Jad Donaldson, chief pilot for Avfuel Corporation, along with Co-Captain Chris Kosin, flew the company’s Citation XLS+ from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Harbor Springs last July to pick up eight passengers and return them to Ann Arbor. The clear, sunny day posed no weather problems for the aircraft or crew, and after arriving around 4 p.m. for the 7 p.m. return flight, they noted that all systems were operating normally and shut down the aircraft.
The passengers were among 25 Avfuel executives who had been at a week-long sales meeting in the resort community on the shores of Lake Michigan, and they were looking forward to getting home.
After a quick dinner, Jad and Chris began preparing the Citation for the flight back to Ann Arbor.
“I turned on the aircraft battery switch and began the process of starting up the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). Approximately 45 seconds after engaging the battery switch, a yellow Crew Alerting System (CAS) message appeared, stating LH ENGINE CONTROL FAULT (ECF). The APU was in its start sequence, which it completed and ran normally. The APU generator was brought online and avionics were brought up,” says Jad.
Jad and Chris discussed the CAS message and decided to shut down the entire aircraft, including powering off and pulling the battery. They then restarted the battery switch with the same results: 45 seconds in, the ECF message appeared again.
Reviewing the Aircraft Checklist delivered some unwelcome news: The message required correction before flight. Jad also retrieved maintenance pages, reviewed the fault codes and analyzed the TLA maintenance screen.
“We were AOG,” says Jad, “so I immediately called Jayme Park at Duncan Aviation.”
Jayme, the Airframe Alternate-Shift Supervisor in Battle Creek, has spent the last 17 years helping Duncan Aviation customers resolve their maintenance issues.
Jad explained the CAS issues to Jayme. “I thought, oh, no! They’re stuck,” says Jayme. “And then I immediately shifted gears and started thinking about how we can make this work. Jad and I put on our thinking caps and just went for it.”
Around 7 p.m., she alerted Bill Walker, engine tech rep in Battle Creek, and began looking for available parts. Jayme also arranged for Aaron LaClair, an engine technician in Battle Creek, to travel to Harbor Springs with the necessary tools and computer equipment so he could download the Data Collection Unit (DCU) information and replace the Electronic Engine Control (EEC) in the malfunctioning engine.
Jayme says, “When we hear that a customer is AOG, at Duncan Aviation that means ‘We will make this work.’ ”
Bill and the engine team were confident that the codes indicated a multiple-level power supply failure on the motherboard in the engine computer, but they remained at the Battle Creek hangar until Aaron could arrive at Harbor Springs and transmit the DCU data back to them for review.
Within 15 minutes of Jad’s first phone call, Jayme had located the necessary EEC at the Pratt & Whitney facility in Muskegon and set about gathering and processing the necessary paperwork to prepare the aircraft for eventual signoff and return to service.
In the meantime, Jad and Chris had canceled the flight to Ann Arbor, found hotel rooms for the passengers, and called Co-Captain Jeff Squires to prep Avfuel’s second aircraft for an eventual parts flight. Jeff flew from Ann Arbor to Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek to pick up Aaron, on to Muskegon to get the new EEC and then to Harbor Springs.
The airport operations manager at Harbor Springs set up power cables, lights and ladders on the ramp so the engine tech could start on the diagnostics immediately upon his arrival. At 11:45 p.m., five and a half hours after Jad received the error code, Aaron was on the ramp, downloading the data from the Citation’s left-hand engine’s DCU.
Jad has a saying: Usually when people make something look easy, it’s not because it is easy but because they work so hard and have the necessary knowledge and experience to do the work right. He says, “Everyone I’ve worked with at Duncan Aviation has exhibited this principle. They work hard, and they have the knowledge and experience to stick with a problem and resolve it.”
That perseverance paid off over the next four hours. At 12:30 a.m., Aaron emailed the data to the engine team that was standing by at Battle Creek. A careful analysis showed that the codes didn’t point to a specific issue. Jad and Aaron on the ramp at Harbor Springs and Jayme and the team in Battle Creek spent about an hour discussing the various options.
Around 2 a.m., Aaron and Jad pulled the functioning right-hand EEC, swapped it into the left-hand engine, and put the new part in the right-hand engine. By 3:45 a.m., when Jad brought the Citation back online, the onboard maintenance diagnostics returned no error codes, the TLD screen showed an N for both engines, and the channel assignments were normal.
The aircraft was no longer AOG, and there was still a little time to get back to the hotel and get some sleep before the day of shuttling passengers began.
Jad says, “We at Avfuel are fortunate to have access to technicians like Jayme Park. Jayme jumped in and used her leverage, intelligence and experience to get this issue resolved. I’m also fortunate to have the relationship I do with Duncan Aviation–it’s like having my very own maintenance team. It doesn’t matter when I call, either; whether it’s late at night or over the weekend, Duncan Aviation has a bunch of people who really care… people like Jayme who are passionate about what they do and do everything they have to do to take care of their customers.”