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  #1  
Old 12-24-2020, 09:55 PM
mark@topogen.com's Avatar
mark@topogen.com mark@topogen.com is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Buena Vista
Posts: 11
Default Lost electric over mountains at night

I'm a new RV-7A owner and last night was 'unique' to say the least.

I had my plane in for standard ADS-B install at an avionics shop. I have owned the a/c for about a week and a half with 3 or 4 flights and a bunch of daytime T&Gs under my belt and I'm comfortable with the with the plane (it is very easy to fly, land and very tame IMHO). Plane is beautiful: professionally built, low time all glass electric panel with backup steam gauges. The GRT screens are still befuddling to me and I feel like a dog watching TV (coming out of a G1000 panel). I'm still learning GRT buttonology in other words.

The install went way too long (forcing me to leave at sunset!); however it was only a short (40' flight) so what could go wrong? Well.. when I went to start up, the battery was drained (avionics were on/off all day long), so the shop gave me a boost to get the engine going. I launched with a bit of dread: I was going to fly over some serious terrain and one very tall pass at night in an unfamiliar airplane coming out the shop with a weak battery. What could go wrong indeed?

Oh about 15' later, as darkness surrounded me, and approaching the pass (I was at 14,000'), I turned on the Nav lights, pitot heat and everything just went dead instantly. No efis panels, GPS 400w or inside lights. A/C has e-mags BTW. On a positive note, I have lots of mountain flight time and am very familiar with the local terrain. This is important!

The steam gauges and a tru-trak electric ADI plus an iPAD for terrain and course were working so I was okay. I used my iPhone to light up airspeed and altimeter and luckily I got cell service. I called my destination airport (airport mgr) and screaming into the iphone (no headset or bluetooth for the bose) asked him to activate PCL so I would have lights. I thought I heard him say OKAY, so that was reassuring. I was only about 30' from destination and had runway lights but no landing lights. I did a perfect no-flap landing with a pretty gusty cross wind (12g20). This is a capable airplane in an emergency; however my decision making sucked I realize, so please don't flame me. I should have left the plane there got a rental car and made the 2+ hour car ride home. Sheesh! I consider myself a seasoned and safe pilot but got complacent and nearly had a bad outcome. I think my alternator took a dump but must investigate further. Lesson to all.
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2002 Columbia 300 (sold)
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Mark@topogen.com
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  #2  
Old 12-24-2020, 10:22 PM
Saber25's Avatar
Saber25 Saber25 is offline
 
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Location: Colorado
Posts: 238
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"This is a capable airplane in an emergency; however my decision making sucked I realize, so please don't flame me. I should have left the plane there got a rental car and made the 2+ hour car ride home. Sheesh! I consider myself a seasoned and safe pilot but got complacent and nearly had a bad outcome. I think my alternator took a dump but must investigate further. Lesson to all".

Nothing more to add. I'm familiar with the terrain and would not feel comfortable even with all doodads running at night.
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  #3  
Old 12-24-2020, 10:27 PM
Jonathan Alvord Jonathan Alvord is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: Prosser, WA
Posts: 112
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Losing power is sucks, glad it all ended well. I would check your diodes. I lost power a couple times, replaced alt did not help. Took some time but finally found a diode that was bad as well as a master switch. no problem since.
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  #4  
Old 12-24-2020, 10:52 PM
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grubbat grubbat is offline
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Ga
Posts: 676
Default Steam AND Glass?????

So you had steam gauges and glass and the electrons went tangle uniform?
Imagine that. Your risk mitigation plan of having both steam and glass was a smart decision. You have now joined the club of those who have had electronic failure with steam backup. Glad you were able to write this report rather than us read about it from the NTSB.

The glass only crowd would be wise to take notice.
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  #5  
Old 12-24-2020, 10:57 PM
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Steve Melton Steve Melton is offline
 
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glad you made it. that was stacked up on the risk side. thx for posting. I've needed to use steam gauges when everything goes black. in my case at 20K+ and sleepy, I turned my avionics master off I could not understand to turn it back on, but I could read the steam gauges.
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Last edited by Steve Melton : 12-24-2020 at 11:01 PM.
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  #6  
Old 12-24-2020, 11:27 PM
BobTurner BobTurner is online now
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Livermore, CA
Posts: 7,165
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It really doesn't sound like just an alternator failure. Usually an alternator failure will be followed by a slow brown-out as you deplete the battery. And your grt should be flashing a warning if the alternator has failed. I canít help but note that if you had turned on the nav lights prior to departure (you said it was sunset) and left the pitot heat alone (was there any moisture visible?) you may never have known about this issue, so maybe itís a blessing in disguise. Just a general comment: imho there are a surprisingly significant number of pilots flying sophisticated avionics, who donít really understand them well enough to use them to their full capability. Again, my opinion: for every hour of flight checkout, most pilots new to an RV need two hours on the ground, with the systems. Finally, thanks for the reminder: Ďget-home-itisí can be an illness we all need to guard against.
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  #7  
Old 12-25-2020, 01:56 AM
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skylor skylor is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Southern California
Posts: 948
Default Depleted Battery

Quote:
Originally Posted by mark@topogen.com View Post
I'm a new RV-7A owner and last night was 'unique' to say the least.

I had my plane in for standard ADS-B install at an avionics shop. I have owned the a/c for about a week and a half with 3 or 4 flights and a bunch of daytime T&Gs under my belt and I'm comfortable with the with the plane (it is very easy to fly, land and very tame IMHO). Plane is beautiful: professionally built, low time all glass electric panel with backup steam gauges. The GRT screens are still befuddling to me and I feel like a dog watching TV (coming out of a G1000 panel). I'm still learning GRT buttonology in other words.

The install went way too long (forcing me to leave at sunset!); however it was only a short (40' flight) so what could go wrong? Well.. when I went to start up, the battery was drained (avionics were on/off all day long), so the shop gave me a boost to get the engine going. I launched with a bit of dread: I was going to fly over some serious terrain and one very tall pass at night in an unfamiliar airplane coming out the shop with a weak battery. What could go wrong indeed?

Oh about 15' later, as darkness surrounded me, and approaching the pass (I was at 14,000'), I turned on the Nav lights, pitot heat and everything just went dead instantly. No efis panels, GPS 400w or inside lights. A/C has e-mags BTW. On a positive note, I have lots of mountain flight time and am very familiar with the local terrain. This is important!

The steam gauges and a tru-trak electric ADI plus an iPAD for terrain and course were working so I was okay. I used my iPhone to light up airspeed and altimeter and luckily I got cell service. I called my destination airport (airport mgr) and screaming into the iphone (no headset or bluetooth for the bose) asked him to activate PCL so I would have lights. I thought I heard him say OKAY, so that was reassuring. I was only about 30' from destination and had runway lights but no landing lights. I did a perfect no-flap landing with a pretty gusty cross wind (12g20). This is a capable airplane in an emergency; however my decision making sucked I realize, so please don't flame me. I should have left the plane there got a rental car and made the 2+ hour car ride home. Sheesh! I consider myself a seasoned and safe pilot but got complacent and nearly had a bad outcome. I think my alternator took a dump but must investigate further. Lesson to all.
So several comments:

1. Launching an electrical dependent panel or plane or for a night flight immediately after jump-starting a dead battery is frequently going to be a recipe for disaster, as I think you already know.

2. Instead of renting a car and driving home or flying, why not leave the plane on a slow-charger overnight and seek local lodging, then depart the next morning?

3. Time to get more familiar with your aircraftís electrical architecture and understand all failure modes and backup options.

Skylor
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  #8  
Old 12-25-2020, 03:45 AM
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rv8ch rv8ch is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: LSGY
Posts: 3,551
Default Welcome to VAF!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mark@topogen.com View Post
I'm a new RV-7A owner and last night was 'unique' to say the least.

I had my plane in for standard ADS-B install at an avionics shop. I have owned the a/c for about a week and a half with 3 or 4 flights and a bunch of daytime T&Gs under my belt and I'm comfortable with the with the plane (it is very easy to fly, land and very tame IMHO). Plane is beautiful: professionally built, low time all glass electric panel with backup steam gauges. The GRT screens are still befuddling to me and I feel like a dog watching TV (coming out of a G1000 panel). I'm still learning GRT buttonology in other words.

The install went way too long (forcing me to leave at sunset!); however it was only a short (40' flight) so what could go wrong? Well.. when I went to start up, the battery was drained (avionics were on/off all day long), so the shop gave me a boost to get the engine going. I launched with a bit of dread: I was going to fly over some serious terrain and one very tall pass at night in an unfamiliar airplane coming out the shop with a weak battery. What could go wrong indeed?

Oh about 15' later, as darkness surrounded me, and approaching the pass (I was at 14,000'), I turned on the Nav lights, pitot heat and everything just went dead instantly. No efis panels, GPS 400w or inside lights. A/C has e-mags BTW. On a positive note, I have lots of mountain flight time and am very familiar with the local terrain. This is important!

The steam gauges and a tru-trak electric ADI plus an iPAD for terrain and course were working so I was okay. I used my iPhone to light up airspeed and altimeter and luckily I got cell service. I called my destination airport (airport mgr) and screaming into the iphone (no headset or bluetooth for the bose) asked him to activate PCL so I would have lights. I thought I heard him say OKAY, so that was reassuring. I was only about 30' from destination and had runway lights but no landing lights. I did a perfect no-flap landing with a pretty gusty cross wind (12g20). This is a capable airplane in an emergency; however my decision making sucked I realize, so please don't flame me. I should have left the plane there got a rental car and made the 2+ hour car ride home. Sheesh! I consider myself a seasoned and safe pilot but got complacent and nearly had a bad outcome. I think my alternator took a dump but must investigate further. Lesson to all.
Welcome to VAF Mark and thanks for sharing this experience! I think we can all learn from this reminder. You might contact AOPA Safety - they have a good podcast where they discuss these kinds of things, and help deconstruct it to help other pilots learn how they can avoid a similar situation.
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  #9  
Old 12-25-2020, 03:50 AM
TShort TShort is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Indianapolis, IN (KUMP)
Posts: 1,059
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Mark-

Glad you made it safely. Which direction were you coming from? Over the Arkansas valley the terrain isn't bad, but getting there mostly means crossing a lot of rocks. I have yet to do it at night, and I'm not sure I'd be comfortable (at minimum, I am sure the engine would make all kinds of suspicious noises!)

Incidentally, are you in the blue hangars? I think my brother sent me a pic of your 7A in the open hangar Thursday morning while he was putting the snowmobiles back in the hangar. I'll stop in and say hi next time I am in town.

Thomas
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  #10  
Old 12-25-2020, 06:24 AM
sailvi767 sailvi767 is offline
 
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Location: Charlotte NC
Posts: 1,264
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Can you post what you find the problem to be? Did you have a backup battery for the GRTís and if so did that fail also?
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