Thursday, October 11, 2012

Double Generator Failure

I found this in my drafts folder, I guess I was saving it for a busy day. I've been punting it a month into the future every month. Obviously I'm busy today, because it published.

I had a double generator failure once. I'll spoil any suspense now by saying it was not a big deal. The designers of this airplane knew that electricity was fickle, newfangled stuff and not to be trusted, so no essential system for VFR flight was electrical. We were VFR and it was a beautiful clear day after the invention of cellphones. The master was on, no visible circuit breakers were popped, and there was no smoke or fire smell. The reset for the generators was under the dashboard. With multiple people on board we could have reset them it in flight, but not knowing why they had popped, we elected to leave them off.
Our destination was a reasonable-sized controlled airport, not at an especially busy time, so we just pulled out a cellphone and called them to tell them we were coming. They cleared us to land, I can't remember whether it was by a steady green light on final or they just gave the clearance over the telephone. Possibly both. They seemed far more stressed about the event than I was. I never consider a communications failure to be a showstopper, especially when I manage to make contact another way. And why on earth had they dispatched firetrucks to follow us down the runway?

It was kind of fun mind you, and the firefighters were friendly. I think they like driving their trucks around, especially when thy don't have to pull anyone's charred remains out of a burning airplane, so they were happy when we thanked them and assured them that there was no problem.

At the time, it was the only twin I knew the systems on, so I didn't realize that some aircraft have electrically activated landing gear. ATC was worried that I might not be able to lower the wheels. The only electrical component of this one is the indication system, and extension can be verified by the thumps from the mains plus visual identification of the nose gear in the mirror on the nacelle. The air traffic controllers knew that in general a systems failure on an airplane could be a bad thing, and must have thought I was being cool and not admitting I could have a gear problem. Communication by cellphone in an operating aircraft is not simple. ATC they have this great button up there in the tower for letting the firetrucks out, so why not? So long as we didn't make the local news.

I can't even remember the reason for the failure. We had it checked out at a local shop and were certified good to go for the next leg of our adventure. I think I was reprimanded by the aircraft owner for saying "electrical failure" instead of just "comm failure." He was a need-to-know kind of guy and I'm more of an anything-that-might-be-relevant gal.