Training For The Unexpected

Flying along in a small-piston airplane taking your family members to breakfast can be fun and enjoyable, but on one weekend morning I had to turn around and head back to where we departed. Recently I was flying along on a morning when I unfortunately lost my alternator and operated the remainder of my flight home on standby instruments and backup equipment. I write this posting to show that with the proper training and “experience” an abnormality can seem like a “normal” event, I was thankful in the time of this event that throughout all the training at ATP, simulator scenarios and reviewing case studies that I was able to react professionally and remained calm when things could have gone worse; I never thought I could potentially fly NORDO in my career.

When I fly general aviation (Part 91) when I’m home, the plane I fly is hangered behind a closed door, so I do a thorough preflight the night before; especially during these cold temperatures, I want to ensure I have all my heating units plugged in and trickle-charger on the battery to keep it charged. The morning I was flying, I did my quick final walk around, sumping fuel tanks, checking exterior lights, pitot heat and controls. The weather on this day was clear and a million with no surface wind, but cold.

About 40 NM from my destination, I started receiving indications of electrical power loss, my alternator amps read 0 and gauges/equipment started acting ‘funky’. Immediately after recognizing this indication, I inquired TRACON (Approach/Departure Controllers - ATC) if they still had radar contact and could hear me. They repeated back, we lost your MODE C and ADS-B, we only see you as a primary target (meaning they no longer received my tag on their system). I informed the controllers that I was operating on backup equipment and power.

Controllers had given me the option to land at their nearest field to troubleshoot, but knowing and understanding how an airplane flies and that my engine was producing normal power, I decided to return in the direction of home. Before I reviewed my situation, I informed them “I have working engine power, it is electrical, standby for one moment please.” I then requested to return to my departure field; along with a heading since I was operating IFR and using ForeFlight for sectional, I no longer had onboard GPS since my entire system failed.

Even though I reported “negative emergency” to two separate controllers, I had backup radios and a perfectly running engine with a few airports between my current position and departure airport. I reassured controllers and my passengers that we were fine. What was supposed to be a 40-minute flight to my destination resulted in a one-hour ten-minute round trip to where we just had departed. I stayed higher on altitude in the event something worse would happen and circled down into the traffic pattern at my departure airport. We landed safely and I parked the plane away, contacting maintenance personnel and a few close friends who own airplanes to “rant” about what I just experienced. In the end, we all joked because they just arrived back from where I was headed to for breakfast - they asked me how my breakfast was.

Finding the right school to train from is important, not only for the equipment, but instructors and material as well. ATP provided me the opportunity through various stages of the program with scenarios of potential real-life emergencies using AATD, discussion videos and case studies - which in return I applied to a potential lost communication and electrical failure in the plane. When you’re flying around on a clear day, have a gameplan if something goes downhill; I “play the game of” where would I go if I lost an engine or what would I do if I lost radios during “quiet times of flying.”

Always have a backup plan in mind, things happen quickly when you’re flying.




Glad you are safe and that all ended well. Thank you for sharing your experience.


Nice job Brady!

Sully’s got nothing on you!


Nice! You never know when it’s going to be your day to be tested. :slight_smile:


I forgot to mention as well. After the incident and reflecting on everything, I completed a NASA ASRS form to document my situation and experience.

What is ASRS? See below: reporting is confidential, and it helps gather information on multitude of incidents that can help lead to safer skies.

ASRS Database Online - Aviation Safety Reporting System (

ASRS - Aviation Safety Reporting System - Immunity Policies (