Höfn to Egistadir - bumpy departure. And alternator problems...

Honey Mooney HB-DVN
Flemming and Angela PEDERSEN
Tue 31 Jul 2007 22:30
Today the nice high pressure weather we have had here in Iceland so far was over. Both Höfn and Egilsstadir had pretty low pressure as well as gusty winds up to 30 knots, light rain and low clouds in their forecast - typical for warm front weather. Fine for IFR but not good for VFR.
We had originally planned two small VFR flights to Egilsstadir with a stopover for lunch and a walk in the little fishing village of Djupivogur, but the weather today did not look promising at all for this option.
There had been some unusual noise on both of the VHF radios the day we arrived in Höfn / Hornafjordur and it became worse today as soon as we started the engine. Additionally the alternator current showed some unusual fluctuations. Since it was a relatively short flight, we decided to depart anyhow since there were few facilities of any kind in Höfn.
The winds were 040/15G29 for a runway 36 departure. We were cleared FL90 to Egilsstadir. The initial 3000 feet were quite bumpy due to the wind and the hills northeast of the field. Later, climbing through 7000 feet, we had quite a lot of mountain waves with the climb rate oscillating between +1500 and -500 ft/min. Angela was not too happy....
Soon things calmed down a bit as we reached FL90. We were between layers and therefore did not pick up much ice which of course made Flemming happy.
The noise on both VHF radios got steadily worse, and we started to have problems communicating with Reykjavik Control as their signal got weaker. It was easier to communicate with the AFIS in Egilsstadir as their signal was much stronger. We obviously had to solve this problem in Egilsstadir before continuing towards Bodø in Norway.
Once we got on the ground, I quickly convinced myself that it must be sparking from worn out alternator brushes which created the problem.
During lunch in town (Nielsen's Café had a great Scandinavian buffet lunch) I had a quick consultation with my favorite aircraft mechanic in Yverdon, Switzerland, Jacques Gaillard, who confirmed my suspicions. And advised me that I normally should have replaced the brushes at 1000 hours, so with almost 1700 hours since overhaul it was normal that  the brushes were worn down. Well, these sort of events teach you to do preventive maintenance properly! Thank god we were not in Africa!
So after lunch it was back to the airport to get the cowling off. I quickly found out that I did not have the proper tools, and in Egilsstadir it is easy to buy fish hooks, horse shoes and saddles and the like, but less likely to find the proper tools for aircraft maintenance and even less aircraft parts.
Thankfully the local airport fire brigade had a well equipped workshop, and their 6 and 8 mm spanners were good enough substitutes for the 1/4" and 5/16" spanners needed, and they were kind enough to lend them to me.
A visual inspection quickly confirmed that one of the brushes on my Prestolite ALY-8420-L alternator was completely worn down. Next problem was to try to find the needed spare part in Reykjavik.
The crew of a local airline 'Eagle Air' gave me the number in Reykjavik of their maintenance department. So off for a cup of cappuccino in 'Kaffi og Te' in Egilsstadir, which has free WiFi so we could Skype instead of paying rip-off roaming rates. 'Eagle Air' did not have the part, but gave me the phone numbers of a couple of other maintenance organizations for light aircraft in Reykjavik. Numerous phone calls finally seemed to locate the needed pair of alternator brushes through a very friendly aircraft mechanic called Arni. Verification of dimensions seemed to indicate that it was the right part and Arni said he could give it to the pilots of the next  'Flugfélag Íslands' departing Reykjavik at 19:30 tonight. When I asked how I could pay him for the cost of the brushes, he said that the cost of a bank transfer probably would exceed the cost of the parts, and that I could have it for free! What a friendly and efficient country. Thank you Arni!!
So I went to the tower about the time they should arrive, but 'Honey Mooney' is not the only aircraft having technical problems tonight. After they departed Reykjavik, they discovered that the anti-icing was not working, and returned to Reykjavik. At the time of writing it is not sure whether they will find a replacement aircraft tonight, but if not there is another 'Flugfélag Íslands' tomorrow morning at 9.
PS. A friendly guy in 'Kaffi og Te', Jón Thór Víglundsson, overheard our conversations trying to find aircraft parts  in Reykjavik. He runs a company called Vertigo http://www.vertigo.is which is specializing  in  aerial cinematography and he also gave us the number of Arni to contact for help. This country is really full of helpful and friendly people!