This “Pilot’s Tip of the Week” was originally published 1/20/2016. To get free tips like this each week, subscribe at the bottom of the page.

Pilot's tip of the week

Partial Panel Procedure


Subscriber question:

"It's been a long time since I have heard anyone talk about needle, ball and airspeed for a gyro out situation. I would be very interested to refresh myself again." - Tom


“A good topic since we still have vacuum pumps and gyros that can fail. If you are an instrument pilot and are not practicing partial panel flying, you are setting yourself up for a big problem. The only way to maintain proficiency in this area is to practice.

Partial panel approaches are still required on the Instrument flight test and on Instrument competency checks and we surely want to be as proficient as we were when we took our instrument test.

Partial panel procedureAccident history indicates that a vacuum failure in hard IFR should be considered an emergency situation and an emergency should be declared. Simply telling the controller you have a vacuum failure does not communicate your real situation.

Most ATC controllers are not instrument rated pilots and even if they are they are not acquainted with the equipment in your aircraft. Declaring an emergency will get you the attention you need.

Having declared an emergency, you might consider diverting to another airport if you can find better weather. You don’t want to have to make a partial panel approach to low minimums if you can help it. Ask the controller for an ASR or PAR no gyro approach if available. If a radar approach is not available, select the approach that is easiest for you to execute given the equipment you have.

Most GPS’s have one or more screens that can provide backup heading information. This is usually better than that old magnetic compass. Know your GPS and what’s available to use in this situation. If you have to rely on the magnetic compass, you better brush up on those compass errors.

So if you practice partial panel flying, know your equipment, and include equipment failure in your planning process you can turn a vacuum failure into a safe approach and landing. Instrument pilots who don’t do those things may end up in the accident statistics.”

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