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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Stuck, Part 2

I may have gotten a little ahead of myself last night in thinking that our wait in Wilmington was over after dispatch released us for the flight back to Manassas.
After packing up the plane and rolling out to the runway we started a run-up and found out we had a dead magneto on the right engine. The magnetos, two per engine, provide ignition and are independent from the electrical system and from each other to create redundancy. With only one functioning mag on the right engine, not only weren't we safe to go fly but we were also unairworthy.
So back to the ramp it was. A few calls to dispatch and maintenance confirmed my suspicions about the mag and we booked ourselves into a hotel for the night. A couple of pitchers of beer later, we found some respite in well-deserved sleep.
Around noon today, another plane was ferried to us and we lifted off to Manassas in it, again flying mostly in IMC and at times skimming the tops of majestic puffy cumulus clouds. The sights were awesome and only reiterated my desire to get a decent camera so that I can illustrate these posts with pictures.
After landing in Manassas I was told to pick up another student and head down to Raleigh, where we'd overnight. Catch was that my lovely wife had flown down this morning in hopes of spending a few hours together. Instead, we made a quick run to my apartment to get clothes, then pondered what to do. In her admirable devotion and bravery, she decided to drive to Raleigh while Ron, my new flight partner, and I shot a straight line down here in the Seminole.
She'll be here in about half and hour! Exciting stuff.

The past three days have been an amazing learning experience and a testament to ATP's training approach. I flew more IMC since Friday than I had before I came here, encountered ice on two occasions and had to deal with mechanical problems away from base.
Our icing encounter yesterday was a good lesson. We obviously did not fly into known icing conditions, but when it began I made a PIREP. It seemed to stabilize so we pushed on at our altitude, with but a dusting on the leading edges. Quickly, however, rime ice began collecting at a faster rate so we asked ATC for a lower altitude and got 4,000 feet, which was supposed to be clear. Approaching 4,000, however, it was clear to us that we wouldn't be out of the clouds and we were now getting a mix of snow and ice. I immediately notified ATC and we were cleared to 3,000 feet, where we broke out and were finally in above freezing temperatures, by a slim margin.
I kept a close eye on the leading edges and could see slow melting. Then we flew through virga and that helped tremendously in melting the ice right off of the wings. The whole episode was only minutes long, but we worked fast and hard to get out of the ice as safely as we could and were satisfied with our CRM.
Also during the flight, ATC asked us for help in relaying a message to a Bonanza. I tried getting in touch with the plane's pilot, but to no avail so in case he could hear me but not broadcast to us I relayed approach's message a couple of times and advised the controller.
Because this happened after we picked up ice, the mood in the cockpit was somber as we both hoped the aircraft in question had not fallen prey to the moist and cold clouds.


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