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Lessons Learned in General Aviation: Gear-Up Landing at Perth Airport Accident Report

The accident aircraft (Credit: Lewis Burns)

The Event

On May 19, 2023, a Piper PA-28R-200, registered G-EPTR, experienced a gear-up landing at Perth Airport during a training flight. Luckily, neither of the two crew members sustained injuries, but the aircraft suffered significant damage, including a shock-loaded engine, bent propeller, and damaged flaps. This general aviation accident, primarily caused by distraction and oversight, serves as a crucial learning point in aviation safety.

The Flight's Critical Moments

The incident occurred when both the student pilot and instructor, focusing on another aircraft executing a practice engine failure, neglected to lower the landing gear during the downwind leg and missed the final gear checks on approach. This oversight led to the aircraft landing with its gear up. The crew, consumed by monitoring the nearby aircraft and guiding the student during final approach, did not notice the gear warning light or hear the warning horn.

Human Factors at Play

This scenario underscores the impact of human factors in aviation, particularly the role of distractions and selective attention. Pilots are trained to manage a multitude of tasks, but they are not immune to the inherent limitations of human attention and cognition. In high-stress or high-workload situations, even experienced pilots can overlook critical indicators or warnings.

The Importance of Adhering to Checklists

One of the fundamental aspects of pilot training is adherence to checklists. This incident highlights the importance of rigorously following procedures, especially during critical phases of flight like landing. Checklists are designed to ensure that all necessary actions, such as gear extension, are completed without fail.

Training Implications and Safety Measures

The event at Perth Airport is a potent reminder for flight instructors and trainees about the importance of maintaining situational awareness and adhering to standard operating procedures. Flight schools and training organizations should emphasize the importance of checklist usage, even in unusual or distracting situations. Additionally, this incident highlights the need for effective cockpit ergonomics, as the gear indicator lights' placement in G-EPTR presented an additional challenge for the instructor.

cockpit layout gear
Cockpit layout (Source: AAIB)

Technological Backups and Their Limitations

The aircraft was equipped with a backup gear extender, which was disabled as per the operator's usual practice. While this system could have potentially prevented the gear-up landing, its deactivation was in line with the manufacturer’s guidance. This situation underscores the importance of understanding and appropriately utilizing technological aids in aviation, but also reminds us that technology cannot entirely compensate for human oversight and appropriate decision making.

Moving Forward

Thankfully, this incident did not result in injuries, but it serves as a critical lesson in aviation safety. It emphasizes the importance of continuous vigilance, adherence to procedures, and the understanding of human factors in flight training. As the aviation community reflects on this event, the emphasis remains on enhancing training protocols and cockpit designs to minimize the risk of similar occurrences in the future

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