Flying Aborted – Alternator Failure

I’ve been flying for 15+ years and have never had any in-flight failure other that baulky radios, fussy door latches and broken sun-visors. I’ve had military pilots try to run into me w/ a B1 and a Chinook (they were in the wrong) but neither was really that close.  Other than that and a little aerobatics, my flying has been just exciting enough for me, which is not very.

Saturday I lost the alternator during a local flight. Fortunately it was an easy choice to do the smart thing and land immediately. It was easy because I was 10nm from home. I like to think that I’d have done the same if I was 100nm from home. I hope I learned a lesson that will ensure that.

When I taxied in the G1000 avionics started flickering. The usual assumption is that your battery will keep it lit for 45+ minutes. Glad I didn’t find that out in flight. I recall starting was a bit difficult but it’s a new aircraft for me so I assumed it was my hot-start technique. I suppose the battery was in a marginal state at takeoff. The alternator passed the runup checks but after a few touch and goes and then leaving the pattern to do some maneauvering the “low volts” annunciator came up.

Back to base Joe! Like I said, easy call when you can see home.

No, losing the G1000 in flight is not going to kill you in VFR conditions and the system does have an emergency backup battery. The engines don’t care, they get spark from the magnetos. All that is more comforting to consider when on the ground than in the air. I’ll try to remember that.

[for you non-aviators, the Garmin G1000 is a comprehensive avionics suite w/ dual computer screens and all kinds of gadgets & features. It’s pretty awesome but a G1000 equipped aircraft’s panel is pretty sparse when the G1000 takes the dirt nap.]

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