Aviation occurrence briefs

Wheels up landing involving SOCATA TB-20, Cambridge, Tasmania, on 27 May 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 27 May 2018, the pilot of a SOCATA TB-20 was conducting circuits at Cambridge, Tasmania. The pilot was the only occupant on board.

The pilot was conducting his first circuit. Soon after take-off, Air Traffic Control (ATC) advised that another plane was joining the base leg and the SOCATA would be second in the landing sequence. The pilot extended his circuit accordingly. ATC observed that the wheels of the aircraft were extended on the base leg and final approach. The pilot said that he decided to leave the gear down to aid in slowing the aircraft and maintaining separation.

When the pilot turned the aircraft onto final approach, the sun was in his eyes, requiring him to use sunglasses. This impaired his vision of the instrument panel. The pilot then performed the final landing checks, whilst monitoring the preceding traffic and with the sun in his eyes. He inadvertently selected gear up.

The pilot subsequently landed the aircraft with the wheels retracted and was observed to come to a stop half way down the runway. He then reported the incident to ATC and emergency services were called.

The aircraft sustained damage to the propeller.

Safety message

This incident highlights the importance of managing distraction. During times of high workload, distraction can often lead to human error.

External pressures and distractions are sometimes unavoidable, however, there are effective ways to manage them, as discussed in the ATSB research report B2004/0324, ‘Dangerous distraction: An examination of accidents and incidents involving pilot distraction in Australia between 1997 and 2004’.

Wheels up landings are not uncommon; the Flight Safety Australia article, Those who won’t: avoiding gear-up landings includes valuable information to assist pilots in avoiding these incidents. Tip number 3 and 4 are particularly pertinent to this incident. Tip number 4 is about recognising that modified or interrupted traffic patterns frequently contribute to gear-up landings and for the pilot to be extra vigilant in these situations. Tip number 3 is about ensuring that all final approaches have a short, final gear position check.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



General details
Date: 27 May 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1515 EST    
Location   (show map): Cambridge    
State: Tasmania    
Release Date: 17 December 2018   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer S.O.C.A.T.A.-Groupe Aerospatiale  
Aircraft model TB-20  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Minor  
Departure point Cambridge, Tasmania  
Last update 17 December 2018