What To Do In Case Of An Electrical Failure
NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) have an interesting series in Callback, in which they publish the first half of a story, based on ASRS reports, to the point where a specific decision must be made or a situation managed. The reader can then consider what he or she might have done to resolve the situation before reading what the reporting pilot actually did.
The interactions in the February 2020 issue include one on a total electrical failure which gives precious little detail.
Total Electrical Failure PA32 Cherokee Private Pilot’s Report
While flying a filed IFR flight plan [in IMC], I experienced total electrical failure, resulting in [minimal] instruments and no radios operating.
What Would You Have Done?
This reminded me of a recent AOPA installment of the Real Pilot Story called Powerless Over Paris. I should note this is Paris, Texas, not Paris, France, so the airspace is not quite as busy as you might think. Nevertheless, it’s quite an unexpected solution from ATC.
In Powerless Over Paris, Dr. Peter Edenhoffer relives the moment his airplane suffered a complete electrical failure in heavy instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) at night. As he speaks about the flight, Edenhoffer shares his thoughts and actions, including a fleeting moment of doubt about his chances for surviving the dilemma. However, with a little luck and creativity he and the air traffic controllers on duty finally established contact. But, would Edenhoffer be able to find the airport and land?
Hear the story first hand from the pilot and air traffic controllers involved. AOPA Air Safety Institute executive director Richard McSpadden praised the pilot and controllers for their resourcefulness in tackling a difficult situation. “The pilot’s focus on maintaining positive aircraft control in hard IMC while troubleshooting a critical electrical failure is a testament to the impact quality training and pilot proficiency have on safety. In addition, the controllers’ ability to think on their feet outside the norm reflects a collaborative intensity that permeates the aviation community and makes us safer,” said McSpadden. In 2018, air traffic controllers Charlie Porter, Phil Enis, Hugh Hunton, and Bryan Beck received the prestigious President’s Award from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) for their heroic efforts in bringing pilot Edenhoffer to a safe landing.
You can watch the AOPA video here (if you are reading this on the mailing list, you may need to click through to this post):
I’m glad to see such initiatives meant to help private pilots think about scenarios before they find themselves in trouble.
But I’m also interested to hear what you might do in the PA32 Cherokee that’s just suffered a total electrical failure. I’ll post the ASRS response in the comments in the next few days.
Also tell me what you might do in an airliner, where rather more “bells and whistles” have been lost. I suppose “pull over and contact the automobile association” isn’t the right answer…