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Old 04-24-2021, 05:27 PM
Walt's Avatar
Walt Walt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
Posts: 7,277
Default Technically "advanced" (EFII) aircraft operation and sales...

Kinda scary stuff for me...

Finishing up a Condition Insp on an aircraft for a new owner today, the aircraft is a 'modern' RV, recently purchased with 390, glass panel, full EFII, dual batteries and dual plane power alternators, etc.

When he dropped it off his only squawks were minor stuff.

So I push the airplane out to run it and the battery is dead, push it back it and check both batteries and find them both dead. Charge them up overnight and go out for another run, no surprise that the main alternator is toast.

Call the owner to advise him of my findings and he acts like everything has been working fine, except it's been hard to start and he's had to jump it and just put a new battery in it... and voltage has been running around 12.5 volts in flight after he would get it going. He flew it in that way....

The system has a row of switches on a lower panel for all kinds of stuff related to the EFII, I have no idea what most of them actually do and I seriously doubt the owner does either. They are hard to see/read while seated and poorly labeled. The checklist in the aircraft has nothing other that how to do a normal start, no emergency procedures, no after start checklist, no procedure to check the EFII system, nothing on what to do in the event the engine stops.

This guy was totally reliant on a POS PP BU alt, if that would have quit he would have had very limited time with both the batteries practically dead.

My personal opinion, I don't think anyone should build a complex aircraft and then sell it to an unwitting buyer.
This guy had no idea how close he came to being an NTSB report.
Walt Aronow, DFW, TX (52F)

EXP Aircraft Services LLC
Specializing in RV Condition Inspections, Maintenance, Avionics Upgrades
Dynamic Prop Balancing, Pitot-Static Altmeter/Transponder Certification
FAA Certified Repair Station, AP/IA/FCC GROL, EAA Technical Counselor
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RV7A built 2004, 2000+ hrs, New Titan IO-370, Bendix Mags, AFP FI, MTV-9 prop
Website:, Email:, Cell: 972-746-5154

Last edited by Walt : 04-25-2021 at 06:05 AM.
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Old 04-24-2021, 06:52 PM
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Carl Froehlich Carl Froehlich is offline
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Dogwood Airpark (VA42)
Posts: 4,340

Originally Posted by Walt View Post
Kinda scary stuff for me...


Call the owner to advise him of my findings and he acts like everything has been working fine, except it's been hard to start and he's had to jump it SNIP...He flew it in that way....
Jump starting a total electrically dependent engine and taking off is why rule #4 was created, “The Stupid Shall Be Punished”.

Add to that the apparent zero interest as to why there was a dead battery(s) yields a path directly to loss of aircraft.

My professional upbringing required in-depth system knowledge before being allowed to operate anything on the plant. Here it seems there was no system knowledge AND no procedures to protect those who don’t learn how stuff works.

For builders cobbling together complex systems as described for this plane (or someone buying such a plane), take time to learn what you are putting in your plane, how it works, and indications you will get when something is not working.

I have recent experience with a pilot with a new to him RV (two alternators and multiple batteries). He did at least one landing with no electrical power.

Stepping off my soapbox,
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Old 04-24-2021, 07:17 PM
Rallylancer122 Rallylancer122 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Oconto, WI
Posts: 370

Originally Posted by Walt View Post

My personal opinion, I don't think anyone should build a complex aircraft and then sell it to an unwitting buyer.
So the buyer had no clue his plane had any of this equipment? The seller somehow tricked him into buying it? Told him it had mags, a carb, and analog gauges? None of this came up on the prebuy?

PIC is ultimately responsible for determining airworthiness. Sorry, not saying the plane didn't have issues, but your customer has to take some responsibility here.
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Old 04-24-2021, 07:19 PM
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Tankerpilot75 Tankerpilot75 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
Posts: 925

Unfortunately complex panels are common in RV’s but good POHs and training not so much.

When I bought my RV7A six years ago from the builder my POH/Checklist consisted of two pages. Basically start engine, taxi and landing. My transition training consisted of two one hour insurance required flights focused on takeoff and landings. To make it even sportier I had recently returned to flying after a 22+ year layoff from any aviation activities. I knew a little about gps but had never flown an aircraft with an EFIS system - mine had two GRT (primary) and Dynon (backup).

On the flight to bring my new RV home from Denver to OKC I had erroneous EFIS headings because the magnetometers (primary and backup) were located next to a steel structure (horizontal stabilizer spar) which caused serious heading drift. Center even asked where I thought I was heading (I did use flight following) because I was twenty plus miles off track and going further. I didn’t fully understand how to use the installed gps’ so I fibbed a little and said I had “conflicting compass errors” but would take a heading and switch to something I did understand for navigation - ForeFlight on my iPad (I had studied that when I was getting re-qualified in a friend’s Bonanza). I flew the rest of the way keeping the airplane image centered on my desired ForeFlight flight track!

A 2 inch difference between left and right elevator alignment kept trying to role the airplane upside down. Of course I wanted to hurry up and get it home so the “bugs” could be worked out - therefore I flew faster! That only made the rolling momentum worse. Of course I had no idea how to used the installed autopilot because my transition training didn’t include EFIS or autopilot instruction since the IP wasn’t familiar with the installed systems. The three and a half hour trip was a living nightmare!

Almost all my military flying experience was in jets - 22+ years prior. My piston engine flight management was to say the least - poor. To put it bluntly, I was dangerous and dumb! Thank God my luck held long enough to get the training and assistance I needed.

Today’s experimental aircraft are often loaded up with the latest avionics and equipment. This is great for the experienced pilot who understands his equipment but potentially deadly if not properly installed, wired and labeled; the pilot has sufficient transition training from an instructor who thoroughly understands the aircraft AND installed avionics; and sufficient documentation is provided to the buyer to allow in depth study of the aircraft and systems before flying.

Modern EFIS, autopilot and gps systems are really cool but pilots must always ffly the airplane first. If you’re not thoroughly proficient with what’s installed on the panel it will distract from safely flying the plane. I know of several instances where distractions from learning and/or trying to program the airplane’s systems in flight have resulted in serious distraction, loss of life or serious incident. Couple that with an engine, aircraft or weather emergency and the outcome is always not good.

Like Walt implied, know what your buying and get thoroughly trained BEFORE flying it home. Be ready for the unexpected! If your not - well that’s what we’re trying to avoid.
Jim Harris ATP, 2008 RV7A QB, 2nd owner, N523RM (2015) Superior XPIO-360 B1AA2, MT9 CS prop, Two PMags, Dual GRT Horizon EX with ARINC, EIS, Garmin 340, 335 w/WAAS gps, Dual 430s (non-WAAS), GRT Discovery ADSB-In,TruTrak 385 A/P with auto level & trim, Tosten 6 button Military Grips, Dynon D10A w/battery backup, 406 MHz ELT, Mountain High O2, CO2 monitor, Flyleds Works system, Custom Interior, TS Flightline hoses, ETX900 Battery, Bruce Cover

Retired - Living the dream - going broke!

Last edited by Tankerpilot75 : 04-24-2021 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 04-25-2021, 12:41 AM
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rv8ch rv8ch is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: LSGY
Posts: 5,377
Default Excellent points

These are excellent points, thanks for sharing them, Walt.

One of my design considerations to avoid a "john denver" incident for a future owner of my RV-8 - make everything simple, obvious, documented, and consistent with what just about any pilot would expect.
Mickey Coggins
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Old 04-25-2021, 08:27 AM
lr172 lr172 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Schaumburg, IL
Posts: 8,858

Originally Posted by Walt View Post's been hard to start and he's had to jump it and just put a new battery in it... and voltage has been running around 12.5 volts in flight after he would get it going. He flew it in that way....
That is just scary. It is really a shame that as an industry, we do not train pilots to understand the basics that are required to execute a safe flight. I personally believe that we should not allow pilots to take off without understanding the basics of how an engine an electrical system works. We can't just pull over and call AAA.

Certified or experimental, pilots need to understand the basics of what their instruments are telling them. It is almost criminal that we allow a pilot to fly an electrically dependent aircraft without a solid understanding of the electrical system. This is an area where experimental can get a bad rap if enough of this happens with accidents involved.

That said, a lot of this falls on the new owner. Having to recharge a battery after EVERY flight along with weak starting authority couldn't be a brighter flashing red light. I simply cannot fathom any human doing that multiple times without involving a mechanic. My mother in law's understanding of automotive systems ends at how to fill the gas tank and even she knows to "bring it in" when the engine turns over more sluggishly than normal.

N64LR - RV-6A / IO-320, Flying as of 8/2015
N11LR - RV-10, Flying as of 12/2019

Last edited by lr172 : 04-25-2021 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 04-25-2021, 10:00 AM
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rv6ejguy rv6ejguy is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Calgary, Canada
Posts: 6,646

Minimum knowledge on ED (electrically dependent) aircraft:

1. Understand the primary and backup electrical systems and switch function.

2. Never launch with a marginal primary or backup battery.

3. Verify that the charging system is, before takeoff.

We recommend both visual and aural low voltage warning systems and automatic OV protection.

I'm currently assisting the NTSB with an accident investigation involving a Rotax powered aircraft where the pilot took off without a functioning charging system.

Use checklists!

Ross Farnham, Calgary, Alberta
Turbo Subaru EJ22, SDS EFI, Marcotte M-300, IVO, Shorai- RV6A C-GVZX flying from CYBW since 2003- 469.4 hrs. on the Hobbs,
RV10 95% built- Sold 2016

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Old 04-25-2021, 10:13 AM
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GalinHdz GalinHdz is offline
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Originally Posted by rv6ejguy View Post
Use checklists!
If nothing else... USE CHECKLISTS!
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Old 04-25-2021, 12:21 PM
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rv8ch rv8ch is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: LSGY
Posts: 5,377

Originally Posted by GalinHdz View Post
If nothing else... USE CHECKLISTS!
I guess that would only help if there was a checklist item stating - "If you have to jumpstart the aircraft, don't. Take the aircraft to a good mechanic before flight!"
Mickey Coggins
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Old 04-25-2021, 02:21 PM
rapid_ascent rapid_ascent is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Dublin, CA
Posts: 1,833

As builders I think we can help eliminate some of these complicated control systems. Sometimes there are many options for adding switches. In general less is more. I recently went through my "final" configuration and I tried very hard to reduce the number of switches and to not put multiple functions or modes on one switch. Its ok if the functions are relating like landing lights and wig-wag mode but from reading threads here I often hear about folks that share unrelated functions on a single switch.

I have 2 alternators and a single battery. My alternator switchover is automatic. I originally had a cross-feed switch but I realized I really didn't need it. It would have become something that had to be switched at the correct moment in time. I think when you go from my configuration to 2 batteries you then add another level of complication and intern likely more switches to handle all the possible configurations.

As the builder we might have researched all of these options and understand the implications even more the more complicated configurations. However, once we sell the aircraft the buyer has a completely different level of understanding. We need to keep it simple and document the operation.

I do agree with Larry that the owner in this case had several opportunities to realize he had a real problem. Low operating voltage, having to charge the battery and who knows what else. It does make me wonder if buying an experimental as a non-builder shouldn't have some sort of minimal systems operations basics training requirement. I have been flying a standard rental C172 lately and it is quite different than the systems I'm building into my RV-7A. Pilots trained on the typical rental Cessna may likely not have a detailed understanding of systems operation.
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