Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Do Not Ignore The Warning Light That Stays On

Yesterday I tried to get out in the morning and do a solo cross-country.

First the winds were against me with a cross-wind beyond my solo permission when I got to the airport. I'll note the Outlook briefing the night before and even the TAF that morning had the winds at much a lower amount, sigh. A different instructor knowing the winds were outside my approved limits had taken the plane up at my scheduled time knowing I would not be allowed to fly then.

Then the winds died down so that there would be an 8-10 knot crosswind and my instructor re-endorsed my solo endorsement for up to a 12 knot crosswind. The winds would be less at my destination a Class D field to the southwest, but I could expect a good 8-10 knot cross-wind on my return. My cross-country planning was approved and I was endorsed for the flight. So far so good, even with an hour late start given the winds and the return and refueling of the plane.

So I pre-flighted the plane, and everything looked good, especially once I added a quart of oil to make sure I had over 6 quarts.

N73455 started up just fine. Everything was looking good.

I got taxi clearance all the way down to runway 9L, and went into the run-up area.

The run-up began as usual, I went through the checklist as I always do, but when I got to the ammeter test there was an issue.

I turned off the alternator switch and the ammeter fault light came on and the meter showed a battery discharge. That's good.

I turned the alternator switch back on and the ammeter fault light remained on and the meter continued to showed a battery discharge. That's not good.

Did I mention this was the plane that had an alternator failure on Thursday, leaving that student pilot stuck up in Mount Pleasant (also leading to the cancellation of my flight on Saturday as there were no planes available and I had been scheduled to fly N73455)? He landed ok after the loss of power as without an alternator the battery had quickly drained on him in flight and he lost all electrical systems including radios, transponders and beacon. You do need all that stuff to fly with in a legal fashion, especially inside the Mode C veil where KPTK is located.

Since I knew that had happened and had no desire to do a repeat of that, nor did I wish to fly in an aircraft knowing it was indicating what would become a real problem. I called ground and requested and got permission to taxi back to the flight school.

The flight instructors said I did exactly the right thing by not proceeding.

One out of the two who were there that day thinks it was likely just a faulty sensor issue as the alternator had been replaced, but they were happy I had the correct judgment to cancel it when the fault occurred.

In short, it's better to be safe than sorry and never ignore it when the plane gives you a no-go indication during the run-up. There will be plenty of other days to fly.

With luck N73455 will be back in action without this fault by the next time I fly.


juvat said...

Said it before and I'll say it again, "It's better to be down here wishing you were up there, than being up there, wishing you were down here." Good job!

OldAFSarge said...

Smart move Aaron.

Better safe than sorry.

Aaron said...

juvat; Very true, and thank you!

OldAFSarge: Thanks!

Murphy's Law said...

Who dares, least until things go totally pear-shaped. Good call.

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Old pilots, bold pilots and all that.