Saturday, April 16, 2011

In a fix, Squawk 76

We're level at 1,000ft just past Hoofddorp and I'm setting the plane up for low and slow flight overhead Lisse....when it happens. The radios made a "plink!" noise and they're all dead. The transponder was still working, so I dial in 7600 to let ATC know that I have no radios.

I'm in a bit of a bind now because today's mission was to take the Internal Auditors who were over from the U.S. auditing my company up to see the beauty of the tulip fields from the air. But now I'm right on the fringes of Schiphol's CTR with no radios.....and now no Transponder....that's just gone and died too.

OK, first things's first.....I need to get us out of Dodge and quickly. Once clear we head west to the coastline. I'm going to have to take the long way round to get back. Even if the radios come back alive, I doubt that Schiphol Tower will let me back in in case they died again, and I also don't trust them to stay alive. I have full fuel tanks so it's a no brainer to decide on the safest route along the coast and cut across the north end of Schiphol's approach.

Much earlier, I was thinking about the last time I transitioned from "Nippy" to a Cessna 172. I remember the senstation that the Cessna was like flying a truck with wings when comparing it to "Nippy". But amazingly this particular C172 is VERY light on the controls. Not sure which version it is, but looking at the log book she's an old bird....almost 10,000 hours logged on her. But she's it great shape and well looked after.

I've checked all the fuses, nothing has blown or tripped, I have no "low voltage" warning light and all the fuel gauges and giros are it's not an electrics problem. It's isolated to the avionics. This particular C172 has the Garmin GNS 430, which means that the GPS and radios are coupled. It has a spare back-up radio, but neither of them are working. OK....I'll try recycing the avionics.....nope, still nothing. OK, nevermind.

We're abeam Ijmuiden and I can see the steelmill below me to the right. A quick look at the chart and I could zip under Schiphol's CTR here are 1,000ft....the base of the Class "C" is 1,200. But I opt to continue north a wee bit further until I'm well clear. Since the transponder doesn't work, I do not want to risk tangling with a 737 on finals for Schiphol.

Since most pilots are stubborn and never give up, I continue to recycle the avionics....and eventually my stubborness pays off....first the transponder returns to life, followed by the navigation instruments and the the Garmin and back-up radio......PHEW!!

Amsterdam Info informs me they can hear me loud and clear and they welcome me back. They must have seen me on their primary radar the whole time, but the voice of a familiar controller is music to my ears. I explained to her what had happened and told her I was routing to Lelystad.

Passing south of the field, I called overhead "BRAVO" and set us up for the circuit. My head has the power and speed settings for the 172 instructor would quiz me on the speeds every morning when he picked me up for flight lessons. So it was a matter of slotting into the circuit and pulling off a smooth landing. Sadly, the landing was a little laboured, and we hit with a bit of a bump....I just hope that's not reflected in the results of the audit :-)

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