Aircraft Landing Gear Emergency Extension Systems

The emergency extension system lowers the landing gear if the main power system fails. There are numerous ways in which this is done depending on the size and complexity of the aircraft. Some aircraft have an emergency release handle in the flight deck that is connected through a mechanical linkage to the gear uplocks. When the handle is operated, it releases the uplocks and allows the gear to free-fall to the extended position under the force created by gravity acting upon the gear. Other aircraft use a non-mechanical back-up, such as pneumatic power, to unlatch the gear.

Aircraft Landing Gear Systems
These emergency gear extension handles in a Boeing 737 are located under a floor panel on the flight deck. Each handle releases the gear uplock via a cable system so the gear can freefall into the extended position

The popular small aircraft retraction system shown in Landing Gear Retraction post figures 2 and 3 uses a free-fall valve for emergency gear extension. Activated from the flight deck, when the free-fall valve is opened, hydraulic fluid is allowed to flow from the gear-up side of the actuators to the gear-down side of the actuators, independent of the power pack. Pressure holding the gear up is relieved, and the gear extends due to its weight. Air moving past the gear aids in the extension and helps push the gear into the down-and-locked position.

Large and high performance aircraft are equipped with redundant hydraulic systems. This makes emergency extension less common since a different source of hydraulic power can be selected if the gear does not function normally. If the gear still fails to extend, some sort of unlatching device is used to release the uplocks and allow the gear to free fall.

In some small aircraft, the design configuration makes emergency extension of the gear by gravity and air loads alone impossible or impractical. Force of some kind must therefore be applied. Manual extension systems, wherein the pilot mechanically cranks the gear into position, are common. Consult the aircraft maintenance manual for all emergency landing gear extension system descriptions of operation, performance standards, and emergency extension tests as required.