Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mysteries Of Landing

No, this isn’t the 11,398th story on how to land an airplane

Perhaps conversely, a totally snow-covered runway sometimes can be a blessing. I had departed Bangor, Maine, in the first production Piper Mirage, headed for Germany. It was mid-January, 1989, and the temperature at Bangor was -20 F. At Goose Bay, it was -35 F. At those temperatures, icing usually isn't a problem. Other things are.

When I arrived at Goose, I had trouble getting the right main gear to lock down. After 20 minutes of near-aerobatic maneuvers to put a download on the inside of the right gear, I finally got three greens.

It had been snowing almost continuously for several days, and Goose was having a hard time keeping up with it. They were reporting poor braking action, but fortunately, runway 26 was 11,000 feet long. The winds were gusting to 20 as I lined up on final. I made it a point to touch down right in the middle of the 200-foot-wide runway, hoping I could maintain directional control during the landing.

As it turned out, I had a different problem. Both main-gear brakes were frozen solid. The airplane touched down and immediately began to slide on the snow, with both wheels locked up. Within a few seconds, the left brake released, and the airplane turned hard right. I slammed the left pedal back down, and came to a stop near the indistinct right edge of the runway. The FBO towed me to the ramp with a Sno-Cat.

Gear Won't Lock
Beware the problems of a borrowed airplane. I had been granted the use of a nicely refurbished A36TC Bonanza for a few weeks, and was coming back in to Long Beach after a short flight down from the San Francisco area. As I entered the pattern at KLGB, I selected gear down, and the right main refused to lock. I recycled a half-dozen times, and nothing helped.

I advised the tower of my problem, and left the pattern to work the problem out over the harbor. Fortunately, I was familiar with the manual extension system on Bonanzas, and I turned the small crank the obligatory 37(?) times to get the right main down.

No luck. I flew by the tower, and they advised that the right was extended but didn't look locked down. I checked the ATIS at Long Beach one last time, and found the wind was from 200 at 15, fairly typical for late afternoon.


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