A crash landing could have been avoided if the pilots were taught how hard to pull a landing gear lever, a report has found.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) today (Thur) released its findings into the heavy landing of a twin-engine Air Nelson plane at Woodbourne airbase, near Blenheim, on February 9, 2011.

The report concludes the plane, carrying 41 passengers, was mechanically fine, but the incident occurred because its two pilots didn't know how hard to pull the lever which brought down its nose landing gear.

No-one aboard the aircraft was hurt.


Now, the manufacturers of the Bombardier DHC-8-311 aeroplane (known as a Q300) have given operators worldwide more detailed explanations of how the back-up Alternate Gear Extension procedure works.

The incident started when the plane departed Hamilton on a scheduled flight to Wellington, with two pilots, a flight attendant and 41 passengers.

Before take-off, the nosewheel steering malfunctioned because of a faulty switch. The pilots took off anyway because they had a back-up system.

As they approached Wellington, the main landing gear failed and they flew around to activate the back-up system.

They were diverted to Woodbourne and decided to to carry out an emergency crash landing without the use of its nose landing gear.

The plane landed safely with damage caused to its nose and lower forward fuselage.

There was nothing mechanically wrong, the TAIC concluded in a 52-page report out today.

"The nose landing gear did not extend because the pilots did not pull hard enough on the handle that should have released the uplock,'' it said.

"If the uplock had released, the nose landing gear would have lowered under gravity and locked down.''

When practising the procedure in the operator's flight simulator, an easier pull was required to bring the gear down.

The TAIC found the pilots were not made aware through their training of how hard they had to pull the handle to release the nose landing gear uplock.

Air Nelson, a subsidiary of Air New Zealand, has since modified its flight simulator so that the forces were more typical of those found on the actual plane, and provided its pilots with more technical information on Alternate Gear Extension procedure.

Investigators have recommended that New Zealand's director of Civil Aviation discusses with Transport Canada - where the landing gear is made - the incident and the "desirability'' of making flight simulators performance closer to the real landing gear.