A reader wrote:
Tom’s thoughts on viewing the filmed incident:
• The amazing display of sparks (amid an impressive scraping sound) beneath and below the airplane as it slid down the runway. Twilight conditions made the sparks very visible. Although we do not see the sparks in a full-daylight gear up landing, they are there even in the bright light of day.
Although the sparks may not be as visible in full daylight, there is good reason to swiftly evacuate after a gear-up landing. Although it is rare, I have heard of several cases in which post-gear-up airplanes erupted into flame as much as half an hour after ending their runway slide.
The rapid evacuation was no accident—it could only have been done with forethought, and then with active direction by the pilot. In a local television news video, the pilot is quoted as crediting annual training for the success of his landing. Follow the following link for the TV report:
When the gear would not extend either normally or manually using the emergency extension procedure, the pilot told me, he used his training to plan and execute the emergency landing.
This included a decision to divert from his destination, his home airport, to the Daytona Beach airport because of its rescue response capability and the length of its runways.
Investigation revealed a pre-impact mechanical failure of the landing gear motor. When the motor seized, the design of the Baron’s gear extension system made it impossible to put the wheels down. Fortuitously the gear was fully up when the failure occurred, the pilot told me, although he quips that he would prefer it to have stuck down!
This event serves to remind us that despite a pilot’s actions machines sometimes break. When that machine is an airplane the pilot will have to make many decisions, perform many actions, and above all, uphold his/her responsibility to passengers - all while flying the airplane.