It finally happened

C172Heavy

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After reading about how it will eventually happen to most pilots, I had a attitude indicator partially fail in IMC. I was skimming along the tops straight and level and glanced down at the AI and it showed a 12 deg. right bank. Luckily it was a broken layer so I could pop out and verify that I was in fact straight and level as well as comparing my DG and rate of turn indicator which were both showing straight flight. The vacuum gauge was right in the green, so I concluded the bearings or something in the AI was bad.

I asked and received a return to home base direct and a descent to get me out of the bottom of the cloud bases. It was a good test of trying to block out an instrument that you can't trust as I had to desend through 3000 feet of clouds. I didn't have time to cover it with anything (nor did I have any good covers handy). I will be buying some covers for instruments now.

This event inspired me to go up and shoot approaches with a safety pilot partial panel which is something I (and probably most) pilots do not pratice enough.

Keep practicing for the unexpected and fly safe!
 

bobbysamd

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Good show. Sounds like you did everything you were supposed to do.

Proves that all the PP training we give you guys actually works. Good idea to try some PP approaches. Try shooting a PP NDB for a real skill-honer.

Continue to fly safe, my friend.
 

avbug

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One more good reason to avoid single engine IFR. Many folks tune in to engine failure as the primary reason, but instrument failure, or failure of instrument power sources, is a very big reason to avoid it. In a single engine airplane, generally you have one vacum pump, one electrical source, one pitot static system, etc.

Many multi engine airplanes have only one attitude gyro, and some of us have been big advocates of getting rid of the TBI or TC for years in favor of a second attitude gyro in these airplanes. However, the redundancy of at least two or more vacum/electrical sources exists.

Instruments do fail, and as Bobby pointed out, partial panel experience and proficiency is very important. I've experienced several attitude gyro failures recently (we're getting closer to figuring out why they keep failing), but in every case had two more to which I could refer; it was no big deal. Handling a true partial panel situation is another matter entirely; one in which your only attitude reference has failed. Add turbulence and other distractions, as well as the potential for shooting a solo approach with no radar under those conditions, and the odds of success go downhill very rapidly.

True partial panel instrument flight to me is potentially the most unnerving, and even terrifying flying that can be done. Mix in all the other variables that can happen and add some disorientation that results, and the product can become fatal in short order.

As always, the time to deeply consider this issue is long before entering the clouds; it's best done when planning for the flight.
 

Clearsky

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I know this is somewhat off topic from the original post. When I got my instrument rating 2 years ago, my instructor and I flew in some low IFR a few times. However, I would no longer even consider flying in low IFR in a single engine airplane, and definitely not single pilot. I'm glad I did it for training purposes to see what its like but no more of that for me. Interestingly, my instructor, who is now with a regional, feels the exact same way as I do. Also, unfortunately, alot of instructors are more interested in building actual IFR and will go up even if they know its not the smartest thing to do. Legal but not wise. It amazes me that the flight school doesn't even have a single plane with a back-up attitude indicator and the planes are flown IFR all the time. My attitude is why risk it if I'm only flying for recreational purposes. I get a kick out of reading AOPA articles that talk about how to skirt thunderstorms and fly low IFR to get to your destination, all for an unnecessary flight. I can't think of any pilots that I fly with that would even consider alot of the flights they write about in AOPA.
 

avbug

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I've flown a variety different jobs, including time critical work, emergency medical, and fire. I have yet to find an assignment that MUST go. There is no flight which must be made.

People who write articles about skiring thunderstorms, forcing LIFR weather, and other such stuff, do a major disservice to the community and ultimately to themselves. In showing their own ignorance and lack of understanding, they demonstrate only poor judgement to the great detriment of those who would be foolish enough to believe them.

I can't ever recall regretting a decision to cancel or refuse a flight, or delay one when in my judgement it was warranted.

Conversely, I can recall times over the years in my various states of foolishness, when I regretted accepting the flight, or launching.

The problem with learning by experience is that often the final exam is given before the lesson has been learned.
 

bobbysamd

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Declaring an emergency

In line with the above and a thread from long ago. PP would be cause to declare, notwithstanding your 14 CFR 91.187 requirement to report the equipment failure.

I sure would consider PP in a typical single-engine airplane in IMC an emergency.
 

ILS JNKY

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pp

Always up for partial panial approches, and NDB Holds followed by the full approch, cant have to many of them.

lets not for get slow flight with both item covered up atd /dg, and an ndb approch PP :D
 

surfnole

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Interesting subject. Many of you pros won't fly single engine IFR, yet the big flight schools such as Comair do most of their IFR training single engine at night...sometimes in actual.

What gives?
 

1900cpt

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I cant speak for everyone here, but once you start flying twins, and have the "luxury" of two engines, dual instrument setups, etc...going back to single engine ifr is NOT VERY APPEALING to most.

As for training purposes, alot of us can atest to doing things or launching when it was other wise not a great idea as avbug said.
Also for the training aspect, the instructor might also be a little more gungho since its "actual"....gotta get that actual!;)

There is not anything wrong per say, just alot of us dont have the comfort factor in singles we used to have after moving to bigger equipment...just my opinion though.

Remember when you thought a 172 was big?!? Not it seems very small....and very slow, almost like your going to fall out of the sky. Please dont take offense to any of this, i used to be very comfortable in a 172, and loved it, even did actual in it, but just not my cup of tea anymore.

1900cpt
 

Beechnut

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There need to be a couple distinctions made.

1. IFR in a single engine airplane is not automatically a safety hazard. I did it for a living for awhile and felt comfortable and SAFE during Midwest Winters. Many aircraft that do these flights are fully reduntant. The ones I flew had a 2 vacume pumps or 1 pump and a source that drew suction off the engines manifold. There were always more than one AI, and always at least 2 radios for the pilot's use, duel Pitot/Static systems. Just because it's 1 engine, doesn't mean 1 system. Plus... as someone mentioned before, it isn't engine failure that tends to kill single engine pilots in IFR... it's operator error. And that leads me to the second point.

2. One pilot in an IFR airplane is not automatically a safety hazard. A skilled, COMPETENT pilot can easily and SAFELY accomplish every routine and unusual situation that an IFR environment my hold. The question comes back to training, experience and abilities. I wouldn't stick a airline guy that's been flying with another pilot for the past 30 years in a single engine/IFR situation, but for many that do it every day and are GOOD at it, it isn't a big deal.

Now having said that, I haven't flow single pilot IFR for over a year now, and wouldn't think of it without some refreshing.

...But oh how I do miss those days!

S.
 

Huck

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I might add that instead of dual A/I's you can get an autopilot that steers off your electric turn coordinator. If vacuum fails just turn on the a/p - just know the right power settings for speeds so you don't chase pitch too much. This way you get an autopilot for long flights out of the deal.
 

atpcliff

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Hi!

My dad flies SE IMC all the time, and for extended time periods. He just dropped my mom off near Kennedy Space Center, flying about 6 hours of IMC that day. He had a 2nd vacum system put in, and his turn coord. is electric. He carries a hand-held comm radio. 1 ADF, 2 vor/locs, 1 ILS. It has an old AP that does OK at straight and level. He's had the plane for 26 years and never had a partial panel or failure of any main instrument. His biggest emergency was almost instantaneous icing after TO.

I've flown a lot of SE helo IMC, both in flight school and in real life. I did find out my former Army Inst instructor had an engine failure in a Huey in IMC, and was hoping to break out in time to find a safe landing spot where he wouldn't damage the aircraft. He did.

Cliff
GB,WI
 

Snakum

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Reading these posts one would come away with the idead that SE IMC is suicidal. With all due respect to the experience level of those who've posted thus far, I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree. When I was working on the IR, I flew with the AI covered till I almost began to ignore it even when not covered (it helped that the AI in the crappy trainers I had access to were notorious for not spinning up :D). I still train PP anytime I'm VFR pleasure flying with another pilot (gotta stay sharp). I am fully confident that within my personal mins, and if nothing else is going TU, that an AI failure isn't gonna be much of a problem. I know other guys involved in SE Piston Corp/Business flying that do it all the time. I just don't see the hazard if the aircraft is properly maintained and the PIC is competent.

Perhaps ... when I've logged two thousand hours on something bigger than a Seneca I will see the folly ... I dunno ...

Minh
SEL Corp Geek
 
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