For those of you who read Flying magazine, the title of this post may be familiar. It's also the title of a long running article in Flying mag that highlights sometimes harrowing flying experiences that teach a valuable lesson, often written from the viewpoint of the pilot who finds him or herself in an unexpectedly difficult and potentially dangerous situation. I'm a big fan of these articles. This past weekend, I had my own "I Learned About Flying From That" experience that I think may be of some value to others so here you go:
About 18 months ago, I purchased a 1995 Bravo. I've reported extensively in other threads the litany of deferred maintenance I worked through. Recently, I began to feel confident that the mechanical issues were largely settled and I began to focus on the avionics. Among other things, I upgraded from an Aspen 1000 Pro to a MAX. I had numerous installation issues that were, as of the middle of December, solved (to the best of my knowledge) and the new Max unit was functioning as expected.
Last weekend, my wife and I flew from KPIB to KTEX (Hattiesburg MS to Telluride CO) to ski for the weekend with friends. The flight over was SLOW (7:30 flight time, two legs, with strong headwinds) and EPIC! Here are a couple of photos and a link to the landing at Telluride (be sure to click the link, it's a pretty neat view of the runway on approach):
LINK TO LANDING: https://www.dropbox.com/s/85qt24kp0cuzcq0/video.mp4?dl=0
We enjoyed the weekend skiing and planned our return on Sunday to include a direct flight back at FL230. We made it back in 4:17 in one leg!:
At about the Texas - Louisiana border (see photo below), as expected, we encountered a large area of solid IMC below with low ceilings all the way to our destination. I therefore planned for an ILS approach at KPIB.
As we neared KPIB, the weather was reported as 6 mile visibility and 500 ft ceilings with light rain / mist. I set up both NAV 1 and NAV 2 (Localizer Only) along with the Garmin GTN 750 GPS for the ILS 18 Approach so I would have ample backup. As I turned from my heading of 110 to the final approach course of 181, the Aspen flashed an "Cross Check Attitude" message and the SV / HSI continued to turn past my heading. In that moment, it took all I had to ignore what I was seeing on the Aspen and revert to the other instruments. I managed to ignore what my eyes were seeing on the Aspen and I continued the approach as a Localizer only approach following the Nav 2 CDI and using the GPS as confirmation. All the while, the Aspen continued to be a MAJOR distraction. Flipping the power switch off to the Aspen did no good as it simply reverted to the backup battery. I chose at that point to "fly the plane" and ignore the obviously erroneous Aspen display as best I could. I broke out at 800 feet with a huge sigh of relief.
AFTER landing, I remembered that the proper way to power down the Aspen is to hold the REV button for approximately 5 seconds. So, what I learned from this flight was:
ALWAYS set up EVERY navigation aid you have available for your phase of flight ESPECIALLY the approach (I did this properly).
Understand and practice failure modes of avionics, knowing reflexively how to power them down (I did not do this properly).
It so happened that I made a photo of the diagnostics page of the Aspen MAX right after the install in December (during which a new RSM was installed as well) and this one, according to Aspen, showed a normal status for the RSM (Remote Sensor Module). The second photo I made of the diagnostics page today demonstrated that the RSM had somehow failed - "infant mortality" was the label applied. I am grateful it was not "pilot mortality". Aspen is very helpful as always in handling this situation with a replacement RSM.
So, yea, I learned about flying from that! Be safe, and plan for failures!