In a recent decision, the NTSB affirmed an administrative law judge’s finding that a gear-up landing supported a charge of careless operation of an aircraft. In Administrator v. Lorenz, the airman admitted that he landed a Beechcraft Bonanza V35B with the landing gear in the up position. The FAA charged the airman with careless and reckless operation of an aircraft in violation of FAR 91.13(a)(“operat[ing] an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another”) and the ALJ agreed.
On appeal to the NTSB, the airman argued that “potential endangerment” was absent and, even if it was present, potential endangerment was, “contrary to the plain and sensible meaning of the regulation.” Citing numerous cases discussing the potential endangerment present when an aircraft is landed with the gear up, the NTSB stated that “[l]anding an aircraft with the landing gear retracted clearly creates the potential for injury, death or significant property damage, not only to the aircraft and those aboard it, but to those persons or property that are, or reasonably could have been, in the vicinity of the runway.” The Board also noted in a footnote that “[t]he Administrator carries the ultimate burden in these proceedings, but given the extensive case law recognizing that the danger of such injury or damage is inherent in a gear-up landing, we think the lack of any showing that there was, in actuality, no such potential, requires a finding of potential endangerment.”
The airman also raised the issue of whether the corporate ownership of the aircraft constituted “property of another.” The Board noted that the corporate ownership of the aircraft, where the airman owned 50% of the corporation and the other one-half interest was owned by another individual who was the only other authorized pilot, renders the corporately-owned aircraft “property of another” under FAR 91.13(a).
Fortunately for the airman, he filed an Aviation Safety Reporting System form following the incident. As a result, he received a waiver of sanction. Unfortunately, however, he now has a finding of violation on his airman record.