I've noticed that military pilots will often say something along the lines of:

<airport> traffic, Basher 5-2 left base, full stop, gear down.

Why the additional "gear down" call? Shouldn't it be implied that if you're landing full stop, you'd want the gear down? And similarly, if the gear isn't down, wouldn't an emergency call be more appropriate?

To be clear, I'm not asking why it's a good idea to check to see if the gear is down, I'm asking why military pilots broadcast the fact that they've checked.

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    $\begingroup$ Just musing, it makes sense to me that coming back from a combat patrol which saw action could leave a pilot in a state which is slightly more frazzled than you would expect from an average cross-country civilian haul. And while it's always inexcusable to crash land because you forgot your landing gear, the cost for a civilian is measured in dollars of lawsuits. Messing up a runway in combat could cost a whole lot more. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ A long time ago I was idly watching a customer from a southern European air force playing with his new aircraft, which he was due to fly back home the next day. He flew in a circle, put his wheels down, rolled along the runway, lifted again, put the wheels up, repeat. Till the moment he touched down without putting the wheels down. We all looked at each other "there goes our Christmas bonus." This is why. $\endgroup$
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have enough basis to submit this as an answer (I'm not a pilot, nor military) but from military novels written by ex-pilots, I seem to recall the following: putting the landing gear down disables the weapons systems. It's a fail-safe measure to make sure nothing accidentally goes off during landing. As such, you'd want to call it out as it's an important safety step. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @SouthShoreAK On some aircraft, it vents the aux tanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 21:48

6 Answers 6


In the U.S., military ATC (and civilian controllers working at military fields) are required to:

"Remind aircraft to check wheels down on each approach unless the pilot has previously reported wheels down for that approach". [ref: [FAA Order 7110.65W], para. 2-1-24]

Normally, the phraseology suggested in your question would reflect the pilot's response to this ATC reminder. (For example: "[call sign] Check Wheels Down, Cleared for [whatever]")

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    $\begingroup$ thank you for this answer. It answers a related question I've had. While doing multiple touch and goes in a Cessna 152, the tower kept telling me to "check gear down" on each "cleared for the option". The tower is used for military ATC training, so now it all makes sense. I looked out the left window each time to make sure my gear was down and locked. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Devil07
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ I would sometimes reply, "gear down and welded" $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ +1 but it seems like a partial explanation to me, it still doesn't explain why ATC is required to remind military aircraft only. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Civilian birds don't carry ordinance. Civilian birds don't usually take fire. It is one of those military box checkings that prevent bad accidents from dumb mistakes. $\endgroup$
    – bishop
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Consider that military pilots are often a crew of one and have a huge amount of CRM to deal with. Civilian pilots are just commuting - the only thing on their mind is getting from A to B and the aircraft is the only thing they need to manage. Military pilots have gone into the air to do something - the flight isn't the end unto itself, it's just the vehicle to get to the day's (often complex and mentally taxing) engagement. They're coming home tired, out of gas, and probably a bit spun from a frenzy of activity. Having the tower hold their hand on the way down doesn't hurt. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 12:01

Other answers mention "it's the rules" without specifying why the rules are what they are.

Civilian airplanes are for the most part assumed to be in proper working order after a flight, unless it is known otherwise. Military flight hardware may have experienced 8-9 G loads, supersonic airspeeds, ground fire, attacks from other aircraft, been subject to an EMP, and likewise for the frail meatsack at the helm. One cannot assume that all components are working properly after a mission.

Additionally, civilian aircraft usually do not carry high explosives which could turn a belly scrape into a fireball. Recently a (non-American) military aircraft had an ordnance issue when landing (gear down) with undeployed payload.

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    $\begingroup$ Related; in most dual cockpit aircraft the PF will command "gear down" and the PA will confirm with "gear down, checked green". It is also part of the landing checklist - but obviously not annunciated in single cockpit scenarios. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ This seems to be the most appropriate answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 7:45

Why do military pilots report “gear down” during their traffic calls?

Because it's what they are trained to do. (Example of a regulation here). I spent a few years teaching military flying. Military aircraft have been flying for over a century. There have been enough gear up passes1 over the years that the habit pattern of checking and calling the gear (in any aircraft with retractable landing gear, which is the vast majority of military aircraft, and all primary trainers) has become a standard.

I've noticed that military pilots will often say something along the lines of: traffic, Basher 5-2 left base, full stop, gear down.

Not understanding how this is a problem.

Why the additional "gear down" call?

It's not "additional."

Shouldn't it be implied that if you're landing full stop, you'd want the gear down?

It's not a matter of "wanting" the gear down, it's a matter of reporting that you have lowered the gear and that you have checked and confirmed that it is down.

And similarly, if the gear isn't down, wouldn't an emergency call be more appropriate?

Not by default.

  1. If it isn't down because of an oversight, it would be appropriate to lower it and then either go around and try again, this time with the gear down, or if confirmed down before landing, land. That will vary with the situation and the SOP of a given squadron/wing.

  2. If it won't come down, then you don't call for a landing until you have tried to get it down, possibly making a low pass to see if someone can provide you with a gear check (maybe your indicator is being tempermental) and then, if the gear won't come down, declare an emergency and attempt the procedures for your gear up landing. Usually you'll be asking for such crash and rescue as is available to be ready, in case things go sideways.

1 A gear up pass, what is it? An attempt to land with the gear up when they should have been down.

  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby It absolutely is the answer. Training. Something maybe you don't get about military aviation. Then read the part about retractable gear and building habit patterns. If we do it at home, if Hurts Nothing to do it on the road. That you don't care for it is an irrelevant opinion. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast New question: Why are civilian pilots not trained to do that? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 4:31
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's pretty clear that the question is really asking why they're trained to do that -- that is, what actual purpose the statement serves. Surely if someone asked "why do people have to learn how to fly before they can become fighter pilots," you'd be able to give a better answer than "because the regulations say so." $\endgroup$
    – yshavit
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ @immibis, actually, civilian multi-crew pilots are trained to do it, but since they are multi-crew, it is enough they say it to each other. But many military planes are single-crew, so the controller fills in for this. Civilian, only small aircraft are single-crew, so less is at stake. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast - You're right, the question was unclear. I agree that checking and calling the gear is (and should be) the standard, both for civilian and military. What I don't understand is why the military chooses to broadcast the gear call over the radio. $\endgroup$
    – Steve V.
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 6:25

For USAF pilots of retractable gear aircraft, it is a required call. Per Air Force Instruction (AFI) 11-202 Volume 3, General Flight Rules:

7.7. Landing Gear Reporting Procedures. Retractable gear aircraft will report gear down status to ATC or runway supervisory unit after extending the landing gear. This report shall be made during any approach prior to crossing the runway threshold.


There are a lot of "safety" procedures in the military that aren't done in the civilian world. Even in the civilian world there are differences. Each airline even has its own safety procedures and even write their own manuals. "Check Gear Down/Gear Down" is just one of them that the military established long ago as a precaution to avoid stupid mistakes that are very avoidable. Call "Gear Down" and actually look at the gear lights to be sure you have 3 green. No one wants to be the one idiot that forgot the gear. As has been mentioned, in two pilot civilian cockpits this is done between the pilots. It gets very busy in the traffic pattern and stupid mistakes happen. "Gear Down", as well as the many other SOPs, keep it all standardized and helps make sure that its always done the same way by everyone, everywhere. In a huge organization like the USAF such things are very helpful when you have personnel constantly training, coming and going and transferring etc.

Similar calls are "call the ball/roger, ball", "feet wet/feet dry", "fence in - check fuel flows are good, fuel levels are good, IFF is stdby, oil pressure good, fuel tanks and oil system pressure off ( in case you take a hit ), PC system all good, weapons selectors set, weapons master off, chaff/flares are armed, etc..." (when crossing the hypothetical "fence" into hostile territory when on a combat mission ). Another neat one is calling "Base Plus" when climbing above Controlled Airspace above 60,000 feet which can still be heard from time to time.


It is not a procedure exclusive to Military aircraft, also gliders report "gear down and locked" when entering the downwind. After up to 12hrs of flight the operational fatigue may lead to dumb mistakes, it is not uncommon at all to see gear up landing amongst those who think they are too cool for the checklist.


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