11PM. A half moon, beautiful VFR night. Departing with no electrical on a 1.5 hour flight to Las Vegas. Wait, what? No electrical. How many would make that flight? I would hope that everyone would say "no way." Now suppose you have already departed. Everything is working well... Until! You get to TNP (Twentynine Palms VOR) and you notice your electrical system is not all that healthy. In fact, it looks like it's spent to much time in a Vegas Casino. Coughing, blinking on and off and generally ready to throw you back a century like Vegas tends to do with my bank account. One of your ALT lights is on. No big deal since you're in a beautiful SR-22, have two alternators and a parachute, right? What to do? Is this an emergency? The plane is still flying perfectly, the weather is great and you may be able to see the aura of lights from Vegas. You have plenty of fuel and you REALLY just want to get to Vegas. After all, they have repair facilities at McCarran so whatever is wrong can be fixed while I hit the tables and look for ways to enjoy whatever it is Sin City has to offer.
While troubleshooting your electrical issues, you make it another 15 miles and then it happens. You start losing instrumentation. In this glass cockpit airplane, you lose the MFD, Fuel Gauges, Com radio and the list goes on. Now what? You've ask ATC for a direct vector to Las Vegas and requested the Luxor activate their HILL (High Intensity Luxor Light). ATC says no way Jose, there's military activity in the MOA and the only thing worse than your electrical failure is your electrical failure and being shot at. After all, you move about the same speed as a drone. You see some lights up ahead on the ground. Looks like a good road, let's follow it. 10 minutes later, you lose everything. You know there's an airport around Laughlin and you see the lights of the baby-Vegas strip. Having no way to activate PCL, you make a few low passes and declare the runway OK to land. Stabilized approach, on speed, 7 degrees nose up, beautiful landing. Taxi somewhere to park this thing and start looking for the nearest bar.
What would you have done in this situation? You have three options. Shoot me an e-mail and let me know. I'll publish the results next month.
- Continue to your original destination of LAS (122NM). At your current speed, you'll likely get there within the next 20-25 minutes and you think your battery will last about 30;
- Divert to KTRM (35NM). It's the closest airport and there are lights there. You can probably find a way to a hotel in town since there won't be anyone around the airport at that time of night.
- Declare an Emergency and divert to KPSP (40NM). There are plenty of lights, an operating control tower and I've heard somewhere there are hotels nearby. Not to mention, there are emergency services very close but you won't need those right?
This is Part 1 of a 2-Part article on decision making. Next month, we'll look at what Decision Making in detail and see who chose what.