Aircraft rely on landing gear for takeoff and landing. Consisting of wheels affixed to a hinge-like system, landing gear is generally found under the nose and around the wings. The wheels are usually retractable, but may take on a fixed configuration as well. Fixed landing gear, unlike retractable landing gear, hangs underneath an aircraft during flight. Retractable landing gear, as its name suggests, is stowed inside the aircraft.
If you have ever paid attention to an aircraft’s landing gear, you may notice that the nose section retracts forward. While there are many setups for landing gear, the nose landing gear in particular will often retract forward, whereas the rear landing gear around the wings will retract backward. You may ask yourself: “Why does the nose landing gear retract forward?”
To begin, nose landing gear weighs less than the rear landing gear, one of the reasons being that the nose can tip forward if too much weight is placed near the front. The wheels are usually smaller in size; thus meeting the necessary weight characteristics for flight. Due to it weighing so much less, nose landing gear may fail to retract backward, exposing it to atmospheric conditions like wind.
As commercial aircraft fly at speeds of up to 600 miles per hour, wind strikes the landing gear, preventing it from retracting properly. This is based on the assumption that it features a backward-retracting design. Meanwhile, using forward-retracting landing gear for the nose remedies this issue. With a lack of wind resistance, the forward-retracting design means that the wind will aid in lowering the landing gear.
With a forward-retracting design, the nose landing gear does not solely depend on hydraulic pressure. It is important to note that front and rear landing gear normally use hydraulic pressure to retract. Additionally, they are connected to a hinge-like system that is powered by pressurized gas or air.
Benefit of Forward-Retracting Nose Landing Gear
Hydraulic systems, however, can fail. As such, if the nose landing gear loses hydraulic pressure, pilots can lower it with a forward-retracting design. It leverages gravity and the wind to assist in retraction. More than that, if there is a persistent problem with the hydraulic system, pilots can lower the forward-retracting landing gear manually by using a crank, pump, or mechanical free-fall mechanism. This can be especially helpful in cases where the main landing gear fails.
Nose landing gear allows for the more forceful application of the brakes during landings at high speeds without causing the aircraft to tip over. Moreover, it prevents ground looping, or swerving, by providing additional directional stability during ground operation since the aircraft’s center of gravity is forward of the main wheels. This keeps the aircraft moving forward in a straight line. Lastly, it provides better forward visibility for pilots during takeoff, taxiing, and landing procedures.
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