IMC Cock up!

The original plan for today was to take the family out for lunch again. Bembridge was the first choice, but a gliding competition on the route made me rethink that. Next plan was Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green, and I was prepared in plenty of time because I did all the planning on Friday evening, thinking I had the aircraft booked for Saturday! Good job I checked!

The forecast in the morning looked Ok, but the updated forecast that had come out by the time we arrived at Lyneham showed the wind getting much stronger in the afternoon, very close to limits. If I’d been by myself I probably wouldn’t have minded, but it wouldn’t be particularly pleasant for passengers.

So the plan was changed to a quick ‘local’, followed by some practise approaches back at Lyneham. Got approval for a PAR and ILS on our return, and we headed out after all the usual pre-flight checks.

The wind was already pretty strong (quotes as 15 knots) but virtually straight down the runway. Runup checks were normal, and we took off and headed North out of the Zone. I planned to climb above the cloud once we were clear of the Zone and Hullavington (which was active) then track along the 090 radial towards the BCN VOR. As we cleared the Zone I asked for a Traffic Service and informed them what I intended to do.

Once clear of Hullavington, I announced a climb up to FL50 (first mistake, for the track we were planning this should have been an even Flight Level) and climbed up into cloud. From here, it all started to go wrong really.

Managed to maintain height relatively well, but my heading was all over the place. As can be seen from the track, we never intercepted the VOR radial, and at one point I even ended up heading South directly towards Bristol Zone. The fact that the Lyneham Zone Controller was calling traffic descending into Bristol in my 10 O’Clock should have given me a clue here!

We carried on in cloud for a while, but it became clear that we weren’t going to clear the cloud as I intended, so I decided to abandon the flight, and received approval to route direct back to the LA NDB, climbing to FL55.

This was about the only part of the flight the went relatively well! I overflew the beacon then set out on the ILS. THe first leg of the ILS is supposed to be a track of  088, descending down to a height of 2600 feet. Initially this went relatively well, but I was slightly right of the intended track so attempted to correct. From here it all started to go wrong again.

When tracking an NDB, the heading to the NDB is indicated on an instrument in the cockpit that has a rotatable card showing compass headings. The procedure is to set the aircraft’s current heading on this card, allowing you to read off bearings to the NDB from it. However, obviously whenever you change heading the card needs to be rotated to the new heading in order to show the correct bearing  to the NDB.

As I was right of track, I started to correct to the left. However, I neglected to move the card on the ADF display. As a result, I just kept turning left trying to get the needle to point to the correct place. Eventually I realised my mistake, but by now I was heading practically North, so decided to abandon the approach and return to the beacon. The Controller approved this and we started to head back, now at FL45.

By now I was getting pretty flustered, and was ever mindful of the important cargo I was carrying in the rear seats. I asked the Controller what the current cloud base was, and he told me it was 2500 feet AGL. I asked if I could just descend below this and make a standard visual approach. This was approved, and I began my descent.

The Controller was offering me vectors to put me back on a final approach just as we broke cloud with the airfield in sight. I notified him of this, and checked if we could reposition for a downwind approach to Runway 24. Again this was approved, and I was told to switch to the Tower frequency to continue the approach.

I was back on very familiar territory now, so the rest of the flight went as expected. I took some time while positioning downwind to compose myself as I’d got a little flustered. We were soon established on Base and Final and cleared to land. The wind was quoted as 18 knots, about 20 degrees off the runway.

As we descended it felt like more of a crosswind than that, as we were in a fairly pronounced crab as we approached the runway. As usual things got a little turbulent down low, so I left on just two stages of flap until we passed through the turbulence, before selecting the final stage. This put me slightly high, but landing long on Lyneham’s huge runway generally doesn’t present an issue! There were a few strong gusts as we got down to 100 feet or so, that picked up the right wing requiring a quick correction. The landing was uneventful though, and we backtracked and taxyed back via the 18 loop.

While taxying I think I worked out what had gone wrong with the flight. This was the first time I’d flown an IMC flight without wearing the hood, and I think this was the reason why I failed to switch over to ‘instrument mode’. As a result I was attempting to fly using a mixture of instruments and scanning outside as for a visual flight. This obviously won’t work while you’re in cloud, hence my frequent heading changes and the like.

I put the aircraft back into its parking spot after refuelling, and headed back to the Club. I phone Air Traffic to get them to pass on my thanks to the Zone Controller, and he actually answered the phone, being the Supervisor for the day. I thanked him for all his help throughout the flight, and we talked through some of the mistakes I made.

The Track from the flight

The Track from the flight

Next time I make an IMC flight I’ll certainly be making it either alone or with an Instructor. However, hopefully now that I’ve identified my mistake, I’ll correctly make the switch on to instruments once IMC and the problem won’t recur. Either way, not a very satisfactory flight, and certainly one that’s given me pause for thought for future flights.

Total flight time today: 0:45
Total flight time to date: 133:45


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4 Responses to “IMC Cock up!”

  1. Leia Says:

    I think the occasional muddle is good for the soul! Makes one have a good think! Sounds like you sorted it out adn realsied why you went wrong in any case.

    I really must get around to doing the IMC. maybe this winter (I’ve said that the past two years!)

  2. Andy Hawkins Says:

    Thanks for that Leia, other people in the Club have said similar things to me about it. You’re right though, it does make you have a good think!

    IMC Training was definitely worthwhile I think, hopefully it’ll come in useful over the coming months.

    Andy

  3. New flying buddy! « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] Andy’s Blog Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « IMC Cock up! […]

  4. From Halfpenny Green – In IMC! « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] the whole this was a very satisfying flight, particularly after my little ‘wobble’ not long after getting the IMC rating. What was particularly enjoyable was knowing that I’d […]

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