Sunday, November 2, 2008


14CFR § 91.13 Careless or reckless operation (a)Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

91.13 is the FAA's catchall regulation. If you hurt someone or something, then that is prima facie evidence that you violated the regulation. I came close today, close enough to send in an NASA Aviation Safety and Reporting System form. I also sent a letter to the chief pilot of the company that operates the airplane.

It was a miserable day, with heavy rain and strong gusty winds. A good day for ground school, which we did. As a reward, Dan wanted to look inside one of the King Airs in the tightly-packed hangar. I had flown both of them a lot, but it has been a whie. I picked the EFIS one so he could see a glass cockpit.

I put him in the left seat, did a quick cockpit scan to make sure the switches were in the right position, and turned on the battery. I showed him how the stall warning test moved the little vane on the wing, and then had him turn on an invertor and the avionics master.

Immediately I knew that something was wrong. "Do you hear something?" I asked, but that wasn't fair because Dan had never been in the airplane before. There was a strange whirring noise from the nose of the airplane. I thought it might be the air conditioning, but that was off. The aft blower was off, but I turned it on anyway, and was reassured to hear more noise. The new noise was rhythmic, with a 4 or 5 second period.

Still puzzled, I turned on the EFIS. It takes a few seconds to warm up and do its internal tests. As soon as the multifunction display came alive I saw the problem.

The weather radar was on! We were radiating inside the hangar!

I said something unprintable and turned the radar off. Looking ahead, we had been irradiating the auxilliary tank of the King Air in front of us.

We had been irradiating a fuel tank!

By blind dumb luck, the fuel was far enough away and well enough shielded, the radar we weak enough, and the exposure time was short enough. We did not blow southern Idaho to smithereens.

I was disgusted with the situation, shut everything down, and went back upstairs to talk about weight-and-balance. I did take some time to remind Dan how it was important to use all of our senses when approaching an airplane. I heard something wrong. I smelled exhaust fumes. I saw the collapsed nose strut. I felt the kink in the control cable. I tasted the ozone from the failed alternator.

I suppose that there are worse things than radiating in a hangar. Nobody walked by, and nobody got hurt. But, what had happened when the airplane landed? Had one of the line crew marshalled the airplane, and how close did he get to the beam? Was someone hurt? I get weak in the knees thinking about it.

And weaker when I think of how close I had come to hurting someone.

Labels: , , , ,


At November 3, 2008 at 10:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad nothing happened. Thank you for sharing. It is always helpful to learn from mistakes.

At November 14, 2008 at 7:14 AM , Blogger Paul said...

That's quite a story. I assume the previous pilot left it on - the weather radar doesn't come always with the master, does it? That plane is much more advanced than anything I fly (read: C172)...what are the safety warnings that come with it? Is there an altitude it shouldn't be on below, or a distance in front that should be clear?

More than a few years ago I was in Saudi Arabia, working a TPS-68 tactical weather radar one night as we had an aircraft inbound and thunderstorms in the area. Our radar was out in the middle of nowhere and the dish sat on top of the heavily shielded trailer where we worked. The radar was active, the red light was on, and someone starts knocking on the door! I shut it down, open the door, and there are two Saudi MPs wondering what we were doing. I assume that's what they were wondering - there was a language gap. I could only point to the dish and motion that they didn't want to be around. I always wondered if they got warm as they walked up...hopefully I had the dish pointed the other way from the door, I don't remember.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home