I have a problem. I have many problems, yes, but... I have a specific problem with accidental gear down water landings.
Our industry has struggled with those surprise accidents and our industry has buried many along the years for having forgotten to raise their gear prior to landing on water.
From what I can tell, the kind of accident is in no way limited or qualified by experience, flight time, time in type, equipment used, number of pilots on board or private vs. commercial operations.
In other words, if you fly an amphibious aircraft, you are prune (not guaranteed, but likely) to make a mistake or be involved in a situation that takes your mind off the aircraft's configuration for long enough to cause an "Oops!" moment. Now, many of those oops's get rectified before we have a chance to kill ourselves or someone else, but sometimes they are not.
I do realize that there are several tools available to keep the pilot mentally attached to configuration and aircraft setup, either by use of checklists, or acronyms that are aimed to ensure the pilots compliance with the "must have items" before takeoff, takeoff, departure, climb, cruise, approach & landing. But, are they used consequently enough to prevent accidents?
Without going into scientific research, I do continue to ask if we're doing everything we can to prevent accidental gear down accidents?
Proposed Solutions: (Some Of Them Years & Years Old)
- Someone once proposed to build a water-soluble gear mechanism (True Story!). Once it gets wet, it sheers off. Doh!
- Use your checklists and perform visual inspections (pin, lights, mirrors, voice) prior to every touchdown.
- Use acronyms such as GUMPS (Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture Prop(s), Safety
- Signs & Placards
If I remember correctly, I was introduced to GUMPS once I started commercial pilot training in the U.S. While the subject was drilled into fixed gear, non complex pilots where I learned to fly, no emphasis was placed on the subject until I started flying complex airplanes. The use of checklists has always been drilled, however we seem to have a great number of pilots who "know what they're doing", hence won't use a checklist anymore. How many times will you pull the checklist out to start a 172 that you have started 5000+ times? Signs and placards are decoration in the cockpit, they may get your attention once or for a while, and then they fade into your peripheral vision.
I don't think we can fix our existing pilot populace (retraining is harder than initial training) and to some respect we need to trust CFI's to pay attention during transition training to more complex machinery or checkouts/ BFR's in them. Much of this will depend on how the previous Piper Cub straight float guy transitions to the 206 on Amphibs...
But, could we change our initial training and testing parameters?
There are some "puppy mills" out there which train a new seaplane pilot within 5-8 hours. If done right, a seaplane rating can be issued within a day, max two, pending weather.
PTS only is on the menu, checkrides often/ primarily done by examiners who give checkrides day in and day out to students from the same instructor pool.
Especially in use of non complex/ non amphibious seaplanes, would it make sense to include the gear position (even if fake/ simulated) during initial training?
For the sake of argument, lets assume a 23 year old career son/ daughter who has their $2000 seaplane rating knocked out on short schedule, but won't return to flying seaplanes until much later in the game, possibly between age 40-50 with enough money saved up to go out and buy a nice toy on amphibs. Conversely, how about the sport pilot/ private pilot, who owns and flies a 172, decides to downgrade to LSA and buys any of the given amphibious applications out there. My guess is, a buyer is going to get through transition training, but habituated is no use/ concern for gear.
During a recent discussion on an instructor site, someone mentioned a stick on gear handle that used to be available with Sporty's.
I can't help think that such a stick on gear handle could be used in non complex land and seaplanes, to ingrain the gear position in the students mind, from day one.
Anyone experimented with or tried this?