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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Meaning of Preflight...

A must read for all general aviation students. I found this in the archives of blogger world and I don't remember who sent it. But so worth reading. Whoever wrote this... step up and take credit. For all the rest of you, time to read a great story and great lesson learned.

"There's a story I tell noobs....guys n gals still in their first 100 hours....before they get really secure with their 500 or 600 hour total times.

I had been down to jacksonville (OAJ) to visit a friend. Hadn't seen this guy in a couple months of sundays...the return weather wasn't great but improving. At 2:30 a.m. flight service finally allowed that the ceiling was 14k overcast. this after a gradual rise from 2500 overcast...with temperatures basically remaining steady on the otherwise calm fall evening. Forecast wasn't good for the next day...and I had stuff to get done so we hauled it over to OAJ and rounded up the security guard to let me in.

Did my normal preflight...all was well. Normal take off and climb. Landscape like usual for a night flight...just no moon. Pointed it towards home...JNX...and off I went. Winds were favoring the flight at 7500...a little high for the short flight...but hey I like having altitude. Kind of like fuel ....can't use what you don't have.

So I'm buzzing along...130 kts...happy as a clam that the cabin heat is working good. Doing my instrument panel scan... everything is good. I got up to 10 south of Seymore Johnson AFB... and all the sudden all the lights inside the plane go out. Its rather dark! No moon light.... all there is a little reflection from ground light. 

And poof!... all the lights outside the airplane go off too! 
I'm still trying to reset the main breaker! In the dark...and no idea which way is up. I gingerly reach for the flash light. First joy. Second joy. Third one....ahhhhh some light! Used that to get me stabilized....and get a red pen light out of my bag. Sound like a long time? How about a few seconds!

I tap the ammeter which is showing zero. nothing. I hit it harder...and it went all the way to the left. I've got a problem.

I started a gentle descent...500 fpm...and tell myself that if don't come out from under this in 3 minutes I'll do a 180 and go somewhere else. I really don't want to be playing with charts with no radios... and two flashlights. one of which I'm saving for landing. So I'm praying pretty fervently about this time. I'm still on course for JNX. I finally pop out the bottom....just in time to see a KC10 tanker right in front of me about a mile ahead. Remember Seymour? They fly 24/7.
I made it home....landed without benefit of the runway lights. But this one I had practiced.

Each one I what would you have done different? About 1/2 give the right answers. 

Preflight your flashlights. I keep a red led one with a fresh battery in my shirt pocket on night flights now.

Always take a handheld radio with you. (in those days it was a HT.... 'hand truckable'.) and remember what your instructor taught you from day one...FLY THE PLANE. Had my mechanic look at the plane the next morning. Voltage regulator shot. Ammeter movement shot.

The in flight failure of the voltage regulator isn't anything unusual to pilots. The stuck ammeter...thats a little different twist. Add a note to always check for reasonable movement on all of your guages...those of us that still have guages that is."

Enjoy the Journey...And remember to preflight!
XO Karlene

Author of Flight For Control and Flight For Safety,
If you haven't read's time!


  1. My dad experienced something similar on his first flight as a private pilot, which happened to be a long, long cross-country across several states to visit a friend. He hadn't been planning to fly at night and decided to land short of his destination rather than continue into unfamiliar territory. When he touched down, the runway lights and all the aircraft lights went out at once. He managed to get it stopped and couldn't see where to park, so he just waited where he was and took a nap. The airport manager knocked on his door a few hours later to ask why he was parked on an active runway! (Though it was not much of an active airport.)

    I have three flashlights in my bag, as well as a handheld radio with a built-in VOR receiver, just for that one day in IMC when everything goes wrong. :)

    1. Wow... and lucky he was it wasn't an active airport. The lessons we learn the easy way... when a plane doesn't land on top of us! lol. I have many flashlights. My favorite is the big purple one. :)


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