It started with a temperamental vacuum warning light, which, after some investigation, turned out to have been installed incorrectly and never would have warned of a vacuum failure if it weren’t for the loose wire that was causing the light to flash. Each time I saw the light come on during a flight, I got more frustrated. Little did I know, it was serving as a helper to force me to ring out all the wiring, test, and correct the entire warning circuit. While I was under the panel, I also found and replaced a cracking vacuum hose that was well hidden by firewall insulation. Two potential issues were averted by that annoying little light, but more was to come.
The last experience was more luck than lesson. Returning to Boston from a trip to Atlanta, my boys and I hopped out of the airplane at our home airport tired and ready to head home. As we hooked up the tow bar and prepared to push the airplane back into the hangar, we noticed a hissing noise. A brief investigation revealed that the left main gear was quickly losing air. We had just enough time to push it back into the hangar, position the jack, and lift the gear leg before the tire went flat.
There was no sign of damage outside the tire; the tube itself had failed at one of the seams. We didn’t have a spare tube, so the airplane was out of service until a new one arrived. It was frustrating, to say the least. But, just as with the children’s book, had the tire gone flat prior to landing, the outcome could have been much worse.
Unplanned aircraft maintenance is rarely good news, but sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise. If we view it as an opportunity to look deeper and do a focused “wellness check,” we can sometimes turn a minor inconvenience into preventive maintenance that ultimately saves us from more dire future consequences. Just like in the children’s book, we can make sure we make it home safe and sound, slightly frustrated, but safe, because “it could have been worse.”