Saturday, September 30, 2006

RenO and I were flying the MU-2 late one winter's night, or perhaps early one winter's morning, heading home empty after dropping a patient off somewhere or other. We were up north, about 10 minutes from our home airport in Timmins and in solid cloud. It was my leg to fly and I was in the left seat, though RenO was the Captain.

Me, rambling, trying to stay awake: "And another thing that sucks about our company management is..."


The sound of electrical feedback zipped through our headphones, then stopped.

Me: "What the Hell was that?"

RenO: "No idea. Maybe I'll get the emergency checklist"

The voice of the young medic in the back "Hey, did you guys hear that too?"

"Yup. We're on it. Just relax"

I was actually pretty relaxed. Fatigue will do that. When I'm very tired, bad things can happen, and I just don't care as much.

A little red light illuminated on our master caution panel. The light said "Inverter Fail", and it meant we had lost a piece of equipment that provided AC power to our instruments.

I had a brainwave, a true stroke of genius.

"Let's switch inverters"

"Okay" RenO flipped the inverter select switch to our second inverter.

"Ahh crap. The Inverter Fail light is still on"

According to the book, that meant both our inverters were screwed. According to the book, being in solid cloud and at night, we were in a semi-bad situation.

In the MU-2, AC power is used to drive a whole of of instruments, but some also run on DC power so the panel wasn't totally dark. In fact, all our instruments were still lit up, even those that were powered by AC current.

RenO: "Hey, do you smell smoke?"

Me: "No. Maybe. I don't know. Do you?"

RenO: "Maybe. I can't tell"

Medic in the back: "WHAT? SMOKE? WHAT SMOKE?"

Our medic was relatively fresh to the operation, but she knew that an on-board fire was a bad thing.

RenO and I simultaneously: "It's Nothing! Don't worry about it"

Me: "All is well, we just have to discuss something"

RenO flipped the switch that disconnected the medic in the back from our intercom so we could talk without worrying about panicking our medic.

"I mean, I think I smelled something, but it might have been me"

"I told you not to have the chili for lunch"

"How about now? Do you smell smoke now?"

"I can't tell, my nose is too tired"

We both giggled.

The red light on our instrument panel remained on, but the instruments that were supposed to be dead as a result seemed just fine.

"Alright RenO, here's my plan. I'll continue to fly the approach, but if my instruments die, then you fly the approach. Does that make sense?"

The gauges on RenO's side ran mostly on DC power, so in the event of a serious AC failure, the person sitting in the copilot's seat would normally take control and fly the airplane.

RenO: "Okay"

We were close to home by now, and Air Traffic Control vectored us for the instrument landing system into Timmins. I flew the approach normally, and the plane behaved just fine. My instruments worked perfectly all the way to touchdown.

We taxiied into our hangar and shut down.

RenO: "I guess we should leave a note for the mechanic so he can take a look at this eh"

Me: "I guess"

We cleaned up, and drove home to bed as the sun started to rise.


The next night, the pager went off. I called RenO.

"Hey. Did the mechanic fix the plane?"
"He said the light didn't go on when he fired it up this morning"
"Oh, okay then. Where are we going?"
"Moosonee - Kingston with an incubator"

That was a good trip if you were paid mileage, as it was a couple of hours each way.

"Okay, see you in 10 minutes"

"See you"

The plane behaved and I forgot about the entire sequence of events until just now. The mechanic never did figure out what happened that first night. Guess it must have been the chili.


Anonymous said...

Great story, its weird how airplane ghosts come and go. I hate when mechanics think we are just a bunch of whiny bitches (which we are :)

medic_9 said...

I recall this event...

I was "that medic" in the back and I was happily reading a magazine (empty leg) until the "Do you smell smoke?" managed to work its way into my brain and set off the bells in my head.

It was great flying with you S. Lots of fun, but we have both moved on to bigger and better things. I enjoy reading your stories, keep them up! Don't let anyone stop you from your writing. You truely have a gift for making a story come alive.

- C.

Aviatrix said...

What is it about medics and intercoms? We had one that carried around his own intercom so he could hook in to the cockpit even though we didn't have a rear plug in.

So there you are losing speed in ice, or having funny lights come on and you have to use sign language to keep from freaking him out.

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