Have you ever looked carefully at the emergency and abnormal procedures in your operator’s handbook? Did you notice that the procedures often ask you to locate circuit breakers as part of the checklist?
Checklists are great, but consider this: can you locate all of the circuit breakers mentioned in the procedures in less than five seconds?
Why not? It’s a bad idea to hunt for circuit breakers during an abnormal situation.
Every pilot should know the location of important circuit breakers, so here’s your homework:
- Go through all of the emergency and abnormal procedures in your operating handbook carefully. Write down every single CB mentioned in the procedures.
- Take that list of CBs to your aircraft and spend five minutes locating every single one of them.
- Spend another five minutes locating them with your eyes closed to mimic smoke and a dark cockpit.
- Do this every other time you fly until you can confidently locate all of them. Refresh every six months.
Tip: In our OH-58D, we would locate the CBs in relation to the corner of the CB panel. For example: “Hydraulics is 4 up and 3 over.” Use this tip to remember your important circuit breakers. At night and under night vision goggles, this method was a life saver. I could locate any important CB by feel since I would be at risk for spatial disorientation if I looked up for an extended period of time while the aircraft turned.
I want to mention one more thing with respect to circuit breakers: before you run out thinking you can pull circuit breakers, you should understand there are some general rules to pulling circuit breakers (regardless of the aircraft).
- You may push a popped circuit breaker back in once but…
- Never push a CB back in a second time. You are asking for an electrical fire!
- If you push a CB back in even once, be wary of an electrical fire and possible smoke in the cockpit.
- Some pilots will never push a circuit breaker back in if it’s above 10 amps. Think about it: if something was serious enough to pop a CB above 10 amps, are you sure you want to recreate the situation?
- If you are unsure, never touch a circuit breaker unless the emergency and abnormal checklist call for it.
Talk to your instructor about pushing in circuit breakers. There are some instances, like night IMC, where you may seriously consider touching even a high amp circuit breaker.
Most of the time it’s a good idea just to leave it popped. Some pilots never touch CBs. This isn’t a black and white issue, though, so spend some quality time staring at your circuit breaker panel imaging scenarios where you may or may not push circuit breakers. As always, your operator’s manual is king.
Any experiences or thoughts on circuit breakers? Leave a comment below so we can learn from each other.
Sarah is dedicated to helping aviators get better at their craft. Sarah is a West Point graduate and Army combat aviator. She flew the OH-58D during the invasion of Iraq in ’03. She also flew C-12s in Afghanistan in 2013. She currently flies the King Air 350 full time out of the Portland International Airport. In her spare time she flies the LUH-72 for the National Guard. She recently wrote a book called The Instrument Pilot’s Survival Guide. You can find more of her work on her website: ThinkAviation.net