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Author Topic: Vacuum Loss
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Post Vacuum Loss
on: September 15, 2012, 11:09

A few years ago I owned a nice Mooney M20F that was full instrument equipped including a fairly new stormscope and a Garmin 430 ifr gps. Think I was flying VFR back from the OSH airshow and noticed the DG needing to be re-set a number of times. Seemed like an awful lot of precession, so the first thought was, will probably have to get the DG overhauled. Arrived home, put the plane away and didn't think a lot more about it at the time. A week or so later, a friend (CFII) asked if he could use the plane to do a few approaches at FCM. Good IFR day for that with a relatively low ceiling, moderate winds and no precip. I am going to get him to describe the specific details of this adventure himself, but the earlier DG problem wasn't a precession issue, it was the beginning of vacuum failure! So in the soup doing an IFR approach and total vacuum failure... Fortunately he had his instructor witts about himself and did all the right things for a positive outcome. My next step was to purchase and have installed an alternate electric vacuum pump for standby. After all, I didn't want to ever have a vacuum failure in IFR if I could help it. Usually have enough to think about.

Now there is another neat product for backup IFR called the Dynon D1 Pocket Panel. This is not a commercial, but I can see this as an excellent option and can be mounted in any aircraft. Here is a bit of information and link on the Pocket Panel:

The D1 is a true artificial horizon with accurate pitch and roll, and can find the horizon even if turned on in flight. And it maintains the horizon during extended duration turns. The AHRS sensors also drive a turn rate indicator and slip/skid ball. Included is an internal GPS receiver to display GPS ground speed, altitude, vertical speed, and ground track.
At only 3½” wide, 3¼” high, and 1” thick, the D1 is truly portable. It features a battery that will last at least four hours on a charge, and comes with two portable mounting options. The first is a RAM® suction cup mount, and the second is 3 ⅛” portable “pinch” mount.

Dynon D1 Pocket Panel

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Post Re: Vacuum Loss
on: September 17, 2012, 09:29

I was the CFII that had borrowed Craig's Mooney that day. We were over taking a Cherokee 140 that was ahead of us on the ILS at FCM. The approach controller called off the approach and was vectoring us back around when both the attitude and the heading indicator started spinning in the panel after breaking off the approach during turn. The Mooney has a light and not a gauge to indicate vacuum failure and it had failed as well. I agree with all the literature regarding Partial Panel in IMC as being very tough trying too ignore the non operating Heading and Attitude Indicators. It probably took me less then 5 seconds to declare an emergency. MPLS Approach Control and the tower at FCM were very helpful handling this emergency by getting us established on the ILS and landing safely. The only issue I had was with the controllers asking how many souls and fuel was on board when I already had my hands full.

The instrument rated pilot that was with me that day thought we were going to die when he saw the gauges spinning in the panel and never offered to help. Discussing Cockpit Resource Management with him prior to departure may have been helpful on this flight. If he could have handled the communications it would have helped considerably.

I am a member of Cloud 7 flying club at FCM. Like Craig, we installed electrical back up vacuum pumps in our C172's after this incident. Craig also installed a vacuum gauge since the light was not realiable.

Partial Panel is very tough in IMC relying on the Turn Coodinator. I have no desire to try partial panel again in IMC. Will new avionics prevent the need for partial panel? With an electrical failure, you had better have a backup system like the D1 and practice partial panel just in case.

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