You wrote: "A gear extension at enroute speeds would probably cause a lot of damage to the landing gear itself, if not rip it off completely."
Remember mid-summer 00, when a German 310 (Hapag
LLoyd) opert'd with extracted gear the entire route from a Greek island ( bound for HAJ ), and finaly
made an emergency touch down in Vienna, cause they were running out of fuel ???, see the pic: Click for large version
Photo © Marcus Weigand
In my case, I guess they had a false alert on I-don't-
know-what-it-was, and there were no further incidents
while we proceeded to jfk.
As I said... Never experienced anything like that...