Instrument Failures, Emergency Landing

In aviation the training teaches us that we have to be prepare for any and all outcomes and today was a perfect example of just that. While preparing for a routine flight, potentially my last training flight before my check-ride, we discovered the heading indicator was displaying a gyro flag which means there could be an issue with the instrument. As it isn’t uncommon for the vacuum system to take a few minutes to fully engage, we proceeded with run-up hoping the flag would go away. However it never did but the instrument still appeared to be functioning so my instructor said we would continue the flight.

We completed our preflight and started our takeoff, a soft-field departure, meaning we roll onto the runway and proceed right into the ground roll while throttling up with back pressure on the elevator allowing the plane to gradually take off well below our normal rotation speed because of the reduced drag in ground-effect. Everything was going very smoothly and my instructor said I performed the maneuver perfectly, however we quickly discovered we had a significant problem as our airspeed indicator never fully came alive to correctly display our airspeed on climb out. Because the loss of a crucial instrument is deemed an inflight emergency, I had to quickly turn the controls over to my instructor and we made a radio call to tower identifying the problem and requesting an emergency landing.

Thankfully my instructor is a very talented and capable pilot, he was able to safely land the plane using only known power settings and outside visual references. It was actually very impressive to behold the training come through in a emergency situation with no time for panic and worry.

So, safely back on the ground we quickly squawked the plane for maintenance, and we proceeded to do a quick debrief on the flight and both decided that we probably should have halted the flight when we first identified the issue with the heading indicator. All in all another great practical lesson.

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