXX tower that we were going to make a landing without gear. XXX tower notified crash rescue and we could hear crash rescue confirm our planned emergency landing over the vhf radio.

As we turned final for our emergency landing: we shut down the front engine and I participated/verified various steps of the emergency engine shut-down process. We bumped the front prop into a horizontal position to prevent a prop strike. We confirmed our seatbelts were tight and all non-essential items were placed in the backseat. I opened the aircraft door, locked the handle in the forward position, and held the door against the fuselage during our final descent.

At approximately 1830hrs, Nxxx made an emergency landing without landing gear on runway 30. After the aircraft came to a stop: I opened the door, the pilot shut down the rear engine and we exited the aircraft. Crash rescue arrived on scene and we continued to clear the landing site to a safe distance away from the aircraft. As we were walking away from the aircraft I took a couple photos of the plane in the event that a fire occurred. No injuries occurred.

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4 thoughts on “Air Attack aircraft lands without landing gear lowered”

  1. Great response from all! A little dish soap on the runway might have made for a “slicker” landing, but Man, that looks soooo good! Even went so far as to save the front prop! Good work, People!

  2. The 337 has the same problem that other light retractable Cessnas have (177, 182, 210); same gear system. The airplane in the picture appears to have the gear doors; most operators remove those due to problems.

    I flew the 337 in Iraq extensively. We carried an emergency bag behind the seat, just for gear extension. There are several things that can be done to get the gear down, beyond simply adding fluid, though that’s also an option. If there’s a leak, it’s pumping out the leak and adding fluid won’t help. More often, however, it’s a shuttle valve failure, and shutting off all electric for 10-15 minutes frequently solves the problem. One can also use a wrench to vent the valve and drop the gear.

    Regardless, the gear is the weak point on the 337. It appears that they did a good job with what they had and landed with minimal damage, and more importantly, no injury.

  3. These guys were on the ball!!! I’m not sure I would have thought about bumping the prop to prevent a prop strike. Great CRM at work. Good job guys!

    1. Trouble shooting should have begun on the selection process ! 337’s are reknown for engine and gear issues ! Worst Cessna built ever ! Amazing that one would even be considered for use on BLM contract !

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