Above the clouds, with my eyes closed!

After a couple of aborted attempts, I finally got to start training for the IMC rating today!

Had two sessions booked with Mike, so turned up at the Club in good time as usual! Mr. Keen :). There was nobody there when I arrived, so I took the chance to get G-VICC checked out and ready to fly while waiting.

Another pilot arrived, and we chatted for a while as we waited for Mike. He’d just taken in GST to add a Group A rating to his NPPL, and needed to double check a few things with Mike regarding the paperwork. They chatted for a while, and once he was done Mike and I retired to the briefing room to brief the first flight of the day.

The plan was to start with the basics (a good place to start!) and practice instrument flight on a full panel. Mike went through the various scans required for straight and level, turns, climbs and descents, covering which instruments I should be concentrating on for each, and what control inputs and corrections to make.

I headed out to the aircraft, and met Dave (one of the aircraft owners) doing some work on the other Warrior. We chatted for a while about the various Nav equipment on it, as during yesterday’s flight I’d been trying to work out for him which bits of kit worked and which didn’t. This distracted me a little, as I jumped in to G-VICC ready to go, only for Mike to admonish me for neglecting to remove the tie downs! Fair point, and a good lesson in not getting distracted while preparing.

At this point I also realised I’d managed to leave my checklist in the Club (I’d had to empty my kneeboard to make room for a new pad of PLOGs). Mike headed back into the Club to retrieve his (another blot on my copy book before we’d even started!).

G-VICC started up nicely (it’s just come back from annual, including a new prop and some top end engine work) and we taxyed out. I did the taxy checks but neglected to call them out (habit of not having anyone checking on my for a couple of years!) so Mike showed me what he’d like to see on future flights. All stuff I’d been doing during the PPL training, but a reminder that I’m now training again, and not just out on my own for a jolly!

We got our departure clearance while waiting for the engine to warm up, then carried out the power checks and pre-departure checks without incident. It was a windy day, so I took care with my crosswind takeoff technique, and we turned crosswind and downwind while climbing up to 2000 feet. Mike then took control while I put the hood on, and I was an instrument pilot!

Predictably, initial attempts at straight and level weren’t great. I was finding it difficult maintaining height and heading. The longer it went on though, the more I started to get the hang of it. There were a few points where I almost lost the plot completely (overbanking of ending up in a relatively steep descent) . I think we spent a fair amount of time above the clouds (it was difficult to tell as the hood does a good job of blocking out most of the view outside) and when we descended back below them there was a lot of turbulence which made the job harder too.

I followed Mike’s instructions as best I could, him having me turn onto different headings, climb and descend in both cruise and approach configurations. We also simulated a ‘missed approach’ , me descending in approach configuration before I reached a certain height, then initiating a ‘go around’ at that height.

We eventually headed back to Lyneham, and Mike had me remove the hood a mile or so from the field so that we could join Left Base, and make the landing. I felt a little disoriented after being under the hood for so long, but made a decent landing. However once on the ground I got a little confused, and would have sailed right past the 18 loop if Mike hadn’t prompted me!

Back in the Club we had some lunch and chatted for a bit, and then Mike briefed me on the next lesson. This was to be much the same as the first, but for most of the time the AI (artificial horizon) and DI (direction indicator) would be hidden, simulating a failure of the vaccuum system in the aircraft.

Turning on the compass is nigh on impossible due to the fact that it bounces all over the place in all but straight and level flight, so turns are generally made using a stopwatch or second hand to time the turn. All turns in Instrument Flight are made at ‘rate 1’, where a 180 degree turn takes 1 minute. It’s then a relatively simple matter to do some mental arithmetic to work how long a given turn should take, and roll out at the appropriate time. If the turn is made at an accurate Rate 1, then the heading should be pretty close to that required.

We headed out to the aircraft, and again I made myself look a bit of an idiot! Because I’m always a little paranoid about taking the aircraft keys home with me, I now make a point of returning them to the folder where they’ve kept after I’ve been flying. However, today I had two flights, and had neglected to pick them up again! Luckily Mike was still booking us out as I checked the aircraft out again, so I banged on the window and asked him to pick them up!

Mike was happier with my taxy checks this time, and again power and pre-departure checks were normal. The wind was picking up a bit, and I had to be a bit more firm with my crosswind correction as we took off. I was waiting until my usual 500 feet or so before switching to Zone, but the Tower Controller took me by surprise a little by asking me to change. I managed to fluff the change, hitting the toggle button on Com2 rather than switching the audio panel from Com1 to Com2. As a result, my initial call to ‘Zone’ was actually made back to Tower! Whoops…

Once up at 1500 feet, Mike handed me the foggles (we thought we’d try them to see how I got on compared to the hood). However I found I could see a lot more in my peripheral vision with them, and it would have been a lot easier to ‘cheat’ and get visual clues to the aircraft’s attitude. So we switched back to the hood, and I think I’ll use that from now on.

After a couple of fluffs when turning where I turned the wrong way (the compass rotates the opposite way to the DI, so you have to make a conscious decision not to just turn towards the heading on the compass) I think I was doing a lot better on this flight. This was either because having less instruments to worry about was easier for me, or I’d just improved because I was now on my second hour rather than my first!

The routine continued in this flight much the same as the last, with Mike asking me to turn to specific headings, climb and descend. Turning was quite difficult due to the turbulence. This made it difficult to maintain an accurate Rate 1 turn, and hence the timings were wrong. I was getting much better towards the end of the session though, so was quite pleased with the progress I’d made today.

As we headed back to Lyneham the AI and DI magically started working again, and Mike gave me headings to follow, establishing us in the descent on the base leg before taking control briefly while I removed the hood at around 700 feet. I then made the Final turn and the rest of the approach visually, bringing us in for a passable landing given the blustery conditions.

Two flights combined, I wasn't navigating!

Two flights combined, I wasn’t navigating!

On the whole, this was a pretty enjoyable couple of flights. It was hard working trying to maintain control in the turbulence, but this was good practice as you relatively get clear smooth conditions when flying in a cloud! Next lesson will include some NDB tracking practice, so I need to read up on that before next Saturday. I also need to get started on some of the book work in preparation for the written exam.

Total flight time today: 2:15
Total flight time to date: 111:45

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