Cirrus Avidyne Instrument Failures

by HPA · April 5, 2012

Expect Vectors to Final, Part III

by Hank Gibson, CSIP, Gold Seal, CFI, CFII, MEI

Parked CirrusIt’s been a few weeks since we left off with this series, but I promised a write up on Avidyne failures in a Cirrus, and I’m a man who keeps his word. Most anyone who flies a Cirrus has shot an approach or two with a display failure in their initial transition course or during an IPC. But, sometimes, pilots go for a while in between those practice failures and get a little foggy on how to handle them. I hope to alleviate any confusion.

The PFD Failure

Avidyne PFD Failure

The nice thing about an Avidyne is that if you have any kind of instrument failure, the procedure is the same. The most likely failure will be a PFD or MFD failure. With a Garmin, when this happens, the two screens automatically merge into one on whichever display is operating. You’ll have the engine gauges and the flight instruments together, similar to how they look upon system start up.

Not so with the Avidyne. There is no cross-display communication. Whatever is on one display, the other display has no way to ever, no matter what, display that information. So, the flight instruments will always be on the PFD and the Jepp charts and detailed engine information will always be on the MFD. We’ll discuss what to do with a MFD failure a little later, but here’s how to cope with a PFD failure.

Let’s say you’re flying along, fat, dumb, and happy (figuratively, of course) at 11,000 feet. The handy S-TEC autopilot is flying the airplane and you’re already thinking about the hamburger you are going to have for lunch. To make things more interesting, you’re in the middle of a cloud deck with bases at 800 feet and tops all the way up in the flight levels. Scatter in a little turbulence just so you don’t fall asleep, and we’ve got ourselves a scenario.

Suddenly, the PFD goes pitch black. As panic begins to set in, you take a deep breath and begin to proceed to dig the procedure for a display failure out of the back of your mind. First things first, what has actually failed? There are two possibilities here: either the PFD itself or the back light. How can you tell? Why, the bezel keys of course. If the bezel keys around the PFD are still lit up, then the back light has failed. If they are dark, then the PFD has failed.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can move on to how to fly the plane. As I mentioned before, you handle either failure the exact same way. The first option is you could hand fly the airplane using your standby instruments and compass, alerting ATC that you have an emergency (you should still call them whenever anything fails). That doesn’t sound like any fun, now does it? Why not have the autopilot still fly the plane? What’s that you say, it didn’t work? I disagree!

Pull out your checklist and open to the diagram of the circuit breaker panel. Find the two PFD circuit breakers (they should be the fourth from the top on the first and second rows, but always check your own plane first; it will say HSI/PFD next to the breaker), reach down, and pull both of them. This will completely shut down the PFD and the autopilot will no longer be taking information from it. That was the hard part. The easy part is push NAV twice on the autopilot, putting it into GPSS mode, and make sure the Garmin 430 is setup to fly where you currently want to go.

The autopilot is now taking it’s information directly from the GPS. We figured out the lateral navigation, but how to descend and level off? Again, not too complicated as long as you bring your mind along. When you are ready to fly an approach, you have to select an RNAV approach because this is the only NAV source available to you. To descend, simply press the VS (vertical speed) button on the autopilot, twist the knob to set in a descent rate (500-800 feet per minute), and down you go. You must watch your altitude on your standby altimeter and when you get to within 50 feet of your altitude, press the ALT button on the autopilot. It will capture and hold your altitude. If you don’t, your airplane may end up looking like this.

Crashed Cirrus

The MFD Failure

Gasp! No more charts on the display! What are we going to do! We’re not legal!

Two options here: Either pull out your iPad, or, if you don’t have an iPad, pull out the paper charts and find the approach. If you don’t have an iPad, carry the paper charts with you in case of a failure.

There you have it. This concludes our riveting series on using the Avidyne Entegra in a Cirrus.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

2022.06.09 11.19 Flyhpa 62a27fea7716a


The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

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