It often seems like each flight is judged by the quality of the landing. Granted, Gulfstream pilots are highly skilled, so we expect them to make consistently smooth landings. But large-cabin Gulfstream pilots have a bit of a secret that keeps their landing prowess high. They get assistance from the robust trailing-link landing gear technology that engineers for Grumman, the forefather of Gulfstream, pioneered originally for the U.S. Navy.
The most demanding task for any Navy fighter (and its pilot) is to land on the small, pitching and heaving deck of an aircraft carrier at sea. Hitting the proper spot on the deck no doubt takes superb flying skills. Many have even called a carrier landing a “controlled crash,” which is not far from being correct. So for an aircraft to survive the punishment of carrier arrivals it must have very stout landing gear indeed.
On most aircraft—military or civilian—the landing gear is a traditional hydraulic cylinder that compresses straight up to absorb the shock of touchdown. Such “stiff-legged” landing gear works fine when runways are long and the pilot can gently flare the aircraft and feel for the pavement as the aircraft floats along in ground effect. But Grumman was among the companies that developed the innovative trailing link main landing-gear technology for Navy fighters.
The same main gear technology that makes difficult carrier landings possible was modified and adapted for use on the Gulfstream II and every large-cabin Gulfstream model since.
Trailing link gets its name because the main landing gear and its wheels are mounted on a link aft of the landing gear strut. That means the link and wheels can swing through a very long arc at touchdown instead of only the few inches of shock-absorbing travel inside a traditional hydraulic main gear.
When the main tires of a large-cabin Gulfstream touch down, the link swings upward over a very long stroke to absorb the energy of landing. The long stroke of the trailing link makes the touchdown very smooth, but there is also a safety advantage.
Because of the superior shock-absorbing capability of the trailing-link landing gear, the Gulfstream is less likely to bounce in difficult landing conditions such as those caused by high winds and turbulence. The technology of the trailing-link landing gear, combined with the large spoilers on the wing that immediately reduce lift upon touchdown, means the Gulfstream tires remain in firm, positive contact with the pavement. Putting the weight of the aircraft on the tires immediately, as the shock-absorbing trailing-link landing gear does, creates the most effective braking possible so the jet can come to a stop in the shortest distance.
So the next time a large-cabin Gulfstream rolls smoothly onto the runway for landing, be sure to congratulate the pilots on their excellent technique—there is no need to let on that you know their secret.
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