In Perfect Step: Landing Gear Safety

July 1, 2024

…safe takeoffs and landings require each set to function in perfect step with the others.

Landing gear is comprised of essential components working together to support the aircraft during ground operations. Gear sets are meticulously designed and engineered for specific types and models of aircraft.

Proper maintenance is crucial to prevent wear, detect defects, and ensure optimal performance. Regular inspections, lubrication, and component replacements are scheduled based on flight hours, cycles, and manufacturer recommendations. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of failures that compromise flight safety.

Typically, landing gear sets are composed of struts and shock absorbers, wheels, bakes and tires, doors and fairings, retraction mechanisms, hydraulics, and electrical systems. While each set is a cooperative whole, safe takeoffs and landings require each set to function in perfect step with the others.

  • Main Landing Gear may be centered underneath the fuselage, or where the wings meet the fuselage to distribute weight during landing and taxiing.
  • Nose Landing Gear is found underneath the nose cone or fuselage, to support the front portion during ground operations. It may include a smaller wheel and strut assembly to facilitate steering during taxiing.
  • Wing Landing Gear may be installed on larger aircraft, especially those with high wings to help distribute the weight more evenly and enhance stability during landing and ground operations.

Proper maintenance is crucial to prevent wear, detect defects, and ensure optimal performance. Regular inspections, lubrication, and component replacements are scheduled based on flight hours, cycles, and manufacturer recommendations. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of failures that compromise flight safety.

Maintenance

Preventative maintenance tasks include visual inspections, non-destructive testing (NDT) for hidden defects, moving parts lubrication, and structural checks for signs of fatigue or corrosion. For legal compliance, these efforts must be performed by certified technicians following guidelines set by aviation authorities such as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) or EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency).

Repairs

Despite meticulous maintenance, landing gear components can degrade over time due to operational stresses and environmental factors. Issues identified during inspections are repaired using various techniques depending on the nature and extent of the damage:

  • Precision machining or welding is used to repair structural components showing damage or wear.
  • Worn down components are replaced, including seals, bearings, bushings, and brake pads.
  • Damaged or clogged hydraulic lines, seals, and actuators are repaired or replaced.
  • Surface repairs and treatments for corrosion are applied to help prevent further damage ─ an especially critical need for aircraft operating in humid or coastal environments.

Overhauls

A comprehensive overhaul involves disassembling the landing gear down to its individual components. Typical overhaul procedures include:

  • Disassembly and thorough cleaning of all components is completed to remove contaminants and allow inspection for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion.
  • Functional/mechanical tests are conducted to ensure that repaired or replaced components meet operational specifications.
  • Protective coatings are applied to components to enhance durability and corrosion resistance.
  • Landing gear is reassembled following manufacturer’s specifications and maintenance manuals.

Effective landing gear MRO practices are required for safety and compliance. These proactive practices contribute to the economic viability of airlines, as well as fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft. By extending the operational life of landing gear, operators minimize the costs of unscheduled maintenance, delays, and downtime.

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