Vacuum pump failure while flying
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.