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Vacuum pump failure while flying

Posted by on January 10, 2012 5 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags : ,

One of my favorite things about running this website is experiencing the power and value of the community. Just as pilots learn valuable lessons from sitting at the airport and “hangar flying”, pilots here too learn from each other’s successes, failures and experiences. Although the site’s title is “Ask a CFI”, it could very well be “Ask a Student Pilot”, or “Ask another pilot”. Over the years, as this site has grown, I’ve learned immensely (sometimes daily) from both the student’s questions and the experienced pilots and flight instructors who faithfully share their experiences and wisdom with us.

Such a shared experience that we can all learn from is what I came across recently from Derek Schwalenberg who wrote, “Vacuum Pump Failure in Low-IFR“.

“Vacuum Pump Failure in Low-IFR” is a true short story about three pilots, an aspiring CFII [the author who is now a CFII], a Private Pilot, and Student Pilot who took a 1976 Cessna Cardinal C-177B on a $100 deli run to KPOU Poukeepsie, NY. On the way home to KHFD Hartford, CT the vacuum pump failed. Ceilings were between 400 and 500 feet and there was no VFR within’ at least a 3hr range. Derek wrote the story down because although many of us train ‘all the time’ for this type of failure, many do not have the luxury of experiencing it first hand – in IMC, with low ceilings. Derek also debriefs at the end of the book a little of things he did right, and things the crew could have done better.

This is the kind of story every pilot should read as who knows when something similar might happen to you and the lessons he learned (the hard way) could possibly literally save your life. And for $0.99 (for the kindle edition), how can you possibly go wrong? I mean, I just paid $4.00 for a starbucks coffee that will never tell me anything about how to handle a vacuum pump failure while flying.


  1. Derek Schwalenberg on Jan 11, 2012

    Thanks again, Paul. If anyone has any questions for the author, yours truly, I am happy to answer.

  2. Paul Tocknell on Jan 11, 2012

    Derek, I’m more than happy to do my part to make sure that your valuable experience and lessons about vacuum pump failures are shared with as many pilots as possible.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  3. Jeremy Portzer on Jan 15, 2012

    Is there any way of getting this story without a Kindle? I’m more than happy to pay the $0.99, or even the $4 coffee price tag, but I can’t see how you can download it and read it on your PC directly?? I have zero interest in a Kindle.

  4. Paul Tocknell on Jan 15, 2012

    Hi Jeremy,

    You can download the Free Kindle Reader for the PC:

    Kindle Reader for PC

    This allows you to view kindle purchases on your PC.

    You can also choose the Kindle Cloud, which allows you to read any kindle purchase “in the cloud” on your computer’s browser (no kindle required)


  5. Derek Schwalenberg on Jan 16, 2012

    And with Amazon it is a digital license so if you have it on the cloud you can download to your Kindle later if you ever do buy one. Or if you have the Android app on your phone, etc..

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