Avweb Articles on Aircraft Electrical Systems

Avweb has two very good articles on small aircraft electrical systems:

  1. When It All Goes Dark (Note that Swissair had unsafe entertainment system wiring and bundles were wrapped in metalized mylar (ie. flammable plastic), which aren’t small aircraft problems)
  2. Batteries — Dying Young

I once had a dead battery during daylight in a Cessna 152 in Kahoʻolawe, Hawaii, a fairly deserted airport with no regular maintenance 30 minutes across the strait from Honolulu.

I decided to hand-prop the plane. It’s a relatively dangerous thing to do for one person, especially a low-time pilot, but I took my time setting up the plane – throttle twisted tight just above idle, brakes on, and chocked on pilot side – and made sure my shoes were tied in case I needed to outrun the plane!

I phoned in my ETA to HNL Tower and used my handheld radio to listen to the tower instructions. Tower gave me a couple 90 degree turns upon radar contact to verify my compliance, and then gave me a runway to land on from Kokohead, about 5 miles.

That’s right – NORDO into a Class Bravo airport. 🙂

Everything turned out ok.

Without realizing it, I was the test pilot for my FBO, as I had the most hours there.

After I found out, I got serious real quick. I started reviewing the squawks and maintenance sign-offs before going up, and wearing a life-vest and carrying a raft anytime over the ocean.

I didn’t mind, as I was single and had the experience to evaluate the risks involved moreso than solo students. The planes were so run-out that I had no illusions about bothering to “save the airplane.”

The biggest surprises I got were with a plane that had new control cables and was “re-trimmed” without a new trim marking – almost stalled that one on takeoff, so look carefully and deliberately behind you on preflight – and another with a missing sparkplug, that made the panel unreadable due to vibration like a jackhammer.

Until this day, I usually make better Mx evaluations than instructors.

For example, at controlled airports, brakes on both sides are a must for hold-short instructions. If either pilot is “feeling soft”, I insist on a shutdown to find a mechanic.

Hand Propping a Cessna 150 (good demo – never forget that the propeller can be live at any time and stay out of the arc, so stand stable enough to avoid falling face-first into it.)
cnn.com: Passengers get out and push frozen plane in Siberia
CAP-21: Flat Spin and Prop Comes Off at Airshow

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