Finishing it all off

I only had 3 or so hours to do to reach the 15 hour minimum for IMC training, and had covered all of the aspects. So we just had to do a couple of flights to go over some of the items I was a little weak on, and make sure I was happy with everything we’d covered so far.

For the first flight, we planned to leave the Zone, and return almost immediately for an SRA. From this we would perform the missed approach, then enter the hold. After a few trips round the hold we would do the NDB ILS approach to runway 24, circling to land on 06. We would then practice a few bad weather low level circuits to bring an end to the flight.

Departure was normal, and we were on an IFR routing out of the Zone due to the very low cloudbase today. I was in IMC by about 1000 feet AGL, definitely not a day for a VFR bimble! Our concern today was temperature, as flying in cloud at temperatures at or below freezing is a good way to get ice accumulating on the airframe. This can have dire effects on the aerodynamics, so was obviously something we wanted to avoid.

Mike was initially unhappy with our assigned level, and requested lower. For the rest of the flight we were down at around 2600 feet or below, and this kept the temperature above freezing, minimising the risk of accumulating any ice.

Once clear or the Zone, we called for an SRA approach. My previous attempts hadn’t been great, so it would be good to get a good one under my belt. I found myself both slightly high and slightly low on the approach, but managed the correct corrections required, and soon got us back on glideslope without too much trouble.

As we reached 600 feet (our minimum for this approach) I initiated the missed approach procedure. This is largely the same as a go around from a visual approach, with the obvious exception of being carried out entirely on instruments. So, full power, raise the nose slightly until a positive rate of climb is indicated on the VSI. Remove the flap in stages, ensuring we get positive rate after each retraction, while also maintaining runway heading and climbing to 2600 feet.

Once level at 2600, we tracked away for a couple of miles, before returning to the hold. Once over the beacon, a teardrop entry brought us nicely back on track for the hold.

The holds were all going amazingly well, probably helped by the fact that there wasn’t too much of a crosswind today. This was just as well, as other traffic meant the Controller asked for ‘just one more hold’ about 3 times before being able to clear us onto the ILS approach! He seemed genuinely apologetic, and in reality a few more holds just added to the flight time we were trying to build up, and was also good practice for me.

While we were in the hold, another aircraft was cleared into the same hold just 500 feet above us. This seemed a little close for comfort, so we requested 2100 feet, and the temperature had dropped slightly also meaning this was a good idea for more than one reason.

Once cleared for the ILS approach, we tracked outbound from the beacon. We were already below the declared height for this leg of the procedure, so had no descent to maintain. Once out at 8 miles, we turned onto a base leg heading of around 320. In hindsight, this wasn’t the correct heading to be on, as it assumed we would be turning into a headwind (as would be normal when turning onto the final approach heading for an ILS). However, today the wind was from the East, and we were in fact carrying out a procedure to the ‘wrong’ runway (there is no ILS for runway 06 at Lyneham). As a result, the wind carried us in an awful lot further than we should have been.

Because of this, around the same time as I rolled out after intercepting the localiser, I also had to begin the descent as the glideslope needle had started to drop. Mike seemed alarmed at this, until I pointed out that we were now only 6.5 miles from the field, the appropriate time to begin a descent. It was at this point that we realised what mistake we’d made.

I continued down the ILS, meandering slightly and having to made regular changes in descent to maintain the glideslope, but it was a lot better than it had been on previous attempts. As we neared the field, Mike took control and had me remove the hood. Mike demonstrated a bad weather circuit, and this combined with the briefing before hand must have helped, because the two further bad weather circuits I carried out were an order of magnitude better than previous attempts.

Once complete, we taxyed in and had a quick debrief. I was pretty happy with this flight, my heading and level control was much better than it had been on any previous flight, and all of the procedures we’d tried had gone almost flawlessly. If only this had been the IMC Flight Test!

First flight

First flight

We were left with just about an hour and a half required on the 2nd flight to put me over the 15 hour minimum. We decided to go out and do some general tracking, and then return to attempt to repeat the previous flights procedures.

We tracked to Gloucester and Brecon for a while, this going relatively well. Mike had me do a couple of position fixes, and while the first wasn’t too bad, the second got our position almost perfectly. I just need to be a bit more organised as far as these go once it comes to doing them on the actual test.

We were receiving a traffic service due to being in actual IMC for the majority of this flight. At one point we received notification “G-VICC, traffic south, slow moving, no height. Possibly M4 traffic”! The radar at Lyneham is obviously a bit too good!

We again received vectors for an SRA, carrying out a missed approach. This time instead of climbing once we reached the minimum height, we continued to track in to the field maintaining this level, before climbing away at the missed approach point. For a non-precision approach, this is the method usually used, so it was good to practice doing it correctly.

We again tracked back to the hold, and the wind had shifted meaning that our entry was a little messy. We even prompted the Controller to query whether we knew the correct procedure for the hold, and had her ask which way we intended to turn next! Looking back at the track of our join, it’s not too surprising. Hopefully this won’t recur on the Flight Test.

Once established in the hold, things went a lot better. We continued around a few times, and then asked to be cleared for the ILS approach again. This was were we ran into a slight hiccup! Lyneham had suddenly got very busy, with 3 or 4 other aircraft operating in the vicinity of the airfield. As we wanted to approach from the wrong direction, this meant it would be impossible for the Controller to fit us in with the other traffic. Her response was along the lines of “I’m unable to clear you for the ILS approach at this time, unless you want to continue holding for – oooh – an hour?”

We politely declined, and instead asked to carry out a further SRA to runway 06. This was granted, and we headed out of the Zone before being vectored back in for the approach. We were number two for the approach, and ended up flying South on the base leg almost as far as the Salisbury Plain danger areas before being finally vectored back in!

We were at 1600 feet at this point, and as the Controller brought us closer to the field we were told to begin our descent. We did this, and 1/2 a mile later the Controller then called out our expected height as something like 1900 feet. This was obviously incorrect, so we queried this while I maintained level flight until the confusion was resolved. We had to clarify that we had started the procedure at 1600 feet, and the Controller then replied ‘Approaching descent point’. She had obviously assumed we were higher, and had realised the mistake. Just goes to show that even Controllers can make mistakes now and again, and it pays to be on the ball to be alert for them before things go too far awry.

The rest of the SRA continued normally, with us ending slightly right of the centreline as we went visual (despite the Controller telling us we were on the centreline), but it was close enough to allow me to adjust in the final 600 feet. I made a nice approach, and for once this week my landing was pretty good!

Second flight

Second flight

So, the required flight training is now complete. I need to arrange for the Flight Test with an Examiner, and get the last bits of Ground School revision done so that I can be ready to sit the written exam. Hopefully we can get both of these out of the way this week.

Total flight time today: 3:35
Total flight time to date: 124:40


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