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Flight Time

A visual history of my experiences as a private pilot

50% Off Flight Instruction

On final approach to runway 5

On final approach to runway 5

Yesterday I flew again with my instructor from the Aeroclub de Genève from the Geneva airport up to Yverdon in Switzerland. Yverdon is a small town at the southern tip of Lake Neuchatel. It wasn’t a long flight. We got there in less than 30 minutes.

The purpose of the flight was to do some practice landings on a short runway. Actually, the plan was to do 5 touch-n-gos, which is the maximum allowed at Yverdon, then fly to Lausanne, land there once, and then fly back to Geneva.

This flight was part of several instructional flights I have to do in order to validate my FAA license to a JAA license so that I can legally fly Swiss registered airplanes in Switzerland … AND on this day I received 50% off flight instruction!

Everything up to Yverdon worked well. I even tuned in Geneva Info on the radio after leaving the Geneva airspace so that they could track me on radar and provide “flight following”, which means they provide me with traffic advisories if their time allows them to. They did provide one advisory; “Hotel Bravo Hotel Charlie Whisky, traffic at your 11 o’clock, passing right to left”. My instructor spotted the tiny airplane first, pointed at it, and then I spotted it. I replied to Geneva Info “Hotel Hotel Whisky has the traffic”. All those Hotels and Whisky sound like fun! … but actually it’s the airplane’s callsign. Its registration number is HB-CHW so it’s called ”Hotel Bravo Charlie Hotel Whisky”.

When we got close to Yverdon I closed my flight plan with Geneva Info and told them I had Yverdon in sight. I then tuned in the AFIS (Aerodrome Flight Information Service) frequency for Yverdon to figure out which runway they were using (based on the wind direction). By listening to the other pilots on the frequency we quickly figured out they were using runway 5. So, I overflew the airport at 2,500 feet ASL (Above Sea Level) and then joined the landing pattern at 2,000 feet ASL. All of this is standard operating procedure at Yverdon, which is what is written (almost) on the approach chart (I learned the finer points by asking my instructor before we had left Geneva).

I then did 4 touch-n-gos. Some were better than others, but in general I did very well. My instructor later said that “it’s obvious I know how to fly an airplane”, which is nice to hear. He said he likes the flight schools in the US because apparently they are very good (as compared to those in Europe I suppose). So, kudos to George Farris, my primary flight instructor.

After doing the 4 touch-n-gos I did a full stop landing, partly to take a break, but mainly to pay the landing fee. Everything costs money here! We taxied to the parking area (on the grass) and then proceeded with the “Shut Engine Down” checklist (to-do list). We got to the part where the engine was supposed to turn off, but it didn’t! We tried a few different things, but nothing worked. There we were, engine running, wondering how we were going to turn it off!

OK, this sounds simple enough, but actually it isn’t. This engine uses a FADEC system, which is a Fully Automated Digital Engine Control (aka “computer”). So, there’s no mixture handle to pull to starve the engine of fuel or even a key to turn off the ignition. There’s only an on-off switch to turn off the engine, but the FADEC did not recognize the fact that we had turned the switch to OFF. So, the last option we had was to flip the switch to force the “backup” FADEC to take over (this is FADEC “B”). Then, we flipped the switch to stop the engine … and the engine stopped. The problem then was that we knew there had been a problem with FADEC “A”, which meant we probably weren’t going to get to continue the flight (neither to Lausanne, nor back home to Geneva).

We got out, paid the landing fee(s), had a short break at the café while watching gliders being pulled up into the air by towplanes. Yverdon is a really cool little airport and I can’t wait to go back for a $100 hamburger, or in my case, a 300CHF coffee!

We then got back into the airplane, fired up the engine … and there it was … the FADEC “A” lamp was flashing! This is definitely a “no go” indicator for flight … so we taxied the airplane to the maintenance area, got a ride to the train station and caught the next train back to Geneva.

On the train ride home I thought “Only in Switzerland can you fly to a little airport and then catch the train home if anything goes wrong. That’s simply not possible in the US”. I also thought that I had spent a few thousand dollars and nearly a year of my life learning how to deal with an engine failure in flight … and what to do if the engine suddenly stops running. BUT I never received any training on what to do if the engine suddenly won’t turn off!

The good part is that we followed the checklist and POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook) as directed … and did not takeoff with a known FADEC issue. We were safe … had a fun day … and I received 50% off my flight instruction (by taking the train home rather than flying back).

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the interesting article.

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