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.