DL 3809 4-19-11: Wheels down KFSM -> KMEM


Today (4-19-11) I was a customer on DL 3809 from Ft Smith, AR (FSM) to Memphis (MEM), a Canadaire Regional Jet flight. The flight was delayed into FSM a little, as the ticket counter advised me. I asked if it was weather in MEM, but was told tha the plane was flying slow, due to having to keep the landing gear down. I did not really believe that statement, but he seemed sincere. I boarded and during the taxi out, the pilot announced that we would have a slightly louder flight to MEM, and gave a delayed ETA. He explained that we would be flying slower and lower, due to having the landing gear down for the trip back to MEM. Wow! It WAS TRUE!!

Now, I can agree (without really knowing details) that this probably was not a real flight safety issue. But, something was really wrong with the bird, and Pinnacle (the regional feeder dba Delta Connection) made a decision to send the plane from MEM to FSM with passengers, and the return flight on which I was a passenger. And, MEM is their hub and maintenence location! Why did they not delay, sub a plane, or just cancel?? It would have screwed my travel today, but keeping public confidence in safe operations in the airline business seems to me to be a major priority!! :open_mouth:

Check out the flight on April 19, DL 3809 from FSM to MEM, filed for 7,000 ft and 274 k - for a regional jet. (275 k must be the max gear down speed, but that seems rather fast to my uneducated reasoning.)

I do anticipate Delta had no vote in this management decision, but it bore their brand. I will let them know. In my flight experience as a commercial customer, I have never had anything similar, nor heard of it. I became a million miler on DL over 15 years ago, and some since then have added much more, including the NWA merger. Seems to me a real boneheaded decision in dealing with the public confidence. (You should have seen the faces and comments after the pilot’s announcement!!) :unamused:


I can understand if it was an extremely short flight like FNT-DTW or RST-MSP or if the problem occurred at the outstation and the aircraft would have to be ferried to MEM for repair anyway, but this does seem very unusual.


flightaware.com/live/flight/FLG3 … /KMEM/KFSM
flightaware.com/live/flight/FLG3 … /KFSM/KMEM

Flying with the gear down is not unsafe. It does require a slower speed. THe distance between FSM and MEM is only about 250 miles. The flight time wasn’t that much longer than other flights between FSM and MEM.

The flight was already airborne when the pilots discovered that one or more of the gears wouldn’t go up. That would have meant returning to MEM. Several things were probably taken into consideration for continuing the flight:

  • no other aircraft available so make the flight with the gear down
  • returning to MEM to get an aircraft sub (if an aircraft was available) could mean a very long wait. The wait could be long enough that the crew would run out of duty time and thus require another crew to take the flight
  • returning to MEM to perform maintenance on the aircraft could have the same problems as getting an aircraft sub

(Airlines don’t just have planes waiting around as backups in case something goes wrong with a flight)

From a customer service point of view, I think Pinnacle did a good thing. They were able to get their pax to their destination, albeit a few minute late, in a safe manner.


Would you accept, well the T/R’s aren’t working or the flaps aren’t working, so it will be a little louder, just the brakes working a little harder :confused:

What the hell has has happened to our country when we have aircraft falling apart, sleeping controllers, and now this? a known problem!

I expect this next, " Ladies and gentleman, uh…the co-pilot is running late tonight, does anyone have any aircraft experience"


I know and considered all the comments you made. I have some personal time in R/G flying (PIC) many years ago, and a lot of commercial air travel. You sound like the person at Pinnacle who made the ‘Go ahead’ decision. My opinion is very different, and comes from protecting a company brand and customer perceptions that are very valuable, which were publicly put at risk in this situation. I give this one a “Down”. However, Pinnacle and Delta need to settle this out between them, IMHO. And, I did notify Delta directly. Cancelling or delaying the flight due to a mechanical issue happens. Inconvenient, but the public (customers) do accept this situation. I do not believe they will accept that Delta and affiliates would take a questionably percieved safety risk. There were a lot of unhappy folks on the plane, I believe.


That, of course, is absurd.

The Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) does not require landing gear to be retracted:
(M) May be inoperative provided:

a) Operations are conducted in accordance with AFM Supplement (Flight with Landing Gear Down),
b) Operations are not conducted in known or forecast icing conditions,
c) Ground lock pins are installed to ensure that all three landing gears are locked down throughout flight,
d) In-flight performance information given in Flight Planning and Cruise Control Manual is used,
e) Extended overwater operations are prohibited,
f) Both headsets are worn,
g) Flight Compartment and Cabin Interphone Systems are operative,
h) Both Flap Channels of the Slat Flap Electronic Control Unit are operative,
i) Both Flap Power Drive Unit Motors are operative,
j) Both Slat Channels of the Slat Flap Electronic Control Unit are operative, (cont’d)
k) Both Slat Power Drive Unit Motors are operative,
l) Cat II and CAT III operations are prohibited, and
m) Repairs are made within one flight day.

There’s no requirement for both thrust reversers to be operative
(M) One may be inoperative provided:
a) Affected valve is secured CLOSED,
b) Both Ice Detection Systems are operative,
c) Associated Thrust Reverser is deactivated, stowed, and LOCKED in forward thrust position,
d) Operations are not conducted in known or forecast icing conditions, and
e) Operations are conducted in accordance with AFM performance data for one Thrust Reverser inoperative.

Flaps are not included in the MMEL because “…it does not contain obviously required items such as wings, flaps, and rudders…”


It’s always up to the pilot and the dispatcher what to do.

Delta doesn’t know the mechanical details of the flight.


You paid them to get you there.

They got you there in a legal, approved and safe operation that had obviously been thought out and overseen by more than one level of operations in the company. They told you about it when you checked in.


Well, there was a long time when every plane had landing gear hanging. It would be interesting to take a commercial flight at 7000 ft. Even when we had our lovely DAY-CVG 64 mile flight, the pilots would try to make it to 10,000 ft.


Wow, you went to the MEL! Very nicely done.


Thanks for the info and setting me straight on that!


I’ve seen this happen several times. I can remember several ATR-42 flights to several destinations from SPI flew revenue. TW and AA to STL and ORD. I remember a Jetstream product to STL doing the same thing.
It sucks and it was slow, but it was sure better than waiting for and getting on a bus that would take 3x as long .


I flew a -25 from Red Deer to Great Fall MT with the gear down
It was -22f in Red Deer and when I pre-flghted I missed that the Emg air was spent (aircraft was outside all night and s*it breaks when it’s that cold)
Had to make a customs time so 230kts at 19,000. It’s noisy but it flys