Systems in the Air Can and Should Be Handled Differently Than Systems on the Ground

Aircraft Systems

All good instructors teach systems. Some teach the systems as maintenance items while the plane is in the hanger or being preflighted. This may sound silly but sometimes the systems in the air are treated differently than they are on the ground. In a potential emergency situation or in an emergency situation, you may need to know more about the system then what the walk around or maintenance checks may give you.

Let’s talk about the alternator and electrical system. In visiting with pilots they know they have a 24 volt system but they don’t understand that actually the alternator is a AC system that uses a rectifier to reduce the voltage to DC. Did you ever wonder why that is? The big thing about the alternator and the electrical system is that problems can occur and they can be serious. You need to know how the system acts in the air. In regard to the alternator, you need to understand that if it locks up you may have problems with the engine. It can’t be disconnected from the cockpit with a switch but what happens if the clutch whose job is to take it off line begins to separate?

Here are some things to think about in regard to what we discuss:

  • Where is your alternator field switch? Some pilots do not know. It is not what you think even though it sounds serious.
  • We discuss a flickering alternator annunciator light and how to check it. We discuss how much alternator you need to complete a trip with the equipment you have.
  • How long can your battery last on a total electric failure and what to reduce. What happens if you are on one alternator and you are IFR on an ILS approach? Could certain operations trip the alternator and leave you stranded with equipment that will not operate?
  • You are in the air and you watch the RPM gauge. It starts dropping. What is the problem? Do you land immediately or can you continue? We discuss that.
  • What happens if the baggage door pops open? Before rotation or after rotation. What is the procedure to manage the aircraft?
  • Left or right brake failure on touchdown with a short runway. What do you do? We cover that in our emergency procedures in the sim. You will be surprised what you can do.
  • What “magic” gauge that came with the aircraft from the factory can give you insights into your engine? We show you a method to resolve whether it is a gauge or an engine problem?
  • You take off and the right oil pressure gauge is at “0” pressure? Are you sure you don’t have oil pressure? You may have shut down a good engine. We show you our method to diagnose the problem.
  • Can’t remember how to keep that lift vector on the failed engine? You only need one gauge not two. We will show you our method.
  • What we recommend on tires and why? If you have to lock up the brakes on a shut down before rotating, why our tire recommendation makes sense.
  • In a feathered restart, is there a trick to help the engine rotate the prop? We show you in the sim.
  • You shut down the engine and it goes to feather? What is the problem and can there be more than one problem?
  • Which way do you turn during an engine fire? There is a right and wrong way.
  • In a shutdown engine can it still have a little life left for an emergency? We talk about that.
  • What does Cessna leave off its checklist that Beech has on their twin checklist?
  • Tip tank Twin Cessna. On Aux yet the gauge is not moving on one tank and the other gauge is moving? What can be happening and what adjustments do you need to make if you are short on fuel?
  • Are all tires the same? We discuss this and give you some ideas on changing tires.
  • Ready to go. Start the taxi out and the left brake is weak. What is usually the problem and how can you take care of it and be ready to go within an hour.
  • Making the door seal and emergency exit seal a little more secure. We discuss this.
  • Where do you leave the voltmeter/alternator gauge during flight and why?
  • On tip tank Twin Cessna’s how can you check the aux pumps in the tanks?


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