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The eagle-eyed XO.

For the airframers of the VAW-113 Black Eagles, it was another hot, high-tempo day of routine flight ops aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Having just won the Battle "E" and the Air Wing Fourteen "Golden Wrench" award a few months back, and having been in the same piece of sea doing the same mission less than six months ago, we were ripe for complacency.


Black Eagle 602 was on final approach when the pilot tried to lower the landing gear. The right main gear failed to lower, remaining in the up-and-locked position. The pilot--using emergency procedures for a landing-gear failure--lowered the gear and landed the aircraft.

He told Maintenance Control about the discrepancy, and the aircraft was downed and scheduled to be moved to the hangar bay for a check of the landing gear system.

While doing operational checks in accordance with the MIMs, maintenance personnel couldn't duplicate the problem. The supervisor reported his findings to the Maintenance Control senior chief and said that he intended to sign the gripe off as "A-799," since the landing gear appeared to be operating 4.0 with the aircraft on jacks. Because the landing gear indicator had only been changed two days earlier, the senior chief directed the CDI to continue troubleshooting.

Following the senior chief 's direction, the supervisor did another visual inspection of the right main-landing-gear hydraulic components and noticed the striker bolt on the timer check-valve was slightly worn, causing it to be out of adjustment.

The E-2C landing gear system is designed with a hydraulic timer check-valve mounted on the forward bulkhead of each main-landing-gear wheel well. The valve routes hydraulic fluid to the main-landing-gear actuators when the forward-landing-gear doors are open fully. The timer check-valve is actuated by a striker bolt which is depressed by a cam assembly on the forward door linkage when the doors are open fully.

On Black Eagle 602, the worn striker bolt was not fully actuating the valve. This, the supervisor realized, was probably the reason why the landing gear did not extend when the pilot placed the landing gear handle in the down position during the previous flight.


The supervisor instructed his crew to remove and inspect the striker bolt and adjust the system rigging. After doing so, the striker bolt was reinstalled, but the corresponding washer, bolt, and cotter key (highlighted in the photos above), which secure the cam assembly to the timer check-valve, were left off in order to reduce the amount of time it would take to remove the striker bolt again if more adjustments were required.

The landing gear was checked again and everything worked 4.0. The supervisor--satisfied that the discrepancy had been fixed--told his crew to lower the aircraft off of the jacks so it could be moved back to the flight deck.

In his rush to ensure that Black Eagle 602 was ready for the first launch at 0500 the following morning, the supervisor violated the cardinal rule of QA: he didn't personally inspect all the work before signing off the discrepancy. If this critical inspection had been conducted, he would have discovered that the washer, nut, and cotter pin hadn't been reinstalled on the striker bolt.

With the job signed off and the bird spotted on the flight deck, the aircrew started their preflight inspection. The senior pilot and aircraft commander for this flight happened to be the squadron XO. As part of his preflight walk-around, he took a few extra seconds to inspect the cam assembly tucked up behind the gear linkage on the forward main-gear bulkhead. That's where he discovered that the hardware was missing.

Had the XO not taken the extra time to inspect the associated hardware, the bolt easily could have fallen out during the catapult shot or later in flight. A gear up or hung main-mount landing on the beach is risky enough; on the ship, it can be fatal.

I was that supervisor. It was my complacency that led me to believe we were infallible.

Petty Officer Seymore works in the airframes shop at VAW-113.

By AM1(AW) Bruce Seymore
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Author:Seymore, Bruce
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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