05 September 1990

Back to the basics

Alternator failure number four. Liz, nephew David and I were en route from Middletown to the Pensacola area. We had planned to land at a small private grass field near my sister-in-law Susan's house. It was a warm summer day with the haze topping out at 10,000 feet, and clear above. I was IFR at 21,000 feet to pick up some tailwind and smooth, cool air. Halfway there, in the Chattanooga area, the alternator low voltage light lit up. It would not reset.

I called Atlanta Center and informed them of my plight. Their typical response was, "What are your intentions?"

I knew I could no longer continue IFR. If I continued using all the necessary radios, the battery would be dead within 20 or 30 minutes. Without a transponder I could legally complete the trip VFR below 10,000 feet. After informing Atlanta Center of my intent, I began a VFR descent toward Crestview, Florida, still 300 miles away. Crestview was 20 miles north of our original destination. Facilities necessary to repair the alternator would be there. I cheated some by descending only to 10,500 feet to stay out of the haze and the bumps.

We shut down all the radios, and flew by good old-fashioned pilotage. We picked our checkpoints carefully. Luckily one of the checkpoints was Montgomery, Alabama. That one was hard to miss. We proved it is possible to find your destination without loran or GPS!

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