I’m happy to say that I’ve never landed with my gear up. Of course that’s not surprising considering that that I’ve only flown fixed gear aircraft up to this point. The closest I’ve been was a simulated experience. After completing the oral portion of a flight review with an instructor, we decided to hop on the simulator, just for fun. It was an older machine (I’m spoiled by X-Plane 11), but he loaded up an airplane and set me up on an approach. I flew the approach, proud of my precision as I reversed course on the procedure turn, joined the localizer and then the glideslope, following it all the way to the runway. This approach was pretty, and I was excited that the one I was on stage for was working out so well. “Wow, your scan is working overtime” he commented, noting my concentration. Leveling out over the runway, I gently eased back on the yoke to let the wheels kiss the runway. I waited a bit longer. Any moment. I felt contact with the ground but felt instant deceleration as the airplane grinded to a halt. The gear was still up. He had loaded up a Cessna with retractable gear. A brief pause and I broke the silence with “at least I’m on centerline?” We had a good laugh about it, but it still made me think about the situation. Thankfully in the real world, I wouldn’t find myself in a mystery airplane on approach to an airport, but the startle of “what just happened?” certainly made me think of my GUMPS check, and how I should have used one then like I do in the real airplane. Maybe I would have avoided the simulated embarrassment.
If you fly mainly fixed gear, fixed pitch propeller airplanes, it would seem that doing a GUMPS check before landing takes you through some items that might seem superfluous in training aircraft. But by building that habit on every flight, that habit will translate to nearly any aircraft you can find yourself flying down the road. You still need to use your paper checklist – always – but GUMPS is a nice habit of redundancy that’s easy to remember. Let’s go through it and explore how some of those superfluous ones might can help you even in the good old Cessna 172.
Fuel selector to both, or the fullest tank, depending on your airplane. Running out of gas is always bad, but running out of gas, or running a tank dry, on short final, is especially troublesome. There’s very little time to troubleshoot that low.
Landing gear down and locked, or in the case of fixed gear, “down and welded.” This is that habit of thinking about landing gear for a potential transition in the future. Repeated GUMPS checks in a fixed gear airplane might cause you to glance over the U, taking it for granted. Building that habit could engrain that groove of skipping over it, defeating the purpose if you move on to retractable gear. To bring meaningful focus to the poor “U” in a fixed gear airplane, consider thinking of undercarriage as “ready to roll.” This means ensuring that your feet and a passenger’s feet are off the brakes. Sometimes I just look out the window and say “I see a wheel.” Get in the habit of building a habit to check your gear.
Mixture full rich. It might seem obvious that the mixture would be rich by now, given that it was either rich from takeoff (if flying a pattern) or rich from the descent checklist (if coming in from cruise). However, to prevent shock cooling of the engine during descent, enrichening the mixture slowly is often recommended. Consider the scenario where you’ve notched the mixture richer a time or two on the way down but still had a little to go when other tasks distracted you from finalizing it. This part of the check makes sure the mixture is where you need it. Of course, your particular airplane and engine might call for an other than full rich mixture setting. This check ensures you have it where it needs to be.
Propellers forward. Engines with a constant speed propeller (controllable pitch) move to a low pitch/ high rpm for takeoff and landing. In those airplanes, the throttle knob controls manifold pressure (instead of the usual RPM) and the (usually blue) propeller knob controls RPM. To avoid glancing over it in the training airplane, why not use this to verify that the RPM is where you want it? In the training airplane, that’s the throttle, and with a constant speed prop, it’s the propeller lever.
Buckle up for safely. Both the shoulder and lap strap need to be on for landing, so this is a good time to check yourself and your passengers. The switches apply mainly to lights (like landing lights), but depending on your airplane, it might mean a fuel pump or other switch. This will help jog your memory if you otherwise missed it.
Related: The Traffic Pattern on the Clayviation YouTube channel. Take a lap around the traffic pattern at Flying Cloud Airport near Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see how practicing your checks and flows can help you stay ahead of the airplane. Watch and subscribe here:
There are several variations of GUMPS that I’ve found out there. CGUMPS adds carb heat for airplanes with a carbeurator. BCGUMPS includes a boost pump, if so equipped. GUMPFS adds flaps in the mix, and PCGUMPFS adds power (engine rpm, presumably used abeam the numbers on downwind). Whatever your flavor, remember there is beauty in simplicity. We could probably make every step on a cross country a 1038 letter acronym if we wanted. The first person to come up with a logical aviation use for the acronym ABRACADABRA gets a prize. GUMPS isn’t a replacement for your checklist, but rather an easy to remember redundancy that’s a built in back up with your checklist. Making a GUMPS check an automatic habit at a certain point in your approach is like putting your flight bag that you can’t forget to bring with you the next morning right in front of the door. You should be thinking about it, but if you forget or get distracted, it’s there to get in the way and save the day. What do you use when YOU fly? Tell me about it it in the comments!
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