During the past month I’ve juggled schedules trying to get checked out at a new club so I can begin teaching an instrument student. It took time to get on the chief pilots schedule and then we couldn’t complete the checkout before vacation took me away for a week, and so it dragged on. I finally got to fly the remainder of the checkout and got the approval to teach there. Hooray! So we arrange for our first flight to do some basic attitude flying at night.
Pre-flight is done and I brief the pilot what we will accomplish during the flight and we set out to start up. Key is turned and the prop barley pulls through once and stops. Drats, I just flew it a few days before and it started fine, but now the battery is drained and we aren’t getting this thing started. However there’s another plane available so we decide to swap reservations and take that plane to salvage the night.
The pilot starts doing the pre-flight on the new plane while I secure and lock up the first plane. First thing we notice is there’s not much fuel in the tanks. That’s odd as these are on a auto refuel account with the fuel truck to service them when they come back. So we pull the plane over to the fuel island and add some fuel. Then we notice that the back seat passenger doesn’t have jacks for the headset, it’s only a 2 place intercom.
We decide to press on and after the master is turned we see that the fuel gauges still read empty. This isn’t good as they have 17 gallons per side. I know what I would do but I was waiting to see what the pilot would do and he came to the same conclusion.
Too many things are lining up against us. He decides to park the plane and go another day after the shop repairs what’s wrong. There’s some doubt as to why the plane didn’t have fuel and if that was connected with the inoperative fuel gauges. As I’ve learned over the years a seemingly small problem can either turn into a larger problem or indicate the existence of the larger problem already there.
So for the second time we park and secure a plane without going anywhere. We didn’t have to fly or be anywhere and while it’s disappointing to have missed such a clear, gorgeous night to fly, there will be other nights to fly and enjoy it.
While I say can’t for sure if we avoided an accident by breaking the chain and not going, it’s best to recognize that at times there may be too many little issues that are tipping the scales to the other side of safety and we must be ready and willing to say we’re not going flying now.