I know of a Lockheed JetStar that landed gear up because the pilots forgot to lower the landing gear, and I know the reason why because I previously flew on that airplane.
On the technical side, to prevent landing with the gear retracted, in flight any time a throttle is retarded beyond a certain point with the flaps retracted, the landing gear warning horn sounds. To silence the landing gear warning horn, there is a push button switch just below the landing gear selector handle that had to be pushed in and held in while the throttle(s) were retarded. The landing gear selector handle was located on the co-pilots side of the instrument panel, so it was normal procedure for the Captain to point to the button to signal the co-pilot to hold the button in when the throttles were retarded.
During decent when approaching the lower altitudes around the mid 20’s it was normal procedure to pull the outboard engines back to idle to keep from exceeding the redline airspeed. To come down even faster we sometimes brought a third engine back to idle leaving one engine up on power, usually number 2 to maintain enough bleed air for pressurization while also extending the speed brake, using this procedure a JetStar can descend like a rock without approaching the airspeed redline.
Many JetStar operators installed another button wired in parallel with the landing gear warning silence button on the pilots left hand grip of the control wheel so all he had to do was push in the switch with a finger on his left hand while retarding the throttles with his right hand.
In the late 1970’s during a gap in my full time jobs I did some free lance work on JetStars based at HPN
. As a factory trained JetStar mechanic I would often assist some of the other JetStar operators doing their heavy inspections at HPN
, which at one time had the largest concentration of corporate owned JetStar’s based on one field, working through my former maintenance company for insurance purposes.
One company I helped out with maintenance had a 7 day European trip scheduled, normally they took their co-pilot/mechanic with them on overseas flights to have a 3 man crew because of the length of the trip. For personal reasons he could not make this trip, so knowing that I was also co-pilot qualified on the JetStar he asked if I wanted to take the trip in his place, all expenses paid plus a salary. After thinking about it for a nano second I agreed and off I went to Rome, Paris and Geneva.
On this JetStar the Cheap Pilot, excuse me Chief Pilot came up with a much simpler and cheaper modification to silence the landing gear warning horn, he took a small piece of plastic, drilled a hole in it and by using one of the holding screws for the landing gear control handle unit, mounted it so it permanently pushed in the button which maybe he didn’t know but it also totally disabled the landing gear warning system. He was so proud of his modification he made it a point of showing it to me during the flight.
Fast forward a few years later, I am now employed on my second JetStar job and during a 4 day trip to Dallas we decided to take the airplane to KC
Aviation during the layover, then a top JetStar shop to get some work done on the interior and chase down some hydraulic leaks.
I see in the hangar a JetStar I didn’t recognize by paint or N number up on jacks with the auxiliary tanks and belly skins off and showing a lot of damage to the belly. I asked the lead mechanic on our airplane what happened to this JetStar. He said it landed gear up because someone had put a piece of plastic over the landing gear warning horn silencer button. I asked him what the serial number was and it was the same airplane I flew on to Europe a few years before and I told him the story behind that piece of plastic.
I had known that the company I flew with had sold the JetStar and apparently whoever bought it never removed the piece of plastic. The lead mechanic told me the FAA investigated the incident and the pilot’s were violated by the FAA because of this illegal modification. In my opinion they should have investigated it more and violated the stupid chief pilot who did this in the first place as well.
Another story from my days in corporate aviation.