20 November 1988

Missed approach and dead alternator

Liz and I flew from Middletown to Charleston to pick up my parents. Then the four of us flew to Tallahassee, Florida to visit my aunt and uncle. The flight from Charleston to Tallahassee would have been almost impossible without the high performance of the 210. The turbulence at low altitudes was intense. We had to climb to 14,000 feet to get above it. Unfortunately at 14,000 feet there was a 70-knot headwind. Since we were going only 100 knots, we had to land at Athens, Georgia to refuel. (Bad lunch!)

The weather at Tallahassee was forecasted 5,000 overcast, visibility greater than 15 miles. About 150 miles north of Tallahassee, near Montgomery, Alabama, I noticed two things. First, there was a layer of clouds forming underneath me, well below 5,000 feet, and I had lost the right vacuum pump. Fortunately the 210 had two vacuum pumps, so the instruments continued to function.

I called for a weather update. Tallahassee had gone down to 600 overcast, one mile, rain and fog. My original plan was to land at a small airport near my uncle's house. The circling minimums for that airport were 600 feet and one mile. It was only a 3,000-foot runway with high pine trees on either end. And it was night. I knew there would be a good chance for a missed approach. I flew the VOR circling approach
to the smaller airport anyway. I got down to the missed approach point and found the airport. I turned downwind and then base. The airport lighting was extremely poor, and I lost the airport momentarily a couple times. As I was turning final, I thought I was too high.

This was beginning to sound like an accident report that one might find in the back of an aviation magazine. I executed the missed approach and flew an uneventful ILS into Tallahassee International.

Replacing the failed vacuum pump would probably be more expensive here than at home, especially since this was the heavy duty vacuum pump that ran the deicing boots. In spite of the $1,000 cost, I decided to have it replaced.

Three and a half flight hours, and five days later, the other vacuum pump failed. It was Thanksgiving Day, and there was no way I could get the second vacuum pump replaced, unless I was willing to pay the big bucks to call someone in. The weather for the return trip looked like it was going to be VFR, so I waited until I got home to fix the left pump. Fortunately I got away with it.

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