Endeavouring to meet your requirements for specificity. brevity, question as title, etc.

I am an author seeking a realistic fault/issue for a Gulfstream G550/C-37B meeting the following criteria:

1/ Fault/issue renders the a/c not airworthy, i.e. take-off disallowed without repair

2/ Fault/issue can be rectified by one or more qualified mechanics within ~3hrs

3a/ Fault/issue plausibly attributable to heavy landing (on well-maintained surface) OR 3b/ Fault/issue plausibly attributable to other issue arising in the course of hot-refuelling

From a narrative point of view, the more obvious the defect (and its significance) to a non-aviation specialist/more spectacular the symptoms the better.

In case the location is relevant, it is written to occur on a US Air Base (outside the USA), a/c landing just after sunset, at max range. Aircraft must fly on through the night after the repair.

(I find technical inaccuracy where technical accuracy is practicable to be detrimental to the reading/viewing experience, so I would like to be accurate if I can. No offense will be taken if this question is deemed OT, or otherwise unanswerable, in which case I will just make something up on the basis that it was not practicable to be accurate... but I thank you in advance for your generous interpretation of the request for assistance)

I considered landing gear failures of various kinds, but would expect them to lead to other structural damage not repairable within the allowed time.

  • $\begingroup$ A heavy landing after a max range flight isn't very plausible, because fuel is a major contributor to weight. You'd probably be at your lightest with possibly only reserve fuel remaining after a long flight. But a heavy landing, you could spectacularly blow both main tires, or smoke the brakes trying to stop... $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2023 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Thanks for the comment on "heavy landing" -- I meant that the pilot put the a/c down hard in order to stop in the shortest distance possible: pilot puts down short on 2.7km paved area to stop in 900m and have 1.8km to take off again because a/c is hot-pitting. If there is better terminology for this please let me know (as a passenger, I tend to refer to landings in which the a/c just seems to drop onto the runway as "heavy" as ordinary language use such as "he fell heavily", where weight is not a consideration) $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ Understood. BTW, what you are referring to is a “stop and go” which is done for training, but an aircraft would almost never stop on the runway. Even in the biggest hurry where the hazards of hot refueling are acceptable the aircraft would likely taxi clear of the runway to refuel. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Thanks for the terminology. Yes, I'm sure an a/c would "likely taxi clear of the runway" in real life, that would be sensible, but this is an action thriller and they've only got hours to save the world :) (i.e. every corner gets cut for a) speed b) rule-breaking c) because it's an emergency, dammit and d) on general principle for urgency -> excitement). BTW I think I'm referring to it as a very "hard landing" now, but ~2.1g on the CMC so no mandatory inspection for that ;) $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, just speaking as an old Navy pilot who has smoked brakes, blown tires, and hot refueled before, I think a more plausible scenario would be blowing tires or overheating the brakes trying to expedite getting clear of the runway to meet the fuel truck already waiting at a certain taxiway rather that trying to stop with enough runway to take off again so that the truck could refuel me on the runway. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


One plausible scenario would be runway contamination leading to tire damage and swap or otherwise necessary inspections after someone on the ground notices the impact marks.

It is not unheard of that departing aircraft drop something on runways, and other planes then run over the debris. Also wildlife sometimes wanders on runways and gets struck by planes.

Birdstrikes are somewhat common at lower altitudes, but they are usually quite noticeable when they happen. Anyway, I've personally had to wait for two hours for an ok from engine manufacturer after a bird struck the engine cowling. The bird didn't go through the engine, but the dent had to be photographed and the engine manufacturer used the photo to asses the severity of the damage (a fist sized dent, about 1/2 inch deep). Flight was ok'd.

Those more versed with the plane type may have some more technical suggestion on borderline technical/MEL issues that require approval from dispatch or some other entity.

As mr Hall pointed out in the comments, a hard landing is not a very plausible scenario after a long flight.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 on birdstrike(s). Flying thru a flock of small birds could leave blood & feathers in all sorts of visible (describable) places, including the windshield(s). A bad enough bird splatter could obscure the pilot's (or pilots') vision. Those are easy enough to fix with rags & windex; add dents on engine cowl to be measured & photos sent off, you could easily have a fun-filled 3 hours of waiting for the jet to be pronounced airworthy again. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jan 24, 2023 at 5:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jpe61 Nice visual for description, thanks - a very useful scenario; I think I'll use it. Will accept afterwards. I have a complication of hot-pitting but I can turn one engine off for inspection (I went with brake issue while waiting for a more informed answer, just to have something to write around - brake issue being traced to a loose hydraulic hose. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ Thanks for the extra visuals! How long would "inspection" itself take and who would perform it? (on a US Air Base)? $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ Inspection for the splatters, not long itself (basically, time to windex things clean at each spot + visual inspection of the surfaces). Getting a mechanic to the aircraft could take longer... quicker if the one-star running the base is involved, slower if the request gets passed thru multiple levels of organization. Photos of dents are quick; sending them off for evaluation... you hear back whenever. An hour or 2, easily. Depending on how big the MX unit is + what they care for, a tech qualified on C-37s might be plentiful, or quite rare: "Didn't Sam used to work on those? Where's he at now?" $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jan 25, 2023 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ Again, thanks. (But "MX"?) NB the fictional mission has so much pull the 1* doesn't get to do anything except say "Yes Sir/Ma'am" so no holdups there. I'm not going to dwell on details, just wanted to make sure I didn't say anything obviously stupid in a plausible scenario. Thx. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 17:00

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