Shortly after take-off, as the landing gear retracted, the crew heard a loud bang. The crew detected a potential issue with the landing gear, and began troubleshooting the problem. The crew noted that the red landing gear transit warning light had remained illuminated. They cycled the landing gear on several occasions, which resulted in the green main landing gear down indicator lights illuminating, but not the nose landing gear (NLG) light. The transit light also remained illuminated.
The aircraft arrived at Toowoomba, Queensland and a pass over the runway confirmed that the NLG had extended, but was not in the locked position. The crew then referenced the wheels up landing procedure and formulated a plan.
During the subsequent landing, the aircraft’s nose lowered and slid along the runway. The aircraft came to a stop and the crew exited.
An examination of the aircraft determined that the rod end on the NLG forward retract rod assembly had separated from the plunger tube on the NLG plunger assembly. The affected components were further examined by the aircraft manufacturer who determined that copper braze had not been placed inside the plunger tube before the rod end had been inserted during the manufacturing process, which was conducted by an external supplier.
As a result of this occurrence, the aircraft manufacturer released a Mandatory Service Bulletin for the inspection, and if necessary, replacement of the affected plunger assemblies. They further advised the ATSB that the manufacture of the plunger assembly will now be conducted in‑house, and that they are reviewing all braze process specifications and other brazed components manufactured by the external supplier.
While the crew were faced with an unfortunate situation, this accident highlighted the benefits of using time to your advantage. The crew took the time to formulate a strategy for the landing, assigned responsibilities to each crew member, and then rehearsed the plan. This ensured that they were well prepared and ended in a safe outcome.