Sunday, December 4, 2011

50 hour gremlins

I'm now at 50.1 hours since the new engines were installed in August.  I had thought I had just about worked through all the new engine gremlins, but on my flight to LA last week my left alternator light started flashing intermittently.  Not a huge deal, after all I have two.  There was a cloud deck but it was broken and scattered, and I was in the clear on top at 10k ft.  In a single I would have had to scrub the flight... it's the paradox of the twin owner, you get to make some flights that would ground a single engine pilot, but you fly twice as often with something broken.  Once down in the LA basin I ended up shooting over from CMA to VNY in IMC, and it's such a short flight I didn't worry too much about having an alternator out.

The flight back was IMC through a layer that topped out at 9,000 and then I got on top again at 10.  Over the valley however I found the central valley was socked in with ground fog, there was a high overcast at 20,000 and the sun was falling fast yielding to a moonless night... basically I was clear of clouds but in solid IMC, no city lights, no visual references, just floating along IFR in a black void.  To make it more interesting, I pulled up the Wx at CCR and saw that it was deteriorating rapidly.  An 800 ft ceiling turned to a 400 ft ceiling turned to  200 ft ceiling.  The LDA approach at CCR takes you down to 440 ft, then you go missed, so there was no point in trying to get into CCR with a 200 ft ceiling.  The airport was basically closed.  I had filed LVK as an alternate, and since they have an ILS that takes you to 200 ft I knew I could get in there, so I diverted.  That was also handy, because my maintenance shop is at LVK and so I shot the ILS on in, left the plane in front of their hangar so they could deal with my failed alternator, and called my wife to pick me up.  When I got to CCR to pickup my car, the fog was so thick I couldn't even see 20 ft in front of the car.

Long story short, turns out I have the dreaded Kelly Aerospace alternators, which are the only ones certified for my airplane.  The problem is, Kelly Aerospace is known far and wide for producing the worst products in aviation.  How they are certified by the FAA is beyond me.  No one was surprised to hear of a 50 hour Kelly alternator going bad...  oh well, I'm sure the next one will crap out right after the warranty expires.  We're also only in December and I've already used up all my deice fluid... time to shop around!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Adam. First off, you're my hero man. I've been following your blog on here and BT - I'd love to do the same as soon as I can get my hands on a decent B or E55.

    My point here is more about your alternator. Plane Power makes a PMA replacement that works on all Baron 520 and 550 engines. Awesome alternators.