Power-Less

When they started using turbine engines in skydiving aircraft the jumpers rejoiced.  No longer were they crammed into old DC-3’s and tiny Cessna’s and forced to endure a long slow clime to altitude.  Turbine aircraft like out Cessna Super Caravan can haul 19 jumpers up to 13,000 feet in under 12 minutes.  But turbine engines have their own set of problems, one of which being getting them started.  Turbine engines need a lot of battery power to get them started safely, if your battery is too low the turbine blades wont be turning fast enough when the fuel ignites in the combustion chamber and when that happens the temperature can climb so high that the pilot will be forced to shut down the engine to prevent trashing a VERY expensive engine.  This is know as a hot start.  To prevent this most skydiving operations use a start cart to help boost battery power during starts.  A start cart is usually a number of batteries hooked together in series to provide ample voltage/amperage? and re-charged after each use with a battery charger.   Using a start cart is a great way to prevent damage to the ships internal battery caused by multiple starts a day.  It is, on the other hand, a big pain in the ass when it breaks, especially when there’s no reason for it.  Every year the dropzone in Texas that we lease our plane from sends up a start cart and every year the cart they send up is a piece of crap.  And every year it breaks and every we overhaul it.  And every year the cycle repeats.  So the start cart broke this morning and our expert start cart technician, me, determined that the problem this time was the charger.  Maybe it would help if they didn’t use a charger built sometime in the 1950’s to power their Million and a half dollar aircraft.

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