My Visit from the FAA

On July 18th I experienced a partial loss of power in my Piper Comanche while approaching the St. Louis Down town Airport.   I requested an expedited landing into the airfield as I thought it best to get on the ground.

Video of approach and landing at KCPS


A note about the video.  About 1:10 you will see the engine stumble and notice that it seems to sound different and run differently.  After the landing you will see the fire truck parade.  It seems the approach folks got a little excited and declared an emergency for me.  I requested an expedited landing as the engine starting running rough and I lost the ability to generate some power.  I did not declare an emergency I only requested an expedited landing as I was unsure if I could do a go around if it was needed.  In the end, it was discovered that my right magneto had a broken rotor brush.  Seems it was still working sometimes and was throwing the engine timing off.  It all ended safely so no worries.

After landing and filling out paperwork with the fire department, we went on our merry way and I thought that was the end of it all.  No it was not.  A few days later I got a call from a very polite gentleman from the local FSDO.  He wanted to let me know that because of the incident, he was tasked with investigating the situation and wanted to meet with me.  I agreed to meet and then he asked me to bring my log books.  I explained that I was on vacation and did not have that information with me.   No worries he said you can send that along later.

Before I got the call from the FAA representative a few fellow pilots urged me to fill out a NASA report.  That is essentially a report where a pilot tattles on themselves for what we did wrong, which can help if any legal actions might be taken. I am glad I did so and believe it was a wise precaution.  It also helped me to organize my thoughts and present my finding when I met with the FAA representative.

So we met at the FBO and he asked to see the regular documents – my medical certificate and my pilot’s license.  I produced them and showed them to him.  Then he asked me what happened and I explained pretty much what I wrote just below the video above.  I asked him why all the fuss as I never declared an emergency and only asked to be expedited as a precaution.

This was news to him.  He was not aware of those circumstances.  He seemed to understand though and he wrapped up the questions by asking to see the plane. I took him out to the plane and showed him the standard documents. AROW – Air Worthiness Certificate, Registration, Operators Manual, Weight and Balance.

He looked at the engine, took a picture of the data plate and that was pretty much it.  He asked if I would start the plane, which I did and I flipped to the right magneto and it started popping and backfiring and generally running like crap.  This seemed to satisfy him that an actual problem existed in the plane.

He asked me about my plan to get it fixed.  I told him I was going to take it to the local shop on the field.  he asked me to send him a copy of the log entry once it was fixed, plus copies of the most recent annual inspection entry and the AD compliance report.  I explained that it would be a few weeks as we were on vacation.  He gave me his business card and that was it for that day.

When I returned home I had an email from the FAA Inspector reiterating the request for the documents.  I scanned them and emailed them off to him the next day.   So now we wait. I have emailed him back and asked that when the report is finalized that he email a copy to me.