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Sunday, July 22, 2012

What Great People Work In Aviation!

The terrific lineman at Terra Haute Hollman airport picked us up from the hotel at 8:15am, and took us to the airport the pretty way, past wide boulevards lined with Victorian houses.  Before loading and paying for the fuel,everyone stopped to watch a DC-3 in old American Airlines colors take off from runway 23, and then do a low pass before departing to New York.

I filed IFR to Walnut Ridge Arkansas (KARG - the girls call it the "pirate airport" - arg!), because the non-stop flight would have been 3.5 hours and we just weren't in a hurry.  KARG has reasonably priced fuel and a nice FBO.  We climbed and cruised at 10,000 feet, above gathering summer cumulus clouds below.  We landed at KARG at 11am, taxiied in, and asked for a fill up.

After a very quick turnaround, we piled back into the Bonanza, and I started the engine - or tried to.  The propeller blade quivered, something went click, and nothing else happened.  My battery was dead.

At first I didn't know that.  I borrowed a voltmeter, and it showed good voltage.  So I checked out the solenoids, and they all seemed OK.  After being called in, an A&P mechanic arrived, and he checked all the the ground leads.  Finally we found a load-meter, and determined that while the battery could generate good voltage, it had no current output, and hence no power.  It was dead, and the shop had no spares.  Oh, and it was Sunday morning.

However, the friendly A&P (called Jimmy) offered to let me have the battery from his aircraft, which used the same voltage.  He just asked that I sent it back him when I got home.  He also refused to let me pay him!  They sure have some nice people in Arkansas!  And Jimmy P of Brother's Aviation is one of the nicest.

Around 2pm, after getting lunch (and borrowing the FBO's free courtesy car) and replacing the battery with the borrowed one, the engine finally caught and we were off.  I had filed IFR once again at 10,000 feet to try and stay above the weather, and rain and thunderstorms were moving in, but the tops were now at 12 to 15,000.  I tried to weave my way around the building cumulus, but after 30 to 40 minutes gave up and just asked for lower (4,000 feet) to go under the clouds.  At first Little Rock approach would only give us clearance down to 5,000 feet, which put us still in the cloud bases, but I could keep the ride reasonable by only going through the older "tired" looking raggedy clouds and avoiding the building "strong" puffy ones.

Eventually we were cleared down to 4,000 feet, and once clear of the mountains Northwest of KLIT under the HOG MOA, I cancelled IFR and descended first to 3,000 and then to 2,500 to get better visibility.  The Dallas area was starting to get a few thunderstorms, but they were still 20 miles to the south when we landed at AeroCounty, just before 5pm.

A week later, I have a new battery in my Bonanza, and Jimmy's battery is in the front hall in a shipping container, along with a gift card and brochures from Cabela's Outdoor Store.  I'll ship it tomorrow.

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