All posts tagged 'steam gauges'

How to Handle Emergencies in IMC

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 :)

Wing Tip of Piston Aircraft

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. 

Foreflight Pro iPad App

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.

Flying Glass Cockpit vs The Six Pack

This is probably one of the most popular topics in aviation that I hear about and have to teach about ALL of the time. 

Six pack is the old school way, aka the steam gauges that bring you back and make you feel like you're learning to fly in the '50s. Or at least this is one of the jokes I hear from fellow aviators and students. 

But it's true! This is the "old school way" if that's what you want to call it. But, don't discount it. The steam gauges create really good flying skills that can carry into the rest of your career and set a good foundation.

On the other hand, the glass cockpit is the newer style of things and we have to learn to adapt. 

This G1000 features Avidyne Avionics from a Cirrus SR20 and below the screens a Garmin 430. On the left side is a PFD (primary flight display), which makes sense because it shows your primary flight instruments. Everything from the six pack (which we'll come back to) is now featured on this screen, including your rudder coordination which is the black and white triangle at the top. Keep the white part of the triangle centered with the black (keep the snow on top of the mountain) and you're coordinated!

All of this is powered by a separate computer. You still have a pitot tube and static ports, and this air is sent in lines to flight management systems to display the information. The advantage of this is the controls have fewer mechanical components to break down and avoid false readings. One major advantage of a glass cockpit is that the automation systems are more accurate and the information is more precise.

Some of the features look different, but if you can read the older style gauges, you can read this. Some added tools include the heading and altitude bugs that you can't always set on the six pack as a reminder of when to level off. Now if you have advanced avionics like this and added autopilot, consider your plane a technically advanced aircraft! This is a plus of having a glass cockpit. 

However, there is one con I find of training with this. When learning to read these, if you go straight into the digitalized cockpit without doing any training in a traditional style, then your instrument scan is negatively affected.

As you can see, all of the readings are displayed on one screen and it can be easy to monitor all the readings at once. 

With these instruments, now they're all separate from each other. You have to move your eyes across all of them at a good pace and thus create a good instrument scan while flying the plane at the same time. This creates a solid foundation for good flying skills, especially when you have to take those skills into flying IFR without autopilot. 

As mentioned earlier, all of these instruments have mechanical linkages behind them which can break and render the entire instrument unusable with little to no sign beforehand. This is the con of flying the steam gauges, and you usually have to replace the entire instrument to fix it. They also can be slightly inaccurate when incorporating some principles like gyroscopic procession with your gyro-powered instruments. The altimeter, even when set to the right altimeter setting, can read inaccurate and within time has to be fixed too. 

Both traditional flying and digitalized flying have their own benefits and are each respected throughout the aviation community, it's all about what you fly best. Find planes with the best cockpit for you on Globalair.com

Stay tuned for more articles and happy landings!

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