Bonanza Wheels-up While Training

This discussion is to promote safety and not to establish liability.

CAA’s report contains padding and repetition, so in the interest of clarity, I have paraphrased extensively.

Date and time                                 20 January 2017 at about 1447Z

Aircraft registration                       ZS-JBE 

Aircraft model                                 Beechcraft Bonanza F33A

Last Point of departure                 Hoedspruit Military (FAHS)

Point of intended landing            Hoedspruit Airport

Location of accident                      Runway 18, 1742’ amsl.                                        

Meteorological Information       090/06, 34C, DP 16C, CAVOK

Type of operation                          Training (Part 141)

Persons on board                           3+0 

Injuries                                              None 

Damage to aircraft                         Substantial   


The crew consisting of a Designated Flight Examiner and two student pilots took-off from FAHS on a VFR training flight to assess the students and land back at FAHS. The DFE was to assess both pilots for their respective PPL and CPL revalidations on a single controlled aircraft.  

According to the PPL student, during a return flight back from the GFA whilst crossing over runway 18/36, the DFE pulled a throttle to idle and instructed the student to simulate emergency landing on runway 18. The gear warning horn sounded. The student continued with emergency landing procedures and when the student was certain that he would reach the runway, he selected gear down and lowered the flaps. The landing gear warning sound stopped and the student assumed the gear was fully down and locked

The student flared the aircraft for landing and the tower called for the gears to be checked. The student immediately checked and found that the red light illuminated to indicate that the gear was not down and locked. The student considered a go around but realized that it was unsafe because the aircraft was already about to touchdown and continued with the landing.

On touchdown, the aircraft skidded and came to rest on the runway. The flight crew sustained no injuries and the aircraft sustained substantial damage. 

Note: The POH indicates that when the electrical system is operative, the landing gear may be checked for full down with the gear position lights, provided the landing gear circuit breaker is engaged. The landing gear position indicator lights are located above the landing gear switch handle. Three greens lights, one for each gear are illuminated whenever the landing gear is down-and-locked. The red light illuminates anytime one or all of the landing gear is in transit or in any intermediate position. 

The student has logged 938.4 total flying hours and logged 1 hour on type since conversion.

The DFE held a valid Airline Transport Pilot License with the aircraft type rating endorsed. The DFE held a Grade 1 instructor rating. He had logged 23350 total hours including 250 hours on type.

The aircraft maintenance records were in order and current. The aircraft had a single control column. 

The circuit breaker popped out due to overload conditions on the motor as the undercarriage was still in transition.  


The pilot selected the landing gear late and landed while the gear was in transit. 


The thing that sprang out at me when I first read this accident report was who the hell was the PIC?

So we will look at that and then figure out why they landed it with the gear half extended, and then show you how to avoid making the same unforgivable stuff-up.

To find out who was legally the PIC I dashed off to, my favorite online aviation chatroom, and put the question to the crew members. There are some very bright people there – and ones who know where to find stuff in that pile of boring volumes known as the Regs.

The most perspicacious regs-rats rushed to my aid, but to my astonishment they were not able to fish definitive answers from that turgid soup of legalize. The regs appear to contradict each other. Here are some of the replies I got:

“pilot-in-command” means the pilot designated by the operator as being in command and charged with the safe conduct of a flight, without regard to whether or not he or she is manipulating the controls.

Under part 141 an authorization sheet is required. The instructor is the PIC. If the instructor signed a flight out not having dual controls, he carries the can.

CAR 61.01.08 says: When a flight examiner administers a skills test or proficiency check from a seat, other than a pilot seat, he or she may log the flight time as co-pilot time… but may not log the time as flight instructor time.

To confuse the issue even more, the single yoke in a Bonnie can be swung to the other side in seconds but the pilot receiving the column still needs to unship the rudders before they have control.

Who is PIC in the event of an actual emergency especially if the candidates were type rated? If they were not type rated the DFE/Instructor would be PIC.

Should a DFE/Instructor conduct a test in an aircraft without dual flight controls?

Private owners revalidate their PPLs on their own aircraft all the time, it doesn’t happen under part 141 as no instruction is taking place.

If it was an instruction flight and not a test the DFE was PIC but would need access to the controls. If it was a test flight the DFE does not need access to the controls.

As it may be a school’s aircraft you would sign an authorization-sheet to keep track of hours, maintenance, snags etc. Hire and fly is Part 91, not 141, as it was not a training flight. So although owned by the school, which is a part 141, the flight was not operated under that part.

How does an aircraft without dual controls get on to an ATO for instruction?

On my renewal, with a freelance instructor, I did a crew ‘roles and responsibilities’ briefing. After the test, the examiner said it was the first time he had ever received a proper crew briefing before a flight test. I believe such flights are potentially dangerous without clearly defined crew roles.

Muddy waters. In the past CAA inspectors have endangered flights and cooked turbine engines during simulated emergencies. How do insurance companies handle this? If the inspector is not the PIC, as stated by the CAA, he should not be fiddling with things and switching the fuel off.

Here’s a thought: if the instructor mid-flight assesses the candidate incompetent, how can he allow the latter to continue as PIC?

As far as I can see the question remains unresolved.

Any multi-crew flight needs a crew briefing, so speak to the examiner before your test and ask how they want you to handle the crew briefing. Discuss your roles and responsibilities under normal and emergency conditions – cover:

  • Who uses the radio
  • Who navigates
  • Who handles the controls
  • Request help with lookout
  • Instruct crew not to fiddle with things while you are flying
  • Instruct crew not to change frequencies without consulting you
  • Instruct crew to speak up clearly if they see you doing anything that may endanger the flight.

Enough of the legalities – let’s see why this beautiful Bonnie landed on its intestines, and find out how you can avoid a similar, expensive and noisy humiliation.

Almost every time a pilot fails to lower the gear it’s because something changes from their normal routine. Or a distraction is introduced. A change in circuit pattern, a runway change or a go-around are the most common causes. A sick passenger or an unusual ATC instruction, or a transmission from another aircraft can also cause the distraction.

In this case, the thousand hour PPL had only flown a Bonnie for one hour after his type conversion when he found himself in a situation that is far from routine. He was also distracted by the need to judge the forced landing while he was being tested.

If you have flown a Bonnie you will know that it glides like a Steinway. The pilot would have seen that he was barely going to make the field so he left the gear till the last possible second. Actually a couple of seconds past that.

I suggest that our old friend PPP – Passive People Pressures was at work. Had he been solo he would have taken a bit of power to get to the field, or done a go-around – but with the DFE and a Com pilot looking over his shoulder he was determined to scrape in.


  • Have a red clothes-peg clipped to your sun-visor. If anything unusual happens, or you are distracted, snap the clothe peg on to the throttle. It will be a constant reminder about the gear.
  • When you select the gear down keep your hand on the lever while you watch the ammeter. Do not remove your hand until you have three greens.
  • On final approach, as you come over the fence, confirm three greens. Forget all the other silly checks like fuel pump, flaps, landing light, and so on. Gear is the important one.
  • If you fly with another pilot, do a ‘roles and responsibilities’ briefing it’s both sensible and professional.


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