Saturday, May 14, 2011

How's This for a Switch?

In this post, last week, I mentioned that the Push-to-Talk (PTT) switch on N631S's pilot's side control yoke had failed, that the replacement Cessna part was on the pricey side, and that the search was on for a more reasonably priced alternative.

After an uneventful flight back to Connecticut last Monday (using my old portable PTT switch left over from student-pilot days), I conferred with my favorite spark chaser, Dave, at Three Wing Avionics. Dave felt that the low-cost switch could be installed as a standard part so I promptly ordered one from Rob at Rob-Air Repair LLC for $17.99 plus about five bucks for Priority Mail shipping.

The switch arrived in two days and Dave installed it (left) in N631S.

I admit to being a little annoyed about the failed switch. It was installed as a replacement in July of 2009 and lasted for all of 21 months. For a gold-plated aerospace quality part, that's not very good. Asking around, I've heard that these switches (manufactured by Mason) are a common source of trouble. Unlike most momentary-contact switches, the design includes a "tactile feedback" feature (i.e., it clicks). Some folks speculate that the mechanical detent that provides the click is the switch's Achille's heel.

The new PTT switch performed "ops normal" on yesterday's flight back to the DC area. The flight was uneventful but did offer two comment-worthy events.

At left is the speed/altitude profile courtesy of FlightAware.com. If you enlarge it you'll see a segment where the altitude plot goes up to 9,000 feet. That happened when one of the New York Approach controllers moved me higher to let a faster aircraft (I believe it was a DeHavilland Dash 8) pass below me. The next sector took me back down to 8,000. It's comment-worthy only because most controllers would, I believe, have given me an "off-airway" vector to solve the problem. I was just as happy with the altitude change.

There was a bit of weather in the DC area on arrival, so N631S and I wound up shooting the RNAV Rwy 6 approach into KVKX. We descended into the schmoo at about 4,000 feet on the way down from BAL and broke out of the bases at 1,200 feet on final about 1.5 miles out. The instrument approach probably lengthens the overall trip by about 0.3 hours but I was happy to have it because I'm now IFR current through August.

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