A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Poor RV-4: foul weather and bad battery

October 21, 2017
Emilie Phillips

Sunday at Wentworth it rained and the clouds wouldn’t go away. I saved myself a morning of worry by tying my airplane down and declaring I’d come back to get it some nicer day. Tyson was in charge of hunting a break in the clouds.

First departure from Wentworth

When the break came, all 8 or so remaining pilots jumped in their planes and took off. From Wentworth down to Mt Sunapee was no problem — high scattered clouds and low scattered clouds. But it was turbulent. My stomach and breakfast did not get along. South and east of Mt Sunapee, the clouds thickened, pushing us west to the Connecticut river valley. We stopped at Keene and Jaffrey before making it to Brookline. Each stop we waited for the clouds ahead of us to move.

The next weekend, Saturday was our free day to retrieve the RV-4. The forecast was again for low clouds. I thought we should postpone for another weekend. But then the clouds decided to go somewhere else and all of NH turned sunny.

All clear at Wentworth

My RV looked undisturbed. I preflighted and jumped in. Crank-crank. The propeller turned over once, twice, and then silence. My battery voltage plummeted to 5V. I’d had troubles starting at Wentworth after Tyson borrowed the plane. Maybe then he had left the master switch on? But this time we were sure everything was off. Looks like I have a bad battery.

Tyson hand prop’ed the plane and it started easily. Then he came and looked at the gauges. The alternator was charging, but way too high. 16V instead of normal 14V. Not good. Tyson told me to leave my avionics off. If the voltage decreased to something reasonable as the battery charged, I could turn the radios on. The voltage slowly came down on the flight home. First thing back home, I emailed my mechanic.

A week later, Saturday, we dropped the plane off at Manchester. By then, I had a cold, so I wasn’t flying anywhere. Tyson’s turn. We anticipated the battery would be discharged, so Tyson planned for no avionics. Manchester is class C airspace, meaning you need two way communication with ATC and a mode C transponder. Luckily there is an exception if you call ahead and are flying direct to maintenance. Tyson also brought a handheld radio for communication.

We found the battery discharged as expected. Hand prop’d the plane to start it. Then I drove off towards Manchester. Meanwhile, Tyson discovered the battery was so discharged, it couldn’t energize the alternator field. The electrical system was inoperative. No flap motor, no trim, no oil pressure gauge, no tachometer. The airplane was stuck in landing configuration and engine monitoring was by ear. Tyson flew the whole way to Manchester at 75kts with full flaps. Quite slow for an RV.

Now I’m just waiting to hear how many parts need to be replaced.

Photos from Sunday Leaving Wentworth

Photos from RV-4 Return Trip