Pilot Topics

Configuration Changes

Lesson 10

Ok, now let’s talk about configuration changes. Welcome to the world of retractable gear.
When to lower the gear and configure is always a subject for a hangar flying discussion. If you are stepping up to retractable aircraft, you are now joining a new group of pilots. There are those pilots that have and those that will, land ‘gear up’. Granted, sometimes the gear extension system may not work, for some reason. But, there are alternative means of extending the gear. However, if you are new to retractable gear aircraft, you want to avoid joining this ‘club’. You will need to spend some time learning new techniques, for the approach and landing, and for the go-around, as well. This will help you deal with distractions at a critical time, so you won’t forget to lower or raise the gear. If you do forget, you will be reminded when you get that loud horn as you reduce power or extend landing flaps on short final. It happens. I have seen this in the simulator more than a few times. Especially if you fly single-pilot, there is no one to back you up or remind you. Sometimes on a visual approach, you might delay gear extension, if you are keeping your speed up for some reason. I try to always recheck the gear at 500’ on final, with a quick glance. At this point, the airplane should be in the landing configuration, on speed, on glide slope, and flying a stabilized approach. If not, consider going around. For all of this, let me offer a simple, but valuable tip; take it slow when you are new to an airplane. I have watched far too many pilots in simulator training fly too fast, and then get behind the airplane. This is especially true when on the approach, and then they get in trouble when things go wrong.

If you are VFR, then you want to extend the gear before entering the downwind leg. That way there are no distractions, and you won’t forget. If there is a problem, you want to find out about it then, not while turning base leg. My own method for dealing with this, when I fly single-pilot, is to hold my hand on the gear handle after moving it to the gear down position, and holding it there while the gear is being extended, until I see three green lights. This only takes a few seconds, but if there is a problem, then I will see it right away. If you are IFR, in IMC, and if flying an ILS, lower the gear at Glideslope intercept. Think gear down, go down. This will result in a stabilized approach. Also, if you use approach flaps, extend them either at gear extension (to offset the nose down pitch) or perhaps when joining the localizer. Again, refer to your POH. If you are flying a non-precision approach, lower the gear at the Final Approach Fix (FAF). Again, gear down, go down. Then, when you reach MDA, you will have to add power again to maintain MDA in your configuration. Know what these numbers are for your airplane so you can set them right away. You will not have a lot of time for fine tuning, unless you have an auto-pilot.

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