CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain

A CRJ700 Windshield Wiper Ruined 136 Passengers Day

Posted by Jeffrey on October 6, 2008

CRJ200 Windshield Wipers and Control Knob

CRJ200 Windshield Wipers and Control Knob

Yesterday there were a series of events that I didn’t expect. Rain in Denver and my windshield wiper broke. In five years of flying the CRJ, I have had many maintenance issues:

  • an air conditioning pack that bellowed smoke
  • lose of nose wheel steering
  • flap failure

to name a few. But I’ve never had a windshield wiper fail and checking the windshield wipers is not one of our “checklist” items.

(Note: The image to the right is of the CRJ200. The CRJ700 is basically the same but it has an INT selection which is sort of like the intermittent setting on your car. It basically doesn’t work to well though.)

┬áBut there we were, taking off from Denver with a little bit of drizzle and I decided to clean off my windshield and lo and behold the co-pilot windshield worked but mine didn’t. No big deal, right? Wrong!

When we got to OKC, I wrote up the anomaly and called maintenance control. We pulled and reset a few circuit breaker and called contract maintenance.

(Another quick note: If contract maintenance comes on your airplane and says they know what they are doing, don’t believe them. Stay with them while they work on your airplane. For instance, he asked if he could shutdown the airplane. I asked him if he knew how. He said “yes.” Well after he left, I flowed the panel and most everything was where it shouldn’t be. So again, watch them, and stay with them and check their work.)

Neither worked. It seems that the wiper motor had faulted and there was no way to fix it without going to a maintenance facility. And it turns out that because we were going back to DEN and it was raining, we couldn’t dispatch the airplane into known rain when the rain was occurring within 5 miles of the airport…and it was. So, subsequently, the flight was cancelled and we ferried the airplane to ORD where we have a maintenance base.

Now to me, the CRJ is a great airplane and our maintenance team does an outstanding job, but the fact is, airplanes break. They are mechanical, moving part machines and parts wear out. This is the first time in a long, long time that I’ve had a maintenance issue that resulted in a cancellation and a ferry flight and I don’t like it. We inconvenienced 136 passengers last night because we were suppose to go back to DEN then on to LNK. We don’t get paid to fly empty airplanes. I want to get the passengers where they are going safely and on time, but, that is the business.

Hopefully, United reaccomodated the passengers and did it in an empathetic way, and I hope that everyone was able to get where they wanted to go. As a captain, I did all I could do in the situation and that was explore every option and then let the passengers know what the decision was. I hope they realized that the action taken was the only action possible considering the maintenance issue. What it all comes down to in the end was that the safe operation of the airplane, however remote, would be compromised if we had continued to DEN, into raining conditions, with my windshield wiper broken.

Till next time…

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