First flight with my wife and we had an emergency landing

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by SixPapaCharlie, Jan 6, 2022.

  1. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

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    First flight with my wife in our "new" Comanche and we got to do an emergency landing.

    Pilot error of course.

    We took off and flew and she loved the plane for the first 20 minutes.

    Everything was great then the GPS went black. My first thought was turn the avionics off and back on. But it was still blank. I spent about 30 seconds irritated because I just bought this and surely this cannot be the first time the GPS has gone out. The seller must have known it was dying and didn't mention it. So my first emotion in all of this was anger.

    Then the radios started dimming and I said "Crap we've lost the alternator".
    As I reached over to squawk 7600, the transponder went bank.

    Embarrassingly, that's the first time I noticed the ALT light was illuminated and started to ponder if the light being on meant the ALT was on or it was failing.

    Everything switched to slow motion as I simultaneously thought about the electric landing gear and reached at the switches to start powering everything off.

    No radios, transponder, GPS, and I am guessing landing gear was going to be an issue.

    Fly the plane. So I made sure everything flight-wise was fine and told my wife to grab the stratus out of my flight bag since we were nordo and I want to be able to see traffic.

    I climb up a few thousand feet, slow way down and try to lower the landing gear. It goes down about a quarter of the way and stops.

    Eren is starting to panic, cry, and pray. I am trying to reassure her that there is no reason to panic, the plane doesn't need electricity to fly. I give her work to do "Look for traffic" so I can troubleshoot.

    I have obviously lost my alternator I am thinking but then I start to think about every plane I have ever flown and that all of them have Alternator field switches. I am scanning every square inch of the panel over and over looking for ANYTHING that looks like an alternator switch. I don't see anything.

    I grab 2 checklists that came with the plane looking for any mention of turning on or ensuring the alternator switch is on and I find nothing.

    Now it is time to do what both instructors I flew with told me. slow down to 100, open the panel on the floor, read the instructions on the back of it, lift the red lip, extend the pole, push it to the stop.

    It is full forward but no green light on the panel.

    Here's where I got dumb brain. I said "I'm going to fly by the nearest controlled field and ask if I can do a low pass and have them look.... Oh yeah, no radio. We're on our own here.

    I recall the seller of the plane stating at night, when the panel lights are on, the green light either doesn't come on or is very dim. I found the knob and it was on but on its dimmest setting. 1mm to the left and click. Green light comes on. The gear is down and locked.

    We head to our home field and feel horrible because there is traffic in the pattern and of course none of them can see me on ADS-B or hear me so I probably irritated some of them.

    We cross the numbers and I am just waiting to hear metal scraping but I greased the landing.
    Not so much as a bump. We taxied to the hangar to put the plane away and all was well.

    We arrived in 2 separate cars so my wife went back to the house and I went through that plane again and I saw a label "Alt Field" on the front of the panel but no switch for it.

    I felt under the panel where the circuit breakers are and sure enough right in the middle of the circuit breakers is a toggle switch. I believe when I was feeling the breakers before taking off, I inadvertently hit that toggle and turned the alternator off.

    Lucky for me it turns out I have an A&P on my field that is very familiar with these planes. He came over, jacked the plane up and re attached the landing gear transmission. On the Comanche when you do the manual procedure, it detaches the gear mechanism from the jackscrew that drives it up and down so that has to be manually reattached after manual extension.

    My wife is totally cool now and has no concerns about the plane or flying in it. She said she actually has more confidence flying because she saw me stay collected while this was going on . She said "I have never heard the business voice before and gotten that much eye contact as you explained what was happening and what wasn't happening and what you were going to do about it"

    I called the former owner and just asked about it and he said "It never crossed my mind to mention that switch" It was just part of his muscle memory.

    So I guess there is some silver lining. But yes, complete pilot error. I am making my own checklist that references the alternator switch even though, I know I will never forget it again.

    I am also having it relocated to a less ridiculous location.
    I have also relabeled the "Alt" light to "ALT INOP"


    20211226_140031.jpg



    My View

    20220106_104924.jpg



    20211229_112626.jpg
     
  2. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

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    "Emergency" might be too strong a term. This certainly wasn't a mayday situation but it was very stressful
     
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  3. sarangan

    sarangan Pattern Altitude

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    You did great given the circumstances. The only thing I would suggest is to get into the habit of starting with just the battery and then turn the alternator field on so that you can verify if the discharge light works correct.
     
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  4. Sluggo63

    Sluggo63 Pattern Altitude

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    You did good. Emergency in my book. Maybe not "mayday" but definitely a "pan, pan, pan" type deal. Of course, that's all academic since you were NORDO.

    Well done. And nicely done to Eren. My wife wouldn't have been so <ahem> calm.
     
  5. Martin__

    Martin__ Filing Flight Plan

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    Nice work, both of you. Now, I recommend you get your wife up in the air again ASAP.
     
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  6. catmandu

    catmandu Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Fun times! Nutty location for such a critical switch, what was Mr. Piper thinking?
     
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  7. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Single toggle master switch? That should have been a possible tip off of another switch for the alternator. Just something to ponder. Good job staying cool.
     
  8. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    That was the aviation YouTuber coming out of you.
     
  9. GeorgeC

    GeorgeC Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Good job!

    I found some unlabeled breakers when I first got my plane, so I turned them all off and turned them on one at a time until everything worked. Then I went to do some (untowered) pattern work, and thought it was strange that nobody was responding to my radio calls... took me a while to noodle out that the radio transmitter part of the 430 was on its own breaker that I'd left off because it didn't cause anything to visibly turn on...
     
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  10. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 En-Route

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    Congrats on the plane, the landing, and the clean underwear.
    Well done on all fronts sir.
     
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  11. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

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    Mr Piper made airplanes with generators not alternators so it was someone down the line that decided that's where the switch would go when they changed it to an alternator.
     
  12. Sam D

    Sam D Cleared for Takeoff

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    For your USB charger in the cigarette lighter, you might want to consider something like this to confirm the battery is charging as part of your runup procedures (of course until you get a full glass panel that includes this). And by the way, get rid of all that bright red string around your yoke -- that can be a hazard.
    [​IMG]
     
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  13. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    Good job, and thanks for sharing. Don’t be too humble, because with a different pilot, the result could have been worse. Keep doin whatever it is you do.

    On the light- some planes the light comes on if no charge or over/high voltage. Your INOP label maybe covers that, but MALF might be better.

    On the checklist - my preflight includes Master On, then Alt Field Sw & Lamp test (split switch on mine, flows well).

    Also, during run-up, you should look at the Ammeter if you have one and check (1) its function, (2) the battery/charging, and (3) the alternator by flipping that switch and/or toggling a high draw circuit like pitot heat and seeing the reaction.

    How do you like it so far?
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2022
  14. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    If you had camera's running, and had 'chutes, you could have jumped...
     
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  15. Jim K

    Jim K En-Route

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    That's not the most convienient place for a breaker panel. If it makes you feel any better I got to use the emergency gear drop on the second flight in my plane. Managed to break it, too. Nothing a couple amu couldn't fix.

    20220106_104924~2.jpg

    Just sayin'....
     
  16. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    This is why in-depth systems training for a new aircraft is so important. There's always that one switch that does that thing that...
     
  17. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    On the Facebook Comanche group, another pilot just had a very similar experience a few months ago. Nice thing about the manual gear extension on the Comanche is it is really easy and basically foolproof.

    And don't forget the nav light trick.
     
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  18. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

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    What's the nav light trick?
     
  19. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Good thing that wasn't the ''wings stay on'' switch...

    Otherwise good job keeping your wits and keeping your wife calm.
     
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  20. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    Glad you got home safe. Get to know that plane better!
     
  21. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    Glad everything worked out. People have crashed for reasons dumber than your situation.

    And yes, that's a nutty location for breakers/switches. Rip out the ADF and relocate everything there. You'll probably gain another 5lbs useful load from the ADF antenna alone.

    Also, are you going to unscramble the six-pack?
     
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  22. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    I kinda dig that flat top look on the Comanches

    Saw dis one at COS

    5072A37A-7C8F-4661-8FFE-669E03F889AC.jpeg
     
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  23. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Touchdown! Greaser!

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    No worries…have the wife file a Nassau report. Lol ;)
     
  24. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne Final Approach

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    Quit with the negative waves, man.
    Nice job. Something to remember for next time...with the trans disconnected, the gear really isn't locked. Sure it's down and over center, but locked? No. Land gently, slow turn off, and it doesn't hurt to extend the Johnson bar and hold it manually in the full forward position. Something else you might want to do is make a sharpie mark on the floor that matches the trans ball screw position, so you have a fail safe visual indication of gear down if the green light doesn't come on.

    But again, good job. A lot of first time new owners forget to slow, and then can't get the gear down.
     
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  25. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    If you don't get a gear down light, check the nav light switch. We have all done it at least once.
     
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  26. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    He lost all power, no?
     
  27. dmspilot

    dmspilot En-Route

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    You might want to rename that placard to something slightly different, as it implies the alternator is inoperative permanently.
     
  28. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

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    Hahahaha.
    You're not wrong.
     
  29. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    Is that u rocking those New Balance Dadillacs?
     
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  30. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne Final Approach

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    Quit with the negative waves, man.
    Other thing you can do is talk to your a&p about a solid state voltage regulator with integral overvolt protection, like Plane Power. Pops the field breaker on the panel, or you can pull the field breaker. Does away with that switch. Vast improvement over older systems, gives you a solid 14.2 volts, and cheap in the scheme of things.
     
  31. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

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    Hahaha
    Nah. That's my friend Erik Johnston.
    He's a fairly well-known Aviation photographer but he definitely wears dad shoes.
     
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  32. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    Lost comms doesn't constitute an emergency for a VFR flight landing at an uncontrolled field, but I think uncertainty about the manual gear extension qualifies
     
  33. Salty

    Salty Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We need to start an av-wife support group. Mine just finally started talking about our off field landing today. I think I saw a glimmer of hope that I’ll get her back in a plane again, but still too soon to tell.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2022
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  34. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne Final Approach

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    Quit with the negative waves, man.
    Mine started telling me I am using the a/p too much.
    "isn't it more fun to just fly the plane?"
    Can't argue with that.
     
  35. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Good know about the commonality between different Piper models. Back when our club had an Arrow the nav light trick was needed for the gear down and locked lights, too. We had a requirement that if you didn't fly the Arrow at least 3 hours in a 180 day period you had to get checked out by a CFI before you could solo it again. After a few times around the pattern with the CFI surreptitiously turning on the landing lights so the three greens wouldn't show up well during the day I caught her in the act and slapped her hand. She just laughed.

    The Arrow's emergency extension system was a bit different. Pushing the emergency extension lever just released the hydraulic pressure holding the gear up and it would free fall into place. No need to get an A/P involved afterwards. And that wasn't the first step in the checklist, either. There were a couple circuit breakers to check first. I know there were two as it was the second (a 5 amp breaker) that I pushed that caused the gear to go down when I re-set it when I was getting my initial checkout in the plane. We still don't know, almost 20 years later, why that breaker popped and the A/P couldn't duplicate it on the ground. Oh well...
     
  36. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

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    If I make a video about, I will be "lucky to be alive", "Never flying these deathtraps again", "We almost died 9 times.", "That time I died in a plane crash", "Gryder Gryder Gryder, the New Mayday Mayday Mayday"
     
  37. RussR

    RussR En-Route

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    Dang. I was going to mention that if that picture was "your view", Eren has some pretty hairy legs!
     
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  38. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

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    Don’t want to dis your checkout, but that certainly should have been covered. you needed several hours checkout I believe.

    Pin this on the checkout instructor.
     
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  39. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There should be paperwork from the mod that describes the switch and the function of the light, among other things.

    …and in-depth study of the manuals. :cool:
     
  40. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I've had two alternator failures in two different pipers on cross countries now.

    On the first one, much like you my first warning was when the GPS display turned off. In that case, the problem was intermittent and cycling the master/alt switch brought everything back up and it stayed on until landing. The story gets longer and more interesting from there, but I've already told it a few times(including as it happened) here so I'll hold that unless someone wants to hear it. This was in my Archer.

    The second time was in the Lance, I'd just finished climbing out. First thing that got my attention was the engine analyzer(not present in my last plane) flashing the voltage at me. I slowed to gear extension speed and dropped the gear, then returned home. Battery lasted all the way to the ramp.

    Both these incidents happened on bright sunny days and I learned that under those conditions the ALT warning light is pretty dim and not very obvious unless you look closely/cup your hand over it. It had come on in both incidents but I never saw it until looking for it. Your panel layout is different than mine but I suspect you might have had the same issue.

    Having the engine analyzer on the Lance get my attention by flashing the voltage probably prevented me from being NORDO somewhere in the middle of the St Louis bravo with the gear up and having to figure out whether to go home or risk landing at an unfamiliar and possibly busy field. Either way I have a handheld radio now, which will probably conveniently run out of battery power the first time I need it but at least I'm trying. There are phone numbers for ATC in foreflight, calling one of them would probably also be an option.
     
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