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Gear-up 727 captain pressed on with landing despite alerts

Cockpit-voice recordings from a Boeing 727-200 which landed with its nose-gear retracted in Alabama captured the captain admitting that he should have executed a go-around, after an unsafe gear warning and automated 'pull up' alerts.

As the Kalitta Charters II aircraft (N720CK) descended towards Tuscaloosa, on 28 January this year, the captain called for a 'flap 15' configuration and deployment of the landing-gear.

In preliminary findings the US National Transportation Safety Board says the airline's 727 operating manual cautions that simultaneous operation of the flaps and landing-gear causes a "large volume demand" on the hydraulic system, and that – with engines near idle – there may be a shortfall of system pressure.

As a result of this dip from normal pressure, it says, the hydraulic system might not be able to unlock the nose-gear.

The inquiry says a gear-warning horn sounded and was acknowledged by the crew, and the cockpit-voice recorder also picked up multiple 'sink rate' and 'pull up' warnings.

But the captain appears to have ignored the warnings, reportedly stating that the aircraft had a history of microswitch problems.

When the first officer asked whether the captain was intending to execute a go-around, the captain responded: "I'm gonna go…I got it, I got it."

The 727 landed on runway 4 with its nose-gear retracted.

After the aircraft came to a halt the captain, apparently referring to the nose-gear, said: "It wasn't down."

"Shoulda gone around," the first officer replied, to which the captain responded: "Yeah, shoulda."

The captain, during an interview, said he had asked for the landing-gear to be recycled and that he had smelled smoke and did not want to delay the landing.

"Neither the first officer, flight engineer or non-revenue mechanic reported these items," says the inquiry. "Nor were any of these items audible on the [cockpit recorder]."

The flight engineer stated that he had recommended that the gear be recycled, but that the captain declined, while the first officer stated that he recommended a go-around to troubleshoot the problems, which the captain also declined.

On the day before the accident a different crew, also arriving at Tuscaloosa, had similarly experienced an indication that the nose-gear had not deployed. The crew sought vectoring to delay the arrival and ran through the abnormal situations checklist, swapping a bulb on the gear indicator without result before recycling the landing-gear.

The indication subsequently changed, showing the nose-gear down and locked, but the event was not written up in the maintenance log after the jet landed.

Its captain said the problem might have been created by the simultaneous deployment of landing-gear and flaps, at low thrust, and said he had informed the captain of the accident flight of the gear indication issues.

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