3 Green down and locked - Learning to fly a Complex with a Bit of Drama

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3 Green down and locked - Learning to fly a Complex with a Bit of Drama

Posted by Edward Poole on Dec 3, 2018 2:23 pm

So after some serious consideration I decided to start working on a complex rating.  The aircraft on the field available to rent is a '78 P28r-200, from what I read it's a pretty solid aircraft and except a little heavier controls than the Cessna 172's and light sports I've flown it is a very manageable aircraft.  I had one hour of duel before this past flight all landing and takeoff familiarization, I got to the airport early and conducted a through pre-flight, including looking at gear etc.  Nothing of note was found by either myself or the CFI who came after me.  The plan was to fly from our uncontrolled airport, into class D airspace and perform two touch and go's, possibly a go-around (if he indicated to do so), then fly to two other airports to serve as a familiarization with the avionics of the aircraft and get me familiar with the faster pace of aircraft operations.  Everything was fine, downwind checks complete, gear down and locked, base was a little low, but again nothing too major.  Final approach was A-OK, three green still indicated.  Landing on the mains was a non-event, however, as soon as the nose came down all hades broke loose:  The gear warning light came on, the gear in transit light came on, the nose gear indicator blinked off and an audible warning horn started.  I think my comment was "wow, have not seen that before!"  I immediately applied power as instructed (this was a touch and go so that part was planned), and we got her back off the ground.  After we both looked at each other perplexed (the nose gear lamp was not showing green any more) we decided to verify the gear looked down with the tower.  It was and we then proceeded back to the home airport leaving the gear down (less than 5NM away).  As we came in to land the instructor decided to help a bit, which was more than warranted.  We basically did a soft field landing and he cut off the engine before the nose gear touched.  We had just enough energy to make it back to the parking area engine and mags off.  After we got back on the ground he took a look (He is also an A&P) along with another mechanic.  It appeared that the switch for the nose gear had somehow become loose or the contact had become dislodged and that caused the switch to believe that the gear was not down.  It was the mechanics belief that had we brought the gear back up it would have caused severe damage to the switch/mechanism based on how it was misaligned inside the wheel well. 

So with all that out of the way, I'll ask a few logical questions from owners of Piper Arrows or any other retract: 
  1. Is this something that happens on a regular basis, or something indicative to this make/model, or was this just a fluke? 
  2. Since neither he or I found any fault with the gear switches before the flight, was there possibly something we overlooked?  Is there a telltale sign that can be identified if this is a common issue?       
I do genuinely like the aircraft, it's roomy and a blast to fly.  It also (In my opinion) is more stable and "solid" than the 172, especially in turbulence and a crosswind, that may be due to the heavier weight and higher speeds.  It does take some getting used to (remember I only have a whopping 1.5 hours total time in it) since it does not glide and float like the 172, it's more like a sinks like a brick feeling.... smiley  
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Re: 3 Green down and locked - Learning to fly a Complex with a Bit of Drama

Posted by Ronald Levy on Dec 3, 2018 6:01 pm

[Levy] First, good job on the immediate go-around rather than trying to fix the problem while rolling on the mains.

Is this something that happens on a regular basis, or something indicative to this make/model, or was this just a fluke? 
[Levy] It doesn't happen regularly, and it's not limited to the Arrow.  This could happen on pretty much any retractable gear airplane, but only rarely.  However, having seen it and reacted properly, you're now well prepared for if it ever happens again.

Since neither he or I found any fault with the gear switches before the flight, was there possibly something we overlooked?  Is there a telltale sign that can be identified if this is a common issue?       
[Levy] Anything's possible, but if you and your A&P/CFI instructor didn't see anything wrong with the switch on preflight, it's not likely there's anything you could have done to prevent it.