Pilots are taught the mantra, "use all available cockpit resources," from the very beginning of flight training, but it's especially important during an in-flight emergency.
On April 28, 2004, on a cross-country flight from Telluride, Colorado, the pilot of a Beechcraft Travel Air diverted to Garfield County Regional Airport in Rifle because of gusty wind conditions reported at the original destination of Glenwood Springs.
After diverting, the airplane's electrical system became erratic, including the illumination of all warning lights on the EGT and the indication of engine temperatures of more than 1,650 degrees. The electrical system then completely failed. When the pilot tried to lower the flaps and landing gear, the flaps extended partially, but the gear did not. The pilot then proceeded to use the manual gear extension and crank the landing gear about halfway down. Because of the gusty conditions and turbulence, the pilot asked the passenger to finish extending the gear while he focused on flying the airplane.
The pilot was concerned about the "extreme danger" of an engine fire, and he did not have anyone on the ground verify that the gear was extended; he only checked that the gear crank had quit turning.
While landing on Runway 26 at Garfield County, the pilot felt both propellers strike the runway. He retarded the throttle, the airplane settled onto the runway, and slid 1,000 feet before stopping in the grass.
After the gear-up landing, the pilot realized that the passenger had retracted the gear instead of extending it.
The NTSB determined the cause of this accident was the pilot's failure to verify the manual extension of the landing gear by the passenger, resulting in an inadvertent gear-up landing.
The pilot did the right thing by asking the passenger for help during this emergency. Unfortunately, he forgot that as PIC, it was his responsibility to verify that the gear was down and locked. Because the pilot was fixated on the threat of fire from the previous EGT indications, he lost track of the basics.
For more information about emergencies and distraction, read Bruce Landsberg's article, Driven to Distraction, from the September 2001 issue of AOPA Pilot.
Accident reports can be found in ASI's accident database.
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