On December 15, 2002, at 1059 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-30, N948SB, piloted by an airline transport pilot, received substantial damage on impact with terrain during a gear-up landing on a grass area paralleling runway 24 at Jackson County-Reynolds Field Airport, Jackson, Michigan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot was seriously injured, and the pilot rated passenger received minor injuries. The local flight originated at 0955. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot stated that they took off about 15 minutes after engine start and were to remain in a left traffic pattern. After takeoff, the landing gear was retracted. He and the passenger noticed that the "voltage was flickering" on the stormscope after the landing gear was retracted during climbout. Upon reaching an altitude of 1,000 feet above ground level, he selected the approach flap setting, but the flaps stopped at 5-degrees during their extension. When he attempted to lower the landing gear midfield downwind, the landing gear did not extend, and the landing gear intransit light did not illuminate. He noticed that the landing gear circuit breaker was popped and the voltage meter was "0." At that time, he realized a complete electrical failure occurred.
He then used a handheld radio to advise the air traffic control tower (ATCT) that he had an electrical failure and that he had problems with the landing gear. He had advised the ATCT that he would like to be cleared to an area 5 miles east of the airport where he rechecked all electrical switches that he thought might have caused the problem. He stated that he twice reset: the master switch, guarded regulator, both alternator switches, and radio avionics master. He then pushed in the landing gear circuit breaker and attempted to extend the gear again. He later pulled out the circuit breaker and attempted an emergency gear extension. He heard and felt the motor disengage and the gear drop. He saw the nose gear was flopping and proceeded to do the prescribed crank down procedure and again could see no gear movement except for the nose landing gear flapping in the wind.
He advised the ATCT that he was going to perform a flyby so they could visually check the landing gear. The ATCT advised him that the gear was down but did not look like it was in the locked position. The landing gear was then inspected by another airplane in the area, which observed that the landing gear was not locked down, and the nose gear was just hanging. The pilot and passenger twice reviewed the emergency gear extension procedures on the back of the emergency gear door handle. He then performed a series of banks, climbs and descents in an attempt to shake the gear into down and locked position.
The pilot retuned to the airport to make an emergency landing on top of a hill in a nose-high attitude, landing on the back part of the airplane so as to prevent the nose wheel and propellers from digging in and flipping the airplane. The airplane would then slide, due to moisture on the grass eliminating any sparks, which might have been caused by landing on the pavement. He stated that his biggest fear was a post crash fire since he had more than 50 gallons of fuel on board. The airplane skidded 40-60 feet with no fire.
The on-scene investigation was performed by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector from the Detroit Flight Standards District Office. Inspection of the cockpit revealed that there was no written checklist found in the airplane. Both generator circuit breaker switches were in the off position, the landing gear switch selector was in the up position, and the emergency gear extension bar was not found in the airplane. The pilot reported that the landing gear extension bar was used to hold the door open during the landing. The pilot reported that he lost all electrical power about 1 1/2 minutes after takeoff and that the generators were functioning before takeoff. He stated that he pumped the emergency gear extension handle at least 50 times and could not get the landing gear down and locked. Examination of the airplanes electrical system revealed no anomalies.
The PA-30 Owner's Handbook lists a "Caution" that states, "Be sure to have the generators turned on. If the battery charge is low and generators are not operating, an inadvertent gear-up landing is possible because the warning horn and flashing light will not operate and the landing gear cannot be extended electrically. Manual extension of the landing gear is required under these circumstances. The PA-30 pretakeoff checklist states that the generators are to be in the 'on' position. "
The PA-30 gear extension procedures state, "Remove gear extension handle from storage. If left socket is not in clear position, place handle in right socket. Engage slot and twist clockwise to lock handle. Extend handle and rotate forward until left socket is in clear position. Remove handle and place in left socket. Lock and extend handle. Rotate handle forward full travel to extend landing gear. Green light on panel indicates landing gear down and locked."
The FAA and The New Piper Aircraft Inc. were parties to the investigation.