3 Issues at the same time Time to call emergency

Multiple Issues
a) Air Speed indicator to zero
b) Fuel pressure gauge to zero
c) Fuel smell
Leg one was KMQJ to KDAN...Fuel stop. No issues with the plane.
Leg two was filed for KDAN --KMLB -- MYGF.
Due to severe weather, I was rerouted towards KSVN and then south to complete my trip. Once heading south I noticed the Fuel Pressure gauge needle wasn’t at its normal position. Normally it’s midway between 18 and 40. Now the needle showed 18, end of green and beginning of yellow.. I looked at my fuel flow gauge and it was solid 15 with no fluctuation. At that point I adjusted the fuel flow to verify it was working and it immediately responded up to 17. I brought it back down to 15.

I noted, fuel flow was fine and what appeared to be a malfunctioning gauge. I wrote down the time as a reference point. About the time I was even with Jacksonville, the needle hadn’t moved, was still bottom of the green. Fuel flow was still strong. My background was an auto mechanic. After an hour or so, my intuition was bugging me. What has happened that my gauge just stopped working? At this point I called ATC and changed my flight plan to land at KFIN. ATC was nice. My plan was a fuel stop and find a mechanic to discuss what was happening.

Heres where it gets busy. And even though it's the same day, I don’t recall everything precisely in order.. Once I was switched to Tower at KFIN, I was given left base to final. No problems...getting close to turning final I glanced at my airspeed indicator when it swung wildly and then went to 0.

It took a second for that to register and then I assumed I was plummeting to earth and didn’t realize it. My first reaction was, pause, Altitude Gauge is still above 1,000. Engine sounds strong Ok, i’m not nosediving so I maintained level flight, turned final..and then started smelling fuel..

I looked at the fuel pressure gauge and it was buried to the left, in the red zone..and the fuel smell was pretty strong. Called emergency, turned off the electrical system, completed turn to final, Established good glide, Killed motor, smooth landing..

1) Airspeed Indicator, Bugs in Pito on Base..
2) Fuel Flow to zero because..
3) Fuel Line cracked, was spewing fuel in engine compartment

If I hadn't followed procedures, electrical off, power off, mechanics said it would have been a fireball. Reflecting on this, I’m glad I listened to my instinct that something was wrong. I feel pretty good that after getting hit with three things at once, I flew the plane.

Two hours later, Pito Bugs gone, new fuel hose in place...back in the air. Oh, and a fresh clean pair of pants.


  • Hi Bill,
    Obviously you're okay because you wrote this. But it was very alarming reading it. So I have questions for you. What year and model of plane? Have you owned it long? Do you have an A&P doing your annuals that you trust? Going forward, when you have your next annual, tell your mechanic to "dig deep". This is too many issues.
    Thanks for being a member!

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

  • I am curious about the ASI going to zero. I am having difficulty accepting the "bugs in pitot" explanation, having had that problem in a Warrior once many years ago. The ASI reacted as an altimeter rather than going to zero. I would have the pitot-static system checked completely and not be satisfied until the system had been given an "all good" sign-off by my A&PIA.
    PS: I have had an engine compartment fire and it is not fun.

  • 1976 Piper Lance. 32R 3,550 hours, 1,300 on engine. Had an extensive pre-buy done in September and Fixed or Repaired most items on the list in October of 2019. A couple of items, cracked window and tail fairing cover were waived until this month when the annual is completed.

    The A&P that did the repair work after the issue and installed the new fuel hose commented about the old hose not having heat tubing, which is why it probably went bad or failed early. I've kept it in the back of my plane as a reminder. It' pops and crackles when you bend it. The theory is some of the dried cracked rubber found it's way to the Fuel Pressure gauge, which is why it stopped working. I've kept pictures of the fuel stains and puddling inside the engine from the spray. I used to say leak, but the A&P said it was definitely not a leak.

    As far as the pitot system, I watched them working on it and helped catch the bugs that were pulled out. Once they put the system back in place, Pitot system worked fine.

    The A&P I use for my annual has been servicing my planes for 10 years. He is very good. He has the plane now and is going over everything with a fine tooth comb.

    Besides the above, what I've learned is being familiar with your planes emergency procedures, don't panic, fly the plane and don't hesitate to call emergency when needed.

  • I'm just glad that you and your bird are okay :)

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

  • "Oh, and a fresh clean pair of pants."

    Love that line!!! I would have added a new seat cushion too as it may have needed to be pried from a certain body part!

    On the serious side.. Thanks for the post. It is a great example of airmanship and highlights the need to figure out issues on the ground and not in flight.

    Safe flights

    Kurt Johnson

  • Bill,

    Great job. I'm glad you had no hesitation in declaring an emergency. Many pilots are far too reluctant. I did the tours at SoCal TRACON, and told our guests that an emergency exists as soon as there is doubt in the safe outcome of the flight.

    One thing to consider is that not only do you get bumped to the top of the priority list, but it gives the controller an out as well, and allows access to a much deeper bag of tricks. (Like a special map that depicts altitudes below the Minimum Vectoring Altitude).

    Again, well done!

    Bob Marks
    N777FG P28RT-201T
    Retired ATC SoCal TRACON/LA Center

  • Thanks Bob, and thanks for the info about altitudes :)

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

  • Hey Bob, I think I remember you from the NATCA BBS, which I haven’t been on in several years. I used to be a controller at SMO (2007-2008); I am at C90 now. Congratulations on your retirement!

    Your username here is “skylord”. There is a controller at C90 whose license plate is “skyking” :D

    Jim M.
    Based at BUU
    ATC Chicago TRACON

  • The airspeed can indeed go to zero with the forward inlet blocked by bugs, dirt or ice. On my Arrow, the pitot mast has a tiny bleed hole at the rear. I had an instrument student fail to turn on pitot heat and he flew for about 15 minutes before I asked him what was our airspeed? He jolted a bit and tried to add more power but since we were at 8000, there was no more to add. Pitot heat on and in less than a minute the airspeed staggered alive. In my opinion, it is better for the airspeed to go to zero instead of pretending to be an altimeter.

    1974 Arrow II
    ATP CFII MEI CFIG A&P AGII FCC GROL with Radar Endorsement

  • Jmcmanna, that's me! How are you? My license plate is "Skylord". I have to be careful about road rage since it is easily remembered! Hit me up at skylord@cox.net

    Bob Marks
    N777FG P28RT-201T
    Retired ATC SoCal TRACON/LA Center

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