So Earl and I intended on flying for about an hour this afternoon. It’d been a few weeks since our last flight and having inherited AvGas for blood from my father, it’d been entirely too long since we were last in the air.
The Cessna 182 RG (retractable gear) I fly had not flown since the third of this month. This is not unusual; the flight school I rent from has a number of training aircraft used by students, and a couple of airplanes with modern avionics that are popular for rental. The Cessna 182 RG is a fun airplane to fly but “Large Marge” requires a complex and high performance endorsement (meaning additional training). “Complex” refers to the fact that she has retractable gear and “high performance” because she has more than 200 horsepower under the engine cowl. I was signed off with these endorsements earlier this year.
My pre-flight activity as well as the run up before take off was all normal. Marge was ready to go and so were we. The take-off was beautiful. I then tapped on the brakes to make sure the wheels stopped turning after leaving the runway and I moved the gear level to “Gear Up”.
Nothing happened. At least I was 98% sure nothing happened. I checked the circuit breaker, moved the lever to gear down and then gear up again and still no joy. There was no familiar whine of the hydraulics that normally bring the gear up. The indicator light showed the gear should be still down and in place.
I had Earl visually check a wheel sticking out under his door as I did the same and I checked the mirrors that are in place on the wings to confirm the front wheel was where it was suppose to be. It’s not routine to fly a retractable gear airplane with the gear extended, so I told the control tower we were heading back to land. We made our way into the pattern.
The front wheel looked to be locked in place and should have been locked in place as per the green light on the instrument panel, but I wanted one more set of eyes to take a look. So I asked the tower to visually check as we passed by on our way to runway 23 for landing. The tower confirmed things look good. This being my first gear-related “emergency”, I was probably being extra paranoid but reaching my goal of being a very old pilot involves being a little extra cautious.
The tower replied that everything was apparently locked in place. I was a little high on the approach for landing; I “slipped” the airplane to lose some altitude and made what was probably the gentlest landing I’ve ever made in an airplane, being extra sure to keep the nose off the ground for as long as possible, “just in case”.
Overall everything was fine, the airplane just didn’t want to retract its gear. I never panicked, my heart probably raced just a bit more than usual when flying an airplane but I believe I did everything I could to make sure we stayed safe. There were no hysterics.
The best part of this story is not only does thinking about the amazing landing bring a smile to my face, I’m also here tonight, enjoying an adult beverage, and sharing my story on this blog. We probably were never in any danger but all of my training to date has become more of an instinct. If anything, Large Marge helped me build more confidence today.