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a flying machine becomes a two wheel, land vehicle
By Al Hodges
After a distraction and failing to complete the
checklist, the Long-EZ touched down perfectly and was rolling out with nose
still high. The nose wheel does not touch until after several hundred
feet of roll out on a long runway. Tamiami
(TMB) has 5,000 feet available, and I use most of it.
As I rolled, a voice from the tower urgently called "2 Charlie Lima go around, go around!"
There are two active east-west runways at TMB, and there is a Cessna with call sign ending in CL operating out of TMB. As my number is N829CL or 9CL, I continued. Then he added, "I don't see your nose wheel." This caught my attention, as most Cessna's do not retract the nose wheel. I glanced down and saw the black tire instead of the runway through the gear window. He was talking to me!
"Do I try to go around, or do I try to lower the gear?"
I decide to ignore the "go around" and spin the crank 12 turns to lower the gear while holding back the stick to maintain the nose high. A good wind combined with the still fast moving airplane kept the nose up. When the nose finally dropped, the gear was down and held as usual. I thanked the tower and explained not going around by "I was behind the power curve." The tower operator did a great job with split second reaction. He saved me a lot of embarrassment and three trips to the airport to re-glass the bottom of the nose, again!
The decision not to go around) was a gut feeling, not a reasoned decision. Obviously, I did not have time to think this through, but what would happen with no nose gear and a sudden application of power? Would it fly, or would it dive into the runway? My gut reaction was not to add power. I do not know why.
The next day was testing time. I notified the tower I would be staying in the pattern. I made my usual 180 degree turn from downwind to final after carefully using my Check List and being sure the nose gear was down. The main gear touched down. I followed the normal procedure of rolling out several hundred feet before the nose wheel drops. As the speed slowed and the nose wheel wanted to drop, I quickly applied full power. The EZ dived, but the gear spring kept the nose from hitting the runway. Full power is not the answer. I had made the right decision on Saturday. Sudden power tends to rotate the plane around the main gear axles when the aircraft is not flying.
On the next landing, when the speed slowed close to nose wheel touching, I slowly added a little power, gradually increasing it to about half throttle. No nose drop; just a quick take off. After take off, it was a flying machine and full throttle gave the usual fast climb out.
The third time, I quickly added half throttle just before the nose wheel was ready to touch, and again the plane dived. My pusher powered Long-EZ requires a very slow increase of power until airborne, and then the throttle can be advanced.
According to the tower operators, controllers are trained to give a "Go around" instruction when any part of the landing gear is not down. Controllers may not know the flying characteristics of the aircraft. Only the pilot is in command; only the pilot is responsible for flying the aircraft. The pilot must make the final decision, the safe decision in the pilot's mind. Perhaps this experience may benefit pilots of canard and pusher aircraft.
Since submitting this report to several aviation safety groups on the Internet, response has been interesting. One ultra-light pilot commented on similar problems he has seen when inexperienced pilots apply power to aircraft with the engine placed above the wing and ultra-light pushers.