Premature Gear Lowering Cited In Crash Landing

A moment of confusion in the cockpit is cited by the Transportation Safety Board in the emergency gear up landing of Buffalo Airways DC-3 last May 3 near Hay River in the Northwest Territories. As the captain, who was the pilot flying, struggled to maintain altitude after shutting down the failing left engine, he told the first officer to “prep the gear” but the FO unexpectedly lowered the gear, increasing drag and causing the aircraft to lose altitude more than four miles from the Hay River Airport. Raising the gear and firewalling the right engine didn’t stop the descent so the crew pancaked the aircraft into the muskeg. They were unhurt but the airplane was substantially damaged.

The “limited scope” investigation focused on the brief departure from Buffalo’s standard operating procedures when the captain issued the non-standard “prep the gear” order which was misinterpreted by the FO and resulted in the gear being dropped prematurely. In this occurrence, the aircraft’s airspeed and altitude could not be maintained, primarily because of the increased drag when the landing gear was extended early in the approach,” the report’s safety message states. “This highlights the need to follow SOPs and use standard phraseology, as well as the importance of checklist discipline, during an emergency.”