by Jonathan M. Stern
Retractable Landing Gear
Airplanes may be of the fixed-gear or retractable-gear varieties. Retractable gear may, as with the flaps, be controlled mechanically, hydraulically, or electrically. After takeoff, the landing gear folds into the fuselage where it is stored during flight until shortly before landing (see Figure 2.9).
Figure 2.9. The Cessna and Lear are equipped with retractable landing gear
At that time, it is extended and locked into place. An airplane equipped with retractable landing gear has the advantage of reduced drag during flight, which can increase the airplane's speed and range and lower fuel consumption. On the other hand, there is more to go wrong with retractable landing gear, including for the pilot who forgets to extend the landing gear prior to landing.
Airplanes equipped with retractable landing gear are also equipped with a warning device to signal the pilot if the landing gear is not extended when the airplane is landing.
For example, some retractable gear aircraft have a warning horn that sounds if the throttle is reduced below a specified setting while the gear is not extended and locked. Where the gear is controlled electrically or hydraulically, there is also a backup system to extend and lock it should the primary system fail. For example, Mooney airplanes have a manual hand crank to extend the gear in the event of a system failure.
The Cessna 182RG is equipped with a combination electric/hydraulic landing gear extension and retraction system and an emergency hand-operated hydraulic pump. If the throttle is retarded below a setting that yields approximately 12" of manifold pressure while the landing gear is not down and locked, a warning horn sounds in the cockpit.
Somewhat surprisingly, despite such a system, a number of pilots have still landed with their landing gear retracted without any mechanical difficulty contributing to their mishap. Beware, the Flight Simulator airplanes do not have landing gear warning horns.
The instrument panels of the Cessna 182RG and Lear 35 include a landing gear lever and position indicator lights. For each gear (two mains and a nose wheel), there is a green light to indicate that it is down and locked.
Pilots confirming that their landing gear is down and locked refer to three green or three in the green. A red light indicates that the landing gear is in transit (neither down and locked nor fully retracted). The landing gear may be retracted or extended by clicking with the mouse on the landing gear lever or by pressing the G key.
An airplane with fixed landing gear is normally used for initial flight training. This allows the new pilot to concentrate on primary flying skills without being distracted by the added complexity of retractable landing gear. For initial training in this book, always leave the landing gear down and locked.