I have roughly 1400 hours at my airline. All in the same plane. I know it fairly well. Over time I know what noises are normal and which ones aren't.
Since I had a line this month, almost every flight was the same. Depart at 6:10AM and a scheduled return at 12:20PM.
Last Tuesday was a little different.
High winds, rain and light snow were over the outstation. Winds were blowing 250@17G28 while the autopilot lined up with runway 30. The winds aloft were much higher showing 60knots + at 3500 feet AGL.
Like normal I began slowing from 250 knots to prepare for landing. After calling for the third flap setting I called for gear down. The plane was at 160 knots. Maximum gear extension speed is over 200 knots.
I heard the gear extend, but then stop, a metallic scraping noise, extend, another odd clunk, and that was it.
I paused and looked over, three green lights, but then there was a proximity sensor status message. Something wasn't right.
Still in the clouds, in icing conditions, the Captain and I discussed the situation while I monitored the autopilot flying the approach. We agreed that we indeed had three green lights and that the proximity status message is a "no action required" item during flight. I decided I would make a soft as possible landing and be very gentle on the nose. The runway was 8500 feet long and our charts showed we needed 3900 feet to stop on a wet runway.
I eased the mains onto the runway. Slowly I let the nose down....normal. I used maximum reverse and minimal braking to keep weight off the nose.
Everything seemed fine until the Captain turned off the runway.....another horrible scraping sound.
My eyes were fixated on the ramp personnel guiding us into the gate. If there was an issue it would show in his face. Sure enough he tilted his head as we came to a stop.
After the passengers were off, I stepped off the plane to inspect the damage. Once on the jetbridge I looked down and saw the problem, a gear door was severely damaged. It had wrapped itself behind the nose gear.
Further inspection showed we were fairly lucky the nose gear came down and locked into place. The hydraulic system on the plane is very strong which likely what helped push the gear into place despite the door being bent/damaged.
A mechanic came out. Not much he could do right away. The return flight was cancelled and we were all placed on the next flight (3 hours later!) back to our domicile as deadheads. As luck would have it we all got first class seats.
I still get paid for my cancelled flight plus I get paid for deadheading. I had a nice first class meal on the way back. It was a little annoying getting back 3 hours late.
I flew my last trip of the year last night. I have a few more post lined up before this blog begins to get stale for a bit.