What’s that beeping?

I remember a video I saw on youtube of a Cessna RG that was landing with less than good results. The link is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YffmapFxt0M

As soon as it starts you hear the beep, beep of the gear horn and I wondered why they didn’t recognize it. Maybe they were distracted by their conversation and were just talking over the beeping.

I bring up the subject of distractions as my buddy Mark had an interesting experience. He was returning to his home field near Sacramento from southern California in a C182RG. It wasn’t a real long flight, only about 2.4 hours but as he flew the pattern he noticed a truck parked on the runway where the grass ended and pavement begins.

Turning base to final he decides to go around and figure it out. Power in, gear up, flaps up, climb to pattern altitude. He listens to the AWOS, checks his paperwork for NOTAMS again but finds no mention of a runway closure or work to be done.

Meanwhile it’s important to note that he’s mildly irritated at the inconvenience and the extra cost of the go-araound. So he enters downwind to attempt the landing. This is where the power of the distraction can come into play. Being perturbed at the crew working and having already gone through the checklist and lowering of the gear is where pilots make the mistake of not resetting and doing the checklist all over again.

Mark has been trained well and knows he must do the entire checklist again and gets the gear down and confirms it. The truck has disappeared now and he lands safely. We had a good discussion of how this could have started the accident chain by throwing us for a loop with something unexpected happening. This is the time we rely on our training to save us.

Whether it’s an unexpected go-around or diagnosing a gear issue we need to fly the plane first. Last weekend I did a checkout in a Piper Arrow. While doing one of the practice emergency landings the CFI asked what would I do if my landing gear failed to extend while in the pattern. I answered I’d leave the pattern and figure it out. Why turn a problem into an emergency by trying to solve it in the pattern?

He was excited to have someone give the right answer. The phrase that comes to mind is “FLY THE PLANE” I know it sounds simple but that simple task didn’t happen onboard Eastern 401 in 1972. A failed light bulb for the nose gear become the focus of all the crew members that they didn’t know the auto-pilot had disengaged and no one was monitoring “George”

So my friend Mark’s encounter is a good reminder that little things can dislodge us off or plan but we need to stay focused and follow our procedures, they are there to back us up.