Three Green?


The weather wasnt too bad for my Thanksgiving holiday trip south to see the folks, but the headwinds were fierce. So I decided the smart thing to do would be stopping at North Carolinas Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT) for fuel, a stretch of the legs and another dose of weather information before pushing on. The flying clubs Hershey-bar-wing Piper Arrow I rented for the trip had seen better days, but nothing was amiss.


Until, that is, I put down the landing gear as I neared the runway at CLT. I heard the system operating, felt the gear thunk into place and noticed the increased drag, but didnt have any of the three green lights I expected.

The Arrows emergency gear procedure is to slide a plunger on the center console to the extension position, allowing the gear to fall into place. As I neared the numbers, I slid the plunger to the proper location; nothing happened. Which is what one would expect if the gear was already down. The Arrows gear indicator lights depend on the panel lighting rheostat: If the lights were dimmed, they would be hard to see. I adjusted the rheostat to the full-bright position, but still no gear lights. Gingerly, I touched down, half expected the whole thing to come to a screeching halt, but nothing happened. I slowly taxied in.

After shutting down, I sought out a mechanic, asked him to take a look, and settled into the pilots lounge for a quick nap. An hour later I found the mechanic scratching his head over the problem. Explaining the way the rheostat controls the gear lights, we cycled the rheostat a few times. Every third cycle or so, the lights would illuminate, as they should. Being completely unfamiliar with the airplane, the mechanic could only shrug.

I went on my way, putting another 15 or so hours on the Arrow over that holiday. The gear indicator lights only worked once out of every three times, until I cycled the lighting rheostat. The gear worked every time. I can only guess some gremlin snuck into the circuit.

While I never want to short-cut a landing-gear problem, knowing the airplanes systems, and whats connected to what, helped resolve a vexing situation. The same is true for every kind of in-flight anomaly.

– Steve Michaels


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here