Landing gear lights
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In May 2016 I was ferrying a Piper Seminole (PA-44-180) over the sand dunes to the north of the Arabian Peninsula to a city on the coast of the Red Sea at an altitude of 12,000′. Suddenly the caution light got my attention indicating that the landing gear was not in a safe position. Soon thereafter, the landing gear circuit breaker popped. I looked immediately in the exterior inspection mirror located on the engine cowling and could see the landing gear dangling precariously in between an up and down position which I suspected to be caused by a leak in the landing gear system.

Landing gear lights

The caution light got my attention indicating that the landing gear was not in a safe position.

I performed the abnormal procedure for the gear not safe and put the landing gear lever down followed by the emergency gear lever to make sure the gear was in the the down-locked position.  After the emergency gear extension, the groundspeed slowed from 150kts. to 120 kts. due to the additional drag. I calculated the new fuel burn and determined that I did not have enough fuel to reach the destination. I quickly began to consider an alternate plan.

As an A&P mechanic, I always make sure to take a small toolbox and fluids like the engine oil and hydraulic fluid just in case.  My options now were either to wait until the fuel was exhausted and land on the dunes which is not ideal terrain. As I consider landing on the sand dunes, it would have to be a ditching technique as you would do ditching in the ocean. Or a better option may be to use my available sources even if I am alone in the aircraft.

I decided to engage the autopilot put the radio on the overhead speaker and left the cockpit. I moved to the back baggage compartment which is behind the rear seat where there is a small panel in the tail cone with four quick fasteners. I opened the panel to access the hydraulic reservoir.  I open the dipstick and found the reservoir dry as a bone. From my supplied, I added hydraulic fluid then returned to the cockpit and reset the circuit breaker.  I tried to move the landing gear up and is retracted successfully. Following the retraction, my groundspeed returned to the original 150kts. quickly.

25 minutes later as I approached my original destination, the same landing gear dilemma returned, but I was able to make it safely to the destination landing at minimum fuel.

The lesson learned here from this experience are to use all of the available resources you have available to you in the aircraft. My A&P experience was one of my sources that day and probably saved my life as a safe landing off airport was not likely due to the terrain.

The following day I investigated the issue and found a leak in the emergency landing gear valves. After ordering the parts, I made the repairs and continued my trip safely to Europe.

Emad Bahumaidan
3 replies
  1. Hunter Heath
    Hunter Heath says:

    Sometimes it really pays to know your aircraft’s systems. And be an A&P technician. And carry lots of parts and consumables. And be resourceful enough to make your own luck!


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