My son Casey who is 19 yr. old and I departed Rapid City regional airport Saturday morning at 7 AM local time for Hayes Kansas. We were flying down to the NCAA division two track and field championships to watch Casey’s friends compete in the regional championships.
We left Rapid City uneventful on a IFR flight plan in severely clear weather. Approximately 65 minutes into the flight I noticed that the amp meter was showing a slight discharge. I went through my checklist supplied by Matt McDaniel’s and started cross referencing some of the things that could be causing this. I could not find anything that was obviously wrong. Within 15 minutes the amp meter was showing a 15 volt discharge, and discharging harder with every strobe light flash. I checked the MFD engine parameters and found that the main bus was showing a 24 volt reading that was in yellow numbers. The essential bus continued to read 28 V. In checking the amp meter the No. 1 alternator was showing a zero charge and the No. 2 alternator were showing a normal slight charge. I recycled the circuit breaker for the number one alternator and nothing changed.
Both my son and I were very anxious to get to Hayes Kansas to watch the finals, however I could not imagine leaving the plane in Hayes Kansas attempting to get repaired and spending 9 hours driving back home. Therefore, I contacted center and explained my situation and ask for an immediate back route home to Rapid City. Center was very cordial and very helpful in all of the entire ordeal and in fact let me know along the entire route where every service center was that they were aware of that had a mechanic on site in case we should need that.
When the amp meter started showing a discharge the voltage for the main bus was reading 21.4 volts. However the Annunciator light for the amp one was not on and did not come on for at least another 15 minutes and even then only intermittently on and off. It wasn’t until we lost the alternator for approximately 35 minutes that the Annunciator light finally came on and then stayed on. At that point I shut the alternator No. 1 switch off and pulled the circuit breaker for the MFD.
So we turned around and headed back home. I started to shut off some of the nonessential equipment such as the landing light, the No. 2 Garmin and make certain that we didn’t have any other unnecessary electrical draw. I turned the MFD back on in an attempt to recycle the circuit breaker. Approximately 20 minutes into the trip back home the MFD began to drop below 20 volts with the main bus. The essential bus continued to read 28 volts. The amp meter continued to show a discharge but only about 7 volts now with all of the other equipment turned off. I thought about turning the MFD off again but when I tried to recycle it, the amp meter did not show any less of a discharge with the breaker pulled, so I just kept it on. We were in severe VFR. weather so I was not to concern about it. I was not sure how long the MFD would stay up and center kept touch with us at least every 10 minutes. Their primary concern was that we had a No. 2 alternator and a No. 2 battery which we informed them that we did.
I kept monitoring the main bus volts wondering when the MFD would be lost and at 17.1 volts we lost the MFD.
Shortly after losing the MFD, both fuel gauges on the center council began to show significantly less fuel then I knew we had in both tanks. I was flying on the left tank and both gauges were slowly dropping from 1/2 tank reading down to within a quarter tank reading within 10 minutes. I knew we were not losing fuel, so I knew that the gauges had to be losing electrical power. It was a bit nerve wracking watching your fuel gauges slowly go down to 0. And within 15 minutes of losing the MFD both fuel gauges read 0. I contacted center to inform them that I was beginning to lose more gauges but that I had all of my essential gauges to continue safe flight in VFR. I also knew from my flight plan that I would land with at least 38 gals of fuel left.
Shortly thereafter center contacted me and said that they were showing a 600 foot difference in my altitude with my reading off the PFD and what they were showing on radar. I cross-referenced this with the Garmin No. 1. The Garmin showed that we were 400 feet higher than the PFD showed but center had me at 600 feet lower for total difference of a thousand feet between Garmen No. 1 and center.
With in ten minutes of this, and about 35 minutes of turning back, Center calls and said they have lost our transponder. Looking down at it it was completely powered off.
Of course with the Garmin No. 2 shut down and the MFD powered off, the Garmin No. 1 had a constant message of no altitude reading and no input data from a number of channels and the storm scope failed message and the error message for no traffic as well.
PFD and Autopilot continued to work fine.
When Center passed us off to Ellsworth Air Force Base, Ellsworth brought me from 11,000 feet down to 5000. I was still about 24 miles from the airports so I asked them to stay at the higher altitude in case I needed altitude for any emergencies so they brought us down to 9000. However within 10 miles of the airport we began our decent to 5000 and upon the decent down I realize that I had lost the electric trim. As we began our dissent down to 5000 feet we then lost the electric RPM. gauge, oil pressure gauge, and oil temperature gauges as well. Everything read the default readings as if they were turned off.
As we began to lose altitude and reached the 5000 foot level Ellsworth Air Force Base passed me off to tower as we were within 5 miles of the airport. Immediately upon entering the downwind I then lost the noise canceling component to my headset and began to get a very load engine background noise in both sides of my headset. I got a little anxious at this point because I thought I lost my communications with the tower but I had already been cleared to land. I contacted tower back and I could barely hear their response with the noise that was in my headset. I tried adjusting squelch and the volume but it did not make any difference. I did hear tower come back and tell me that they could hear me loud and clear and understood that I was having difficulty hearing them. I looked over at the tower I could see the green light.
Upon entering my downwind we descended to four thousand feet which is pattern altitude, slowed the aircraft to 110 knots and tried the flaps with nothing. It took a lot of pressure on the stick as the electric trim was gone and I could not trim it. I informed tower that this was going to be a landing without flaps.
The communication difficulties got me a little bit shook and I turned to my base leg a bit too early. I was going to fast. I found myself over the numbers 300 feet high and 100 knots, and of course without flaps. I was extremely grateful that we had 10,000 feet of concrete. I did not touch down on the concrete until halfway down the runway and still doing 85 knots so it took a bit of breaking action to slow me down to make the alpha 2 turnoff. I still had about another 800 feet concrete but it was a way longer landing then I wanted it to be. However we were on the ground and safe and sound. Tower came back and asked why I did not use my flaps manually. Unbeknownst to them that was not one of my options.
We taxied to the ramp uneventful and shut down. Battery No. 1 was completely dead and battery No. 2 still had some charge and it.
We could smell the smell of burning electrical wiring upon shut down. It was obvious that something electrical had in fact burned out.
We contacted Cirrus’s 800 number and spoke to John who said that it was clear that the alternator No. 1 had burned out and that whenever had caused it to burnout had probably taken the main computer board with it is well. We started to take the battery No. 1 out because they said that it should be charged as quickly as possible to prevent any damage. The local FBO began immediately testing the electrical system to see if they could isolate the problem. Cirrus said that if they called Monday morning they would ship parts out immediately and we would have them Tuesday. Hopefully we could be up and flying by Tuesday evening. Once they find out exactly what the damage was and the problems, we will post them to bring everyone up to date.
Ironically, The number one alternator was just rebuilt last month in our annual. It had less than a dozen hours on the rebuild. We are investigating this.
Greg Scherr Rapid City SD