C-17 gear up landing: investigation results

After publishing the pictures of the famous C-17 gear up landing in Bagram there was much discussion among the visitors of this site about the root cause of the accident, the responsibilities etc. (you can see the pictures and read the comments that follow the article here: C-17 gear up landing in Bagram: images) the Air Mobility Command has finally released the result of its investigation according to which the accident was primarily caused by the failure of the pilots to extract the landing gear.

Bagram C-17 Accident Investigation Board complete

Headquarters AMC Public Affairs

5/7/2009 – SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — Air Mobility Command today released
the results of its investigation into the Jan. 30, 2009, mishap involving a
C-17 Globemaster III that landed with retracted gear at Bagram Air Base,

The Accident Investigation Board, convened by AMC, concluded the primary
cause of the mishap was the failure of the pilots to lower the landing gear
and confirm proper aircraft landing configuration in accordance with the
Before Landing checklist.

The AIB president also found that aircrew distractions, task saturation,
reduced cockpit visual cues, failure of the flight crew to cross- monitor
each other’s performance, the tower’s failure to transmit a required
reminder, and the crew’s inadvertent disabling of Ground Proximity Warning
System alerts contributed to the mishap.

The mishap occurred as the C-17 was landing at Bagram AB during a combat
airlift mission in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and
Joint Task Force Horn of Africa operations.

The aircraft landed on the runway centerline with the landing gear retracted
and slid approximately 4,500 feet before coming to rest on the runway.
Crash, fire and rescue response was immediate, and there were no fatalities,
injuries or damage to other property. However, damage to the aircraft’s main
landing gear and fuselage underbelly was significant.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. From personal experence I feel for this crew.
    Flight was 3Hrs. late for T.O. due to maintenance, student pilots last flight before checkride. Scheduled 4Hr.daylight flight.
    C-130E pilot pro. Gear-up landing closed a SAC base for approx. 12Hrs. Closed pattern VFR, following 45+ touch & go; stop & go; full stop taxi back to T.O.; and engine out approaches, aircraft on final engine out approach,with gear down,.#1 throttle was retarted. To prevent constant yaw from NTS, #1 throttle was set foward of flight idle. as aircraft neared landing I.P. instructed student pilot to go around. On go around, gear was left down, flaps were kept at 50%. Aircraft was on down wind when notified by tower watch for other aircraft entering the pattern,. do a 360 for spacing, at this time, gear was retracted.When aircraft was again cleared for approach the abbrivated landing check list was called. The FE was watching for other aircraft, pilot and copilot both confirmed gear down. The tower asked if we could make the runway from our present position,(which was about 3000′ from the approach end of an was 11,000+’ runway.) Tower called clear to land!! The rest is history.

    Crew member qualifications: I.P. 11,000+ Hrs. :
    I.F.E.4500+Hrs L.M. 4000+ Hrs.

    Findings: Many years of aircrew trainning errors.
    A test mandatory test was given to all pilots, copilots, and flight engineers in all the C-130 squadrons on base covering aircraft systems opperation. There many training proceedural problems changed in the total training program due to the findings of the test. The #1 problem area identified was where the engine throttle should be on a practice three engine approach. This past error was found to be one of the contributing factors of this accident. A large percentage Were in agreement to place it foward of flight idle to keep down the anoying yaw caused by the propeller NTS system. This was being taught to students at present and had been taught in the past. The main problem with this proceedure is, the landing gear warning horn microswitch located in the throttle quadrant.If you make an approach and the gear is not down, the warning horn cannot be silenced providing the throttle is at the flight idle gate. If forward of the switch, the gear warning horn will not activate. There are warning lights in the round part of the gear handle these warning lights will stay on until the gear is lowered. They are about useless on a day flight.
    Factor #2 crew fatigue “Too much of the same” Break-up constant same thing over and over . Get clearance to break out of closed pattern,fly some long approaches.

    Tower was found at fault for clearing to land when aircraft wasn’t configured for landing. This was an “active SAC base” with tankers on alert! THE NON CONFIGURED AIRCRAFT SHOULD NEVER BE GIVEN CLEARANCE TO LAND EXCEPT IN AN EMERGENCY GEAR MALFUNCTION


    Some advice to those who don’t this can’t happen to you, think again!!.

    P.S. As for the person questioning the photo of the gear handle,it looked right to me. Gear handle up no barber poles and no wheels showing in indicators.

    Last word keep alert and don’t get complacent!!!!

  2. Can’t happenn to me. Yeah, right!
    Climbed into an A-4E on the ramp and started the baby right up. I had a 1″x2″ RED wheels warning light flashing in my face and 3 barberpoled gear indicators so I called into maintenance control and explained the problem. I asked for a airframes troubleshootershooter. One of my AMS2 (I was the Aircraft D.O at the time) came jogging out to the aircraft. He stopped briefly by the nose gear strut and then came up the crew boarding ladder. Without even looking inside the cockpit he reached in and smartly repositioned the landing gear handle from the up position to the down position. All of the bad signals immediately disappeared. The flight was then uneventful. Upon my return I sheepishly asked AMS2 Whittaker how he knew the gear handle was up withouit looking in the cockpit. He said that when he stopped by the nose gear he could tell that there was hydraulic pressure on the nose gear door. Fortunately the gear was still pinned and the weight on wheels switch would impede gear retraction. It’s been 36 years since then but I’m still embaressed by it.

  3. to Bill, it takes a big man to admit that, in the 3 years I’ve been active, I’ve never heard any pilot admit something like that or anything.

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