(Photo Credit: boldmethod)
Many of us have experienced rough landings when traveling by air. Pilots do their best to make landings as smooth as possible for passengers. This is done by reducing the vertical descent just before touching down. If the rate of descent is too fast, and/or a proper flare isn’t executed, a hard landing can result.
More than most other aircraft parts, the landing gear are put through great stress, bearing the weight of the aircraft and absorbing the sheer force of the landing. It comes as no surprise that aircraft manufacturers design and test landing gear to meet and exceed these conditions.
Traditional landing gear consist of a single strut with a shock absorber, and a pair of more of wheels at the bottom. With landing gear of this design, the smoothness of a landing depends largely on the skill of the pilot. Most aircraft use this more common type of landing gear.
Trailing-link landing gear are designed a bit differently, with a flexible L-shaped arm connected to a shock-absorbing strut. At the moment of touchdown, the gear swings backward causing the strut to compress. This process helps to smooth out and cushion rough impacts with the runway.
While the design of trailing-link landing gear make them easier to maintain, they do have some drawbacks. They are heavier and more complex than traditional landing gear. Also, their unique shape complicates the gear retraction process, and this poses a challenge to aircraft designers.
Trailing-link landing gear can be found on many aircraft, including the Bombardier CRJ-200 and Embraer ERJ-145. The Cirrus Vision Jet and Pilatus PC-12 also utilize this type of gear. I’ve traveled on both the CRJ2 and E145, but have never felt a noticeable difference. Next time, I’ll be sure to pay closer attention.