|37000 Feet||Browse and search NASA's
Aviation Safety Reporting System
|Local Time Of Day||1801 To 2400|
|Locale Reference||atc facility : mke.tracon|
|Altitude||msl single value : 5000|
|Controlling Facilities||tracon : mke.tracon|
|Operator||general aviation : personal|
|Make Model Name||PA-24 Comanche|
|Operating Under FAR Part||Part 91|
|Navigation In Use||other|
|Flight Phase||climbout : initial|
|Function||flight crew : single pilot|
|Qualification||pilot : instrument|
pilot : private
|Experience||flight time last 90 days : 30|
flight time total : 389
flight time type : 240
|Affiliation||government : faa|
|Function||controller : approach|
|Anomaly||aircraft equipment problem : critical|
non adherence : published procedure
|Independent Detector||other flight crewa|
|Resolutory Action||controller : provided flight assist|
controller : issued new clearance
flight crew : diverted to another airport
flight crew : landed as precaution
|Consequence||faa : reviewed incident with flight crew|
Flight Crew Human Performance
During preflight of my aircraft; battery was noted to be completely dead; with master switch left on. Jump start was obtained from local FBO and flight was conducted to ZZZ1 without incident. The generator functioned well during this 1.5 hour flight; with positive amperage indication; and no problems with electrically-driven equipment. Aircraft was parked at ZZZ1 for about 4.5 hours. Upon return to aircraft; it was discovered that the battery had not charged enough to start the engine; although lights and fuel pump worked normally; and another jump start was obtained. All radios then worked well. IFR clearance to ZZZ2 was received. The ammeter registered a slight discharge during taxi; normal for this aircraft -- generators don't produce much power at lower RPM. After takeoff; however; I noted that the ammeter continued to show discharge; and fortunately decided not to immediately retract my electrically-operated landing gear. I was handed off to approach control who cleared me direct to ZZZ2 at 6000 ft. Shortly thereafter (perhaps 5 mins); at 5000 ft; I came to the decision that the aircraft was not charging its battery and was likely to lose navigation and radios. I communicated the situation to approach; who gave me a vector to ZZZ3; which by then was the closest airfield. I was instructed to descend to 2800 ft. At that point; the radios suddenly went dark. My handheld GPS continued to function well; and this; along with the visible airfield rotating beacon; enabled me to quickly find ZZZ3 and descend to pattern altitude. At that point; the runway lights came on to full intensity; with reils flashing at the threshold for runway 28. I looked for light gun signals; but did not know where the tower was located and found lights on the ground and the rotating beacon to be distracting. I concentrated on flying the airplane; flew a standard left pattern to runway 28; and landed uneventfully. I called the tower to thank the controller and cancel my flight plan. Human factors: analyzing the situation in retrospect; I feel that I should have noted the unusual lack of ammeter charging during the run-up; and should not have taken off. Barring that; I should have returned immediately to land when I made the decision not to retract the landing gear. During climb out; I was concerned about the situation; but briefly allowed myself to be reassured by the brightly lit display of the garmin 430 and the clarity of radio reception and communication. I hate to think it; but there was probably an element of 'get-there-itis' involved. Our 15 yr old son was home alone and both my wife and myself were feeling the need to get back. Fortunately; the WX was excellent. Fortunately; I finally listened to my inner voice before actually losing radios completely. This enabled the controller to alert the tower at ZZZ3 which made things much better. During my student training; my instructor had me land several times without landing lights; and I was therefore confident of my ability to do this. I am grateful to him for this training. Another human factor was the problem with leaving the master switch 'on' after my last flight; thus draining the battery. I am always careful to turn it off and remove the key from the ignition with magnetos off when I leave the plane; but somehow neglected to do this. Clearly; I need to go through my shutdown checklist more methodically. Generally; I leave the rotating beacon switch 'on' to alert me to the master switch being on; but the beacon switch was 'off' and the battery had drained without me noticing it. Mechanical factors: I do not yet know for sure why the generator failed to function that night; when it worked so well earlier in the day. The handheld GPS unit was also a reassuring item that gave me great confidence in locating the airport. Because it also displayed extended runway ctrlines; I had no difficulty positioning the aircraft quickly for a standard pattern approach even before the runway lights brightened.
Original NASA ASRS Text
Title: PA24 PLT FLYING AT NIGHT ON AN IFR FLT PLAN DIVERTED AND MADE A PRECAUTIONARY LNDG DUE TO AN ELECTRICAL SYS PROB AND IMPENDING LOSS OF NAV AND COM EQUIP.
Narrative: DURING PREFLT OF MY ACFT; BATTERY WAS NOTED TO BE COMPLETELY DEAD; WITH MASTER SWITCH LEFT ON. JUMP START WAS OBTAINED FROM LCL FBO AND FLT WAS CONDUCTED TO ZZZ1 WITHOUT INCIDENT. THE GENERATOR FUNCTIONED WELL DURING THIS 1.5 HR FLT; WITH POSITIVE AMPERAGE INDICATION; AND NO PROBS WITH ELECTRICALLY-DRIVEN EQUIP. ACFT WAS PARKED AT ZZZ1 FOR ABOUT 4.5 HRS. UPON RETURN TO ACFT; IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT THE BATTERY HAD NOT CHARGED ENOUGH TO START THE ENG; ALTHOUGH LIGHTS AND FUEL PUMP WORKED NORMALLY; AND ANOTHER JUMP START WAS OBTAINED. ALL RADIOS THEN WORKED WELL. IFR CLRNC TO ZZZ2 WAS RECEIVED. THE AMMETER REGISTERED A SLIGHT DISCHARGE DURING TAXI; NORMAL FOR THIS ACFT -- GENERATORS DON'T PRODUCE MUCH PWR AT LOWER RPM. AFTER TKOF; HOWEVER; I NOTED THAT THE AMMETER CONTINUED TO SHOW DISCHARGE; AND FORTUNATELY DECIDED NOT TO IMMEDIATELY RETRACT MY ELECTRICALLY-OPERATED LNDG GEAR. I WAS HANDED OFF TO APCH CTL WHO CLRED ME DIRECT TO ZZZ2 AT 6000 FT. SHORTLY THEREAFTER (PERHAPS 5 MINS); AT 5000 FT; I CAME TO THE DECISION THAT THE ACFT WAS NOT CHARGING ITS BATTERY AND WAS LIKELY TO LOSE NAV AND RADIOS. I COMMUNICATED THE SITUATION TO APCH; WHO GAVE ME A VECTOR TO ZZZ3; WHICH BY THEN WAS THE CLOSEST AIRFIELD. I WAS INSTRUCTED TO DSND TO 2800 FT. AT THAT POINT; THE RADIOS SUDDENLY WENT DARK. MY HANDHELD GPS CONTINUED TO FUNCTION WELL; AND THIS; ALONG WITH THE VISIBLE AIRFIELD ROTATING BEACON; ENABLED ME TO QUICKLY FIND ZZZ3 AND DSND TO PATTERN ALT. AT THAT POINT; THE RWY LIGHTS CAME ON TO FULL INTENSITY; WITH REILS FLASHING AT THE THRESHOLD FOR RWY 28. I LOOKED FOR LIGHT GUN SIGNALS; BUT DID NOT KNOW WHERE THE TWR WAS LOCATED AND FOUND LIGHTS ON THE GND AND THE ROTATING BEACON TO BE DISTRACTING. I CONCENTRATED ON FLYING THE AIRPLANE; FLEW A STANDARD L PATTERN TO RWY 28; AND LANDED UNEVENTFULLY. I CALLED THE TWR TO THANK THE CTLR AND CANCEL MY FLT PLAN. HUMAN FACTORS: ANALYZING THE SITUATION IN RETROSPECT; I FEEL THAT I SHOULD HAVE NOTED THE UNUSUAL LACK OF AMMETER CHARGING DURING THE RUN-UP; AND SHOULD NOT HAVE TAKEN OFF. BARRING THAT; I SHOULD HAVE RETURNED IMMEDIATELY TO LAND WHEN I MADE THE DECISION NOT TO RETRACT THE LNDG GEAR. DURING CLBOUT; I WAS CONCERNED ABOUT THE SITUATION; BUT BRIEFLY ALLOWED MYSELF TO BE REASSURED BY THE BRIGHTLY LIT DISPLAY OF THE GARMIN 430 AND THE CLARITY OF RADIO RECEPTION AND COM. I HATE TO THINK IT; BUT THERE WAS PROBABLY AN ELEMENT OF 'GET-THERE-ITIS' INVOLVED. OUR 15 YR OLD SON WAS HOME ALONE AND BOTH MY WIFE AND MYSELF WERE FEELING THE NEED TO GET BACK. FORTUNATELY; THE WX WAS EXCELLENT. FORTUNATELY; I FINALLY LISTENED TO MY INNER VOICE BEFORE ACTUALLY LOSING RADIOS COMPLETELY. THIS ENABLED THE CTLR TO ALERT THE TWR AT ZZZ3 WHICH MADE THINGS MUCH BETTER. DURING MY STUDENT TRAINING; MY INSTRUCTOR HAD ME LAND SEVERAL TIMES WITHOUT LNDG LIGHTS; AND I WAS THEREFORE CONFIDENT OF MY ABILITY TO DO THIS. I AM GRATEFUL TO HIM FOR THIS TRAINING. ANOTHER HUMAN FACTOR WAS THE PROB WITH LEAVING THE MASTER SWITCH 'ON' AFTER MY LAST FLT; THUS DRAINING THE BATTERY. I AM ALWAYS CAREFUL TO TURN IT OFF AND REMOVE THE KEY FROM THE IGNITION WITH MAGNETOS OFF WHEN I LEAVE THE PLANE; BUT SOMEHOW NEGLECTED TO DO THIS. CLRLY; I NEED TO GO THROUGH MY SHUTDOWN CHKLIST MORE METHODICALLY. GENERALLY; I LEAVE THE ROTATING BEACON SWITCH 'ON' TO ALERT ME TO THE MASTER SWITCH BEING ON; BUT THE BEACON SWITCH WAS 'OFF' AND THE BATTERY HAD DRAINED WITHOUT ME NOTICING IT. MECHANICAL FACTORS: I DO NOT YET KNOW FOR SURE WHY THE GENERATOR FAILED TO FUNCTION THAT NIGHT; WHEN IT WORKED SO WELL EARLIER IN THE DAY. THE HANDHELD GPS UNIT WAS ALSO A REASSURING ITEM THAT GAVE ME GREAT CONFIDENCE IN LOCATING THE ARPT. BECAUSE IT ALSO DISPLAYED EXTENDED RWY CTRLINES; I HAD NO DIFFICULTY POSITIONING THE ACFT QUICKLY FOR A STANDARD PATTERN APCH EVEN BEFORE THE RWY LIGHTS BRIGHTENED.
Data retrieved from NASA's ASRS site as of January 2009 and automatically converted to unabbreviated mixed upper/lowercase text. This report is for informational purposes with no guarantee of accuracy. See NASA's ASRS site for official report.