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Frank Van Haste [VKX]
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 2700
Loc: Northern VA
The consequences of declaring an emergency
      #391907 - 06/10/14 02:16 PM

Thursday afternoon (6/5) about 1600 local, I took off from Bridgeport (KBDR) to head home to the DC area. Got cleared up to 7,000 and about 20 miles downrange and the damned alternator packed it in. As soon as the voltmeter went down to 11.8 I figured I had a problem. I cycled the master. No joy.

So I told the controller I had an electrical problem and needed an immediate return to Bridgeport. He gave me an initial heading, cleared me down to 5,000 and asked if I wanted to declare an emergency. I declined. He asked me souls-on-board and fuel which I gave him. Voltage got down to 10-point-something so I started shedding loads and asked the controller to advise the tower that I might be NORDO by the time I got to them. About then, the volts shot up to 13.4 and stayed there for the rest of the flight (another 5 minutes).

I landed uneventfully on Rwy 6 and the tower controller said to exit on Charlie and taxi to the base of the tower. I requested taxi to the FBO and was told, "Ops would like you at the base of the tower." OK, I did as requested and found myself surrounded by city and airport fire apparatus. I guess somebody declared an emergency...wasn't me.

So I helped the city fire guy fill out his report, then I helped the airport fire guy fill out his report, then I parked the airplane and went to find a beer and a hotel room. Next morning the mechanic and I convinced ourselves that it was indeed a bad alternator (It looked good at low load but the volts went away as soon as we loaded it up) and I got myself a train ticket back home, figuring that was it (except for the 1 AU it was going to cost me). Think again.

Today, I get a call from an inspector at the FSDO at Bradley. He's been assigned to "investigate the incident". He reads me my rights and asks if I'm willing to answer questions. I say, sure, and he asks what happened? So I told him and allowed as how I was surprised he was involved. He said that (get this!) the tower declared an emergency and therefore they were required to have an investigation. He did admit that it sounded to him like a bunch of people over-reacting.

So what ever happened to the old line about not hesitating to declare an emergency 'cause there are no consequences. There sure as hell are consequences -- I am e-mailing the guy at the FSDO (at his specific request) scans of my BFR endorsement and the sign-off for the airplane's recent annual. He's fishing for a violation but I don't think he'll find one.

It will be a cold day in Hell before I ever declare an emergency and I'll do my damnedest henceforth to prevent anyone from declaring one for me.

Oh, and just a bit belatedly (but still in a timely manner) I sent in a NASA ASRS form.

Frank


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Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]
Top Gun


Reged: 01/11/03
Posts: 20065
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Frank Van Haste [VKX]]
      #391913 - 06/10/14 02:42 PM

Frank -- It's been like this for years around NY, BDL and FRG FSDOs. I had a similar experience about 10 years ago, alternator crapped out in the Class B, CAVU day, I cancelled IFR and said I needed to return to HPN. No emergency action by me. All that was approved. Within a few hours of landing a FSDO inspector was calling around to the FBOs looking for me and insisting to them that I not fly the airplane until it was repaired and evidence of the repair (e.g., a work order) was sent to the FSDO.

The old line about no paperwork isn't true, at least in some sections of the country. I've mentioned this before on a variety of fora, get a lot of pushback that I'm full of it, but it is true. All these incidents in the NY Metro area get reported back to enforcement people.


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Geoff Sjostrom - Chicago
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 4312
The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Frank Van Haste [VKX]]
      #391939 - 06/10/14 06:30 PM

>>So what ever happened to the old line about not hesitating to declare an
>>emergency 'cause there are no consequences. There sure as hell are
>>consequences . . . .

What you experienced after landing was a nuisance, not a disaster. The point
of the "old line" is to encourage people to ask for help if they might need
it, and it's still true.

Geoff


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Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]
Top Gun


Reged: 01/11/03
Posts: 20065
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Geoff Sjostrom - Chicago]
      #391948 - 06/10/14 08:23 PM

The routine follow up is a disincentive, Geoff. No pilots want the feds rummaging around through log books, if someone looks closely enough at just about any flight there will be a FAR violation to be found. There should be some investigation or enforcement action if the emergency is of the pilot's own making (and that's been the NTSB law for decades), but for unexceptional "my alternator died" or "my engine is running rough" situations, I'd like there to be no consequence for asking for help and exercising emergency authority.

Case in point: about 15 years ago, I got an unsafe gear indication when I put it down at the marker. VFR day. I told tower that I was going to fly the missed, wanted to remain IFR, wanted vectors to some spot out of the way to work the problems, and was declaring an emergency. All that was done, and they were a huge help in putting me someplace, and keeping an eye on me, while I pumped the gear. Landing and rollout were fine, fire truck followed me to the ramp where it's crew and I had friendly words, and NOTHING more happened (other than I got the gear looked at and cycled before the next flight). Today, I'd handle it differently. I'd cancel IFR, proceeding VFR somewhere out of the Delta, and keeping my mouth shut about the "E" word or why I was breaking off the approach lest ATC note an abnormal situation and bring in the FSDO as a matter of course. And, so far as I know, my logs are fully compliant -- but why borrow trouble?


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Frank Van Haste [VKX]
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 2700
Loc: Northern VA
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Geoff Sjostrom - Chicago]
      #391949 - 06/10/14 08:28 PM

Geoff, just go back here, but...YES, to everything Scott said.

Frank


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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Frank Van Haste [VKX]]
      #391954 - 06/10/14 09:02 PM

I see two sides of this. You don't want to dissuade anyone from calling an emergency. But at the same time I'm sure there's interest in seeing that whatever triggered it was looked at and steps taken to prevent re-occurrence.

On the bureaucratic side, I'm sure everyone involved is going to want paperwork to keep the paper pushers and the budget people happy and to justify their continued existence.


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Frank Van Haste [VKX]
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 2700
Loc: Northern VA
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Russell Holton]
      #391955 - 06/10/14 09:32 PM

Russell,

This is getting better and better. Re: this...

Quote:

I'm sure everyone involved is going to want paperwork to keep the paper pushers and the budget people happy and to justify their continued existence.




Here's the latest e-mail from the FSDO Inspector:

Quote:

Mr. Van Haste,

My inspection of the aircraft maintenance records does not indicate Airworthiness Directive compliance during the annual inspections. Is there a separate Airworthiness Directive compliance record? Please provide a complete AD compliance record for inspection.

Additionally, my last email requested the records for the last 91.411 and 91.413 compliance records.

Regards,




I am losing my cheerful attitude about all of this...

Frank


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Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]
Top Gun


Reged: 01/11/03
Posts: 20065
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Russell Holton]
      #391957 - 06/10/14 09:39 PM

Russell -- <<there's interest in seeing that whatever triggered it was looked at and steps taken to prevent re-occurrence.>> And, it has worked fine in the past through self-initiated compliance rather than having the feds ensuring that each alternator failure or engine hiccup gets an engineering signoff before further flight, or that all ADs were complied with at the last annual.

The "interest" should be discouraged by those who don't want marginal situations exacerbated through a fear of being put through the FSDO meatgrinder if the "E" word is mentioned or ATC reports that something unusual happened. FSDOs moan about having no money for safety seminars and pilot education, and they are using the money they have for this? Makes little sense to me.


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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Russell Holton]
      #391959 - 06/10/14 09:44 PM

Quote:

On the bureaucratic side, I'm sure everyone involved is going to want paperwork to keep the paper pushers and the budget people happy and to justify their continued existence.




When I wrote that, I was referring to "So I helped the city fire guy fill out his report, then I helped the airport fire guy fill out his report".

Now, when you get pulled over in your car, you generally can expect to show your driver's license and car registration, insurance and safety check. This seems to be going beyond that.

What are your options for protesting this? Is the guy just asking and hoping you'll comply, or is there a requirement to fulfill his request?


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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: The consequences of declaring an emergency [Re: Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]]
      #391961 - 06/10/14 09:53 PM

Quote:

Russell -- <<there's interest in seeing that whatever triggered it was looked at and steps taken to prevent re-occurrence.>> And, it has worked fine in the past through self-initiated compliance rather than having the feds ensuring that each alternator failure or engine hiccup gets an engineering signoff before further flight, or that all ADs were complied with at the last annual.




I don't disagree. Personally, I'd think the concern could be satisfied with a phone call. ("Ok, I understand what happened and you're taking care of it.") But for some bureaucrats, a phone call isn't enough. They need a paper trail. And so the road to hell begins.


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