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IFR Fix: Power, and distraction

It was a short, stressful flight.

Failure of the glass-cockpit avionics occurred during initial climb, pretty much simultaneously with autopilot disconnect. The avionics cooing fan had been flashing a failure alert, but now all displays shut down; no navigation, no communications.

Fortunately, weather was visual. The Beech King Air 200’s pilot navigated back to the airport the old-fashioned way, and used a cell phone to call the FBO to request that they notify the tower.

In the pattern, an attempt to lower the landing gear brought no response, requiring a manual extension. "When (I) used push-to-test gear-down light found lights inoperative and realized had lost all electrical," the pilot explained in the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ACN: 1120983). "Checked generator switches and found I had failed to turn both generators on after ground power start resulting in battery depletion. Reset generators and recovered electrical and nav/coms. Contacted Tower and landed without further incident."

A simple but costly omission. Commenting on likely causes, the pilot cited factors including distraction, a gap in the simulator curriculum, a dead backup battery, and sunglasses.

The embattled King Air pilot attributed the generator-switch omission to distraction while trying to get line personnel to disconnect ground power, not using a checklist "due to long time familiarization with airplane and systems," and a dead backup avionics battery. Sunglasses obscuring annunciator panel displays may have contributed. And the pilot offered an observation revealing a minor but important gap in the proficiency routine: "In recurrent simulator training, always did battery start procedure."

Then, when a real flight diverged from the training scenario, not even the pilot’s "long time familiarization" with the aircraft could stave off a major systems failure.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: IFR, Training and Safety, IFR

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