Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Flight 10 - The IFR conditions are simulated, but the failures are real

Flight 10 started as a pretty typical lesson. Preflight, runup, takeoff were uneventful, considering the 9-kt right quartering crosswind. 

Out to the practice area, about 15-20 miles out, and on with 'the hood.' I'd done this before, but only for about 20 minutes. Plan was to get around a full hour in. We came in just shy at 0.8, leveled out at 3500, then descended to 2500 (still under the hood) and headed for the airport via GPS. 

About 5 miles from the runway, my instructor and I hear a strange 'noise' through our headsets. Our mutual reaction was "Huh. That was weird - what the heck was that?" On to the approach. I called out over the radio my 45-degree entry to left downwind for runway two-seven. About 3/4 the length of the runway, I hear my instructor say "Oh , we lost our radio." I look and COM1/NAV1 is completely dark. He quickly switched to COM2, immediately after which I followed my gut and put out the radio call announcing we were on left downwind in case the radio was actually gone before we entered at 45. 

He took the airplane on the base leg. I called final on the radio as we turned. About 50 ft from the runway we heard a Stationair call that he was overflying the airport at 2200. At the end of his call COM2 faded, and the entire radio stack went dark. Once we got down, we had no radio, so we quickly taxied off the runway and headed straight for the hangar. Just after shutting down, tried to start it again. The battery was completely dead. 

We believed the alternator had failed, and so far I have not heard differently. My instructor let me know that they'd had problems with it before, and it must have finally given up the ghost. I could easily be bitter about it, since they've known it was a problem in the past. However, knowing that in less than 100 hrs, the entire engine is due to be replaced, it's understandable (not excusable, but understandable).

All-in-all, it was a good flight. I'm pleasantly surprised at the fact I remained calm during the situation. I did have a few days of personal reflection as to whether this was enough to deter me, but it didn't take much thought to decide that there was no way this was going to stop or discourage me.

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