June 2008 Issue

Everyday Partial Panel

Flying needle-ball-airspeed when everything is working and without covering the gyros will help you stay sharp when you need to be.

My story involving a glass-panel failure happened with an Avidyne unit. I was at Wick, Scotland, lining up for departure, and suddenly things started failing. First the lower Garmin 430, then the upper one. The transponder quickly followed and by then the PFD looked like a demo poster for what happens when things fail. The great news was that I was on the ground—even without a radio. It turned out the number one alternator and the master control unit had failed. Whether one had caused the other was incidental at that point. In marginal weather, with no radio, only the most basic of flight instruments and no VOR or other electronic guidance? I surely wasn’t taking off; being airborne and trying to land would have been harrowing. My handheld GPS had just become my new best friend; I’ve double-checked its batteries ever since. Between it and my Sporty’s handheld nav/com (yes, I keep those batteries fresh, too), I would have had a shot at getting down in one piece. We might carry some backup radios and gadgets, but how prepared are we to deal with major system outages when in the clag? Short of the odd IPC or checkride, how often do we practice for-real panel failures? Why not use everyday flying to stay sharp on partial panel?

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