Happy Valentines Day from everyone at Globalair.com! We hope this week's post finds you in good standing and staying warm this time of year :)
I am writing this post for two reasons:
1) This time of year is when IFR, including low IFR, tends to move in more often
2) I had a friend lose all 3 gyro instruments in IFR with thunderstorms nearby and moderate turbulence too, so we discussed all the aspects of the incident and what could have been handled/prepared for better
Flying IMC is no joke, but especially when you're flying it in smaller older model planes that tend to have a lot of recurring maintenance issues. A small issue can quickly turn into a big problem if not handled correctly.
So the best way to handle in-flight emergencies IMC? Prepare for them.
As previously mentioned, in GA flying it's the older model planes that things are more likely to break and put you in a bad situation. Especially if you have a 6 pack versus a glass cockpit. This doesn't mean that glass cockpits are foolproof, but usually, when you have a failure it's easier to recognize. A perfect example of this is having a loss of the attitude indicator and heading indicator. In the traditional 6 pack, this most commonly happens due to a vacuum system failure.
You have to be watching your instruments closely to see one of the visual cues:
-tumbling on the heading indicator
-lack of movement on the attitude indicator
-small red off flag indicating instrument failure
-loss of vacuum suction on the vacuum gauge
You can still have a gyroscopic failure aside from a vacuum system issue. In fact, there's no vacuum system in a glass cockpit and it is still possible to lose these.
When an instrument is no longer reliable in a glass cockpit, the screen will display a large red X over it to indicate the failure.
But then there's always the argument, what if I lose my entire PFD? Now you've completely lost everything. It's very rare, but it's possible.
Here's the best solution I've come up with: buy 2 literal life-saving devices
Foreflight Pro Plus package (subscription a step up from the basic $99 package) and a Stratus or a Sentry. The stratus and the sentry are similar devices, the sentry is just about $300 cheaper. What both of these do is you program them when you turn them on in the plane and set them somewhere, and they'll connect to the Foreflight synthetic vision. While this isn't legally reliable, it is a LOT better than nothing when having a lost of instruments.
In the incident with my friend, they actually got into a graveyard spiral and LIVED. All 3 gyros stopped working and they lost 2400 feet in less than 20 seconds. As they heard the air speeding up over the wing they started to take out power and bring the nose up and luckily broke out of a 400-foot ceiling just in time. At this point, they got a contact approach and just landed at the nearest airport under priority landing.
How they're still alive is a miracle, but this all could have been avoided if they had synthetic vision as a backup.
Another good way to be prepared is to know your plane. Have those emergency procedures and a game plan memorized so you're ready to act when something goes wrong. IMC is the worst time for something to go wrong. Imagine a scenario such as an engine failure, where are you going if you can't see? Always have an idea where you're at so you can see if there's an airport to spiral over or any major highways as well. Synthetic vision can still help with this too.
There are endless scenarios of what can go wrong, from small inconveniences to life-threatening issues. It's best to always be on your toes ready for anything.
Do you have any personal stories of flying IFR and having an in-flight emergency? Any tips to share too? Feel free to share below.