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Can You Handle These 6 IFR Instrument Failures?

Good luck!


  1. 1) You're in your Cessna 172 in IMC. Your attitude indicator shows a turn to the right, your heading indicator is stationary, and your turn coordinator and compass show a turn to the left (with no fail flag on the TC). What system has failed?
    jay-jerry

    You've had a vacuum failure because both vacuum driven instruments are showing erroneous indications which oppose the operating turn coordinator and magnetic compass.

    You've had a vacuum failure because both vacuum driven instruments are showing erroneous indications which oppose the operating turn coordinator and magnetic compass.

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  2. 2) During your normal instrument scan during a constant rate climb, you notice your vertical speed indicator is 0, and your altimeter is stationary. What happened?
    jay-jerry

    This is a static port blockage because all three pitot-static instruments are affected by it. When there is a static port blockage, there is no longer a change in ambient pressure inside the VSI. Due to this, your VSI won't show a trend/rate. Your altimeter will show the altitude where the blockage occurred, and your airspeed indicator will read inaccurately.  

    This is a static port blockage because all three pitot-static instruments are affected by it. When there is a static port blockage, there is no longer a change in ambient pressure inside the VSI. Due to this, your VSI won't show a trend/rate. Your altimeter will show the altitude where the blockage occurred, and your airspeed indicator will read inaccurately.  

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  3. 3) Your pitot tube freezes over but the pitot drain hole remains clear. What instruments are affected?
    jay-jerry

    The only instrument that relies off of dynamic pressure (or ram air), is the airspeed indicator.

    The only instrument that relies off of dynamic pressure (or ram air), is the airspeed indicator.

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  4. 4) You're in IMC. During your instrument scan, your airspeed, altimeter, and VSI (0 fpm) are all constant. However, the turn coordinator and attitude indicator show a turn to the right while the heading indicator is stationary. What instrument failed?
    jay-jerry

    Because the airspeed, altimeter, and VSI are all constant you know the aircraft is neither descending nor climbing. Knowing that the turn coordinator is powered separately than the attitude and heading indicator, as long as its fail flag isn't visible, you know it is a reliable instrument to reference. In other words, knowing that both the turn coordinator and the attitude indicator are showing a turn to the right, you can determine that the inoperative instrument is the heading indicator, which isn't in agreement with the two other gyroscopic instruments.

    Because the airspeed, altimeter, and VSI are all constant you know the aircraft is neither descending nor climbing. Knowing that the turn coordinator is powered separately than the attitude and heading indicator, as long as its fail flag isn't visible, you know it is a reliable instrument to reference. In other words, knowing that both the turn coordinator and the attitude indicator are showing a turn to the right, you can determine that the inoperative instrument is the heading indicator, which isn't in agreement with the two other gyroscopic instruments.

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  5. 5) If both your pitot ram air source and drain hole are blocked, what instrument does the airspeed indicator imitate?
    Corey Komarec

    Because there is no way for dynamic pressure inside the instrument casing to enter or exit, the airspeed indicator will act as an altimeter. When the aircraft climbs, the ambient pressure decreases and the pressure inside the diaphragm will expand, showing an increase in airspeed.

    Because there is no way for dynamic pressure inside the instrument casing to enter or exit, the airspeed indicator will act as an altimeter. When the aircraft climbs, the ambient pressure decreases and the pressure inside the diaphragm will expand, showing an increase in airspeed.

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  6. 6) You inadvertently fly into icing in your 172 during a constant rate descent, and your static port freezes over. Before you turn on your alternate static source, what happens to your VSI and altimeter?
    jay-jerry

    If your static ports freeze over, the ambient pressure will stop changing in the VSI and altimeter. This will make the VSI move to 0 FPM, and the altimeter will freeze at the altitude the static port blockage occurred.

    If your static ports freeze over, the ambient pressure will stop changing in the VSI and altimeter. This will make the VSI move to 0 FPM, and the altimeter will freeze at the altitude the static port blockage occurred.

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Those were some tough failures...

You scored %. And you learned quite a bit along the way.

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Not bad, you have most of these failures down.

You scored %. Nice work.

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You pretty much nailed these failures. Nice work.

You scored %. Well done.

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Corey Komarec

Corey is an Embraer 175 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota, and he's been flying since he was 16. You can reach him at corey@boldmethod.com.

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