FastEddieB Posted January 25, 2014 Report Share Posted January 25, 2014 I think we can all point to times we’ve had momentary lapses of attention. Hopefully, most times the consequences are minor or just irritating. But think of some of the recent lapses discussed here and elsewhere: A professional Asiana airline crew with a momentary lapse involving auto throttles crashing short of the runway. Two professional crews with a momentary lapse landing at the wrong airports. Two CT’s with low fuel emergencies, one which crashed and one which came perilously close to doing so. At a Cirrus “Critical Decision Making” seminar, they played a video showing a momentary lapse of an amphibious seaplane pilot, putting the gear down instead of up for a water landing. With results almost more tragic than one can imagine. And finally, the ValueJet Everglades crash was caused by mislabeled oxygen canister - someone obviously had a momentary lapse somewhere - and a LOT of people died. I had a major one in the past, involving an unlatched canopy on my Sky Arrow, which could have had dire consequences - but fortunately didn’t. The longer most of us fly, the longer the list of momentary lapses grows. There may exist a pilot who never, ever makes mistakes, but I have not yet found him or her. Checklists help, as do copilots or mechanics to check your work. How does this involve me right now? I had a momentary lapse which I thought I’d chronicle here as a possible warning for others. Last Wednesday, I made a trip to my (very cold) hangar with two new purchases in hand - a newly purchased Whelen LED landing light and a new Aerovoltz Lithium Iron battery. I was really looking forward to making two minor improvements to my Sky Arrow. Especially the battery, which would buy me about 12 or 13 extra pounds of valuable useful load. I had fun with the LED install, even taking time to set up a rig to compare the new lamp and the old. Job well done, if I do say so myself. Then it was time to see if the Aerovoltz would fit conveniently in the existing battery bracket. Good news - it was not as wide as I thought and wedged right in there, though I would have to come up with a spacer arrangement before testing it in flight. I also made note that the terminals were reversed, something to be aware of but not a problem since both battery cables seemed to have plenty of reach. Hooked up the cables, made sure both terminals were protected, snugged everything down and turned on the BATT switch. New landing light performed as promised, and everything seemed fine. But looking at the install more critically, I was not completely pleased with the “run” of the positive cable. It was about 1” away from the allen bolt that controls my nosegear friction. It looked easy enough to run both cables on the other side of a wiring bundle to give more clearance, and seemed the prudent thing to do. So I unhooked both cables, rerouted them, attached them and tywrapped them in their new location. Went around and turned on the BATT switch to confirm the connections and… …instead of everything coming to life, there was a quick hissing/pop sound. As quickly as I could I turned the switch off, and noticed a slight burning electrical smell. You can’t imagine the sinking feeling I had when I looked at the battery and discovered I had hooked up the cables in their old orientation. Which, unfortunately, fed reverse current into my electrical system when I threw the switch. That feeling was a combination of disgust and anger and disappointment in myself. I felt in my gut. I am NOT the kind of person to hook a battery up backwards. I check always check polarity and then check it again. If someone else was relating this account, I’d roll my eyes and think that that could never happen to me - I’m too careful. So, what happened? The first hookup was done with utmost caution for anything that could go wrong - including the new orientation of the terminals, routing the wires, protecting the terminals, all of that. On the second, I guess I was just coasting, on “automatic” as it were, and when it came time to hook up the terminals I did them just as I always had. Looked perfectly normal. Unfortunately, in this case it was backwards. Anyway, here’s the final install, before spacers and after the cables were reoriented properly: You can see the allen bolt I was getting clearance from by going outside of the existing wire bundle. It reminded be just a little bit of a very mild version of what Robert Pirsig, in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” called a “Gumption Trap”. What’s a Gumption Trap? It’s best illustrated by a fictional, but all too possible scenario: Imagine you’re setting the blade angles as you reinstall a Warp Drive propeller. You install the prop bolts lightly, and back off on the clamp bolts a little. You use your tape measure to ensure each blade is in exactly the same position, and use your protractor device to set each blade just so. You tighten everything up incrementally with your torque wrench in stages, then do a textbook job of safety wiring the prop bolts. Finally, you reinstall the spinner with just the right dab of blue Loctite on each screw, and stand back and gaze upon a job well done. As you’re putting your tools away, you stumble upon the 1/8” spacer that’s required between the prop and the engine on your installation. Drat! Now its all got to come completely apart and be redone. This is where the Gumption Trap can rear its ugly head. Typically you’ll be somewhat annoyed and kind of rush into redoing something you’ve JUST done - and rarely with the patience and care you took the first time. The cure is to step away - go home, relax, have a drink, whatever. But regardless, come back to the project when you’re fresh, not aggravated. Don’t fall into the Gumption Trap! My case was not exactly like that, since I was in no way annoyed at having to reroute the wires - I was kind of proud of myself for having the foresight to envision a possible problem and deal with it, getting it “just so”. But there’s no doubt I wasn’t really giving it 100% of my attention. The dreaded “momentary lapse” mentioned above. As an aside, a fellow EAA member and friend was helping me with some stuff you’ll find in my first epilogue, to follow. I explained how this was embarrassing as I was NOT the kind of person to pull such a doofus mistake. He said he felt exactly the same way about ever running out of fuel - he was NOT the kind of person to ever pull a bonehead stunt like that. Until he did, and had to ditch with his wife in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. Made me feel a little better, I suppose. But not much. 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