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Transponder Failure

It was a beautiful day on the South Coast yesterday, and I was able to get into the circuit for a bit. Halfway through a funny thing happened. Tower asked me to recycle the transponder, telling me that I’d stopped showing up. (This isn’t as bad as it seems, because I was still on radar – they knew where I was, but couldn’t tell my altitude, but given that I was at circuit height it wasn’t a big deal). Anyway, I recycled it and tested it and it was dead. Tower asked that I get it looked into once I landed.

Luckily for me, one of my partners is an avionics guy. What I thought was going to be a big production actually turned out to be super easy.

The first step is pulling the transponder. If you’re only experience is installing car stereos, a NARCO AT 150 is a treat.

NARCO AT 150 Transponder in Cessna C150L

The transponder is the unit at the bottom, and you’ll see there is a little hole on the bottom right of it right under the IDENT button. Guess what? An Allan key fits right inside.

NARCO AT 150 Transponder in Cessna C150L

You stick in the Allan key, and that unscrews a long retaining screw that attaches the transponder to the back of the instrument panel. You can see how nicely it slides out. Not at all like my ’72 Toyota Celica with the AM/FM 8 track.

NARCO AT 150 Transponder in Cessna C150L

You can see the attachment point at the end of the mounting box, along with the connector.

NARCO AT 150 Transponder in Cessna C150L

No wire harness or plug. Instead, it connects just like a card in a computer.

NARCO AT 150 Transponder in Cessna C150L

Once it was out we threw it on a few testers. Surprise, surprise, it worked fine. We cleaned the connector with alcohol and re-installed it. I powered it up, gave it a little bit for the tube inside to warm up, but no luck!

Of course, there’s an obvious thing I should have checked in the first place, possibly while in the air – the fuse. I pulled it, inspected it and found nothing wrong. I replaced it and miracle or miracles, the transponder light blinked blue. Back in business!

What happened? Gremlins?

Of course not. Remember, I was flying circuits on my way to soloing. Take off, turn out, do the downwind check “Primer in and locked, masters on, mags both, fuses and circuit breakers in….”

And that’s when I screwed my own pooch. Running my hands over the fuses must have been the cause. I won’t do that twice, and if I have another non-critical electrical failure I’ll be sure to check the fuses early in the game.

Live and learn….

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around goof off based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.¬† My company is¬†Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.


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