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Venom lands wheels up

PUBLISHED: 11:11 23 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:04 10 October 2012

A DE HAVILLAND Venom was being flown from Bournemouth to Biggin Hill. It was the number three aircraft in a three-aircraft formation, positioning for the annual air display.

A De Havilland Venom was being flown from Bournemouth to Biggin Hill. It was the number three aircraft in a three-aircraft formation, positioning for the annual air display. Although the pilot had over 200 hours flying experience on type, this was only his second flight on type in eight years, and only his second flight in this aircraft.

During his first flight, the previous day, the pilot had noted that the undercarriage position indicator lights were quite difficult to see.

On arrival at Biggin Hill the three aircraft carried out a 'run in and break' manoeuvre. On the downwind leg the pilot carried out the pre-landing checks, which included the lowering of the undercarriage and one-third flap, and a check of brake pressure at the wheels. After lowering the flap, the pilot checked the flap position indicator and noticed that the flap was at more than the one-third setting. He raised the flap to the correct setting.

As he entered the turn to final, the pilot lowered full flap and concentrated on achieving an even spacing between the three aircraft, whilst avoiding the slipstream of the two aircraft ahead. He became aware that the spacing between the lead aircraft and the number two was less than between his own aircraft and the number two, so he applied power.

He checked the undercarriage indications and, although he had some difficulty seeing the indications, he convinced himself that the undercarriage was down and called "Finals three greens" on the Tower frequency. He then carried out a normal flare and smooth touchdown with the aircraft landing on its belly.

Although there was some nose vibration in the latter stages of the landing run, the pilot did not realise that he had landed with the wheels up until advised by ATC.

The pilot considers that three factors contributed to his failure to lower the undercarriage. First, the undercarriage and flap levers are close together and are of similar design. Although he thought he was lowering the undercarriage, he believes that he actually lowered flap. When he subsequently checked the flap position indicator and discovered more than the desired flap setting, he failed to associate the excess of flap with a failure to lower the undercarriage lever.

Second, the location of the undercarriage position indicator in the cockpit and the intensity of the lights sometimes make the undercarriage position difficult to discern. Third, the concentration required to carry out a stream landing may have distracted him.

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