Failure to use checklist contributes to gear-up landing

Aircraft: Piper Twin Comanche Injuries: None. Location: Culpeper, Va. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: While on approach to the destination airport, the pilot moved the landing gear handle to the “down” position and noted that the green landing gear down-and-locked light didn’t illuminate. He recycled the landing gear several times but still the lights did not illuminate.

He attempted to manually extend the landing gear, noting that the nose landing gear appeared to be extended in the viewing mirror, and the noise was consistent with gear extension, however, the green down-and-locked light in the cockpit was not illuminated. He continued to the airport to land.

He reported hearing the gear warning horn during the landing flare, but that it was “too late” to abort the landing, and the landing gear collapsed upon touchdown.

After the accident, the landing gear was cycled and operated normally, although the gear down-and-locked light did not appear to be illuminated. However, the airplane’s navigation lights were observed to be in the “on” position.

By design, the gear down-and-locked light illuminated more dimly with the navigation lights on than with the navigation lights off.

When the emergency landing gear extension procedure was performed after the airplane’s navigation lights were turned off, the gear extended and locked down, and the corresponding gear down-and-locked light was visibly illuminated.

The emergency checklist that the pilot used during the accident flight did not instruct the pilot to confirm the position of the navigation lights. The pilot did not consult the pilot’s operating handbook during the flight.

Investigators determined that if the pilot had reviewed the emergency gear extension checklist in the POH or if the checklist used had included a check of the navigation lights, the pilot may have been better able to determine the position of the landing gear before touchdown.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to use the manufacturer’s checklist to troubleshoot the perceived malfunction and ensure the position of the landing gear before landing. The reason the landing gear were not down and locked could not be determined, as no mechanical failures or anomalies were reported before the accident or observed during post-accident testing.

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA188

This February 2012 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. John M says

    Sorry, but as a Comanche owner, switching off Nav lights to illuminate gear down bulb would have prevented the disengagement of transmission and eliminated the possibility of gear collapse on landing… I wish the light weren’t so dim with nav lights on, but Piper owners are supposed to know that.. Pilot gets credit for getting gear down manually, but shouldn’t have had to disengage transmission, so it is also in part his fault…

  2. Ron Shirley says

    There is absolutely no indication that doing anything other than he did would have improved the situation except to better illuminate a warning light. This pilot knew the position of the landing gear before touchdown. I wonder did the NTSB expect the pilot to circle forever?

  3. Nick Jones says

    The NTSB is completely wrong on this one. The pilot DID put the gear down and it failed to lock in place, and he DID troubleshoot the problem. The fact that the gear collapsed during the landing had nothing to do with pilot error. It seems as though the NTSB is covering up their inability to figure out why the gear collapsed. This leads me to loose confidence in the integrity of the NTSB’s findings.

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