IMC Renewal

My IMC rating was due to expire at the beginning of July, and I’d spent a month or so trying to arrange a revalidation test with Graham. It was difficult enough finding a time when we were both free, and we had a couple of attempts scotched due to aircraft availability and the awful weather the UK has been suffering recently.

We finally managed to get all the factors lined up, and I travelled to Kemble early this morning to clear blue skies with barely a cloud in the sky. I arrived in good time, and was completing the pre-flight paperwork as Graham arrived and joined me in the Club. I’d already spoken to Gloucester and arranged with them to carry out the two required approaches (normally you would get one signed off by an Instructor in advance, but I hadn’t done this). After a quick brief with Graham, I headed out to the aircraft to carry out the A check.

Graham joined me a few minutes later as I completed the walk around, and we got ourselves settled in G-SNUZ before getting ready to go.

The startup and checks were all normal, and I taxyed over to the D-site apron for power checks. Another aircraft was causing some confusion due to taxying to the wrong place on the aerodrome and not being able to follow the repeated taxy instructions due to unfamiliarity. Power checks were completed normally, and I carried out the pre-departure checks before following another aircraft to the hold and we both waited for the confused pilot to backtrack the length of the active runway.

The aircraft in front taxyed on to the runway, and I was told to follow once he began his takeoff roll. I lined us up, and as I waited for the aircraft ahead to clear the runway sufficiently, for some reason I applied the parking brake (something I normally wouldn’t do). Graham was quick to release it, but we weren’t off to a particularly good start!

Once the other aircraft had cleared the runway, I began the takeoff roll. The wind was fairly calm and straight down the runway, and we rotated nicely and took to the air. After carrying out the noise abatement turn, Graham took control while I put the hood on and got myself settled, before I took back control and he started giving me headings to follow to keep us clear of Aston Down.

We headed to the North East, climbing up to 2500 feet. During the climb, Graham asked me to assume we’d just entered cloud, and I reached over and selected carb heat to hot. Previously I’d been shown to do this when cruising and in cloud, but after the flight Graham  corrected me, as I had this time applied carb heat when at full power and still in the climb. I should have selected Pitot Heat on  At least the GPS track for this section of the flight shows a nice straight line, showing that I was at least maintaining my heading correctly!

Almost as soon as we had levelled out, Graham covered the AI and DI (simulating a failure of the aircraft’s vacuum system) and we went straight into the partial panel exercises. These started with a turn from our current heading of around 015 onto East, which it took me a little time to work out an appropriate time for (turns on the compass are done by timing a rate 1 turn, as the compass is inaccurate when turning). I calculated this to be around 25 seconds, began the turn and set the watch. This had been a fairly weak area of mine on the two earlier IMC tests I’d undertaken, but today things went well and as I rolled out after the required time the compass began to settle on a nearly perfect Easterly heading.

Graham had me maintain this heading for a while, and climb up to 3000 feet. Again this is more difficult when on partial panel as the only instruments you have to judge this are the turn co-ordinator (to prevent the aircraft turning) and the VSI and ASI to judge the correct attitude in the climb. I managed this relatively well, and Graham again took control in preparation for the unusual attitude recovery section.

After a few turns and changes in altitude (in order to attempt to disorient me no doubt), Graham put the aircraft into a spiral dive and told me to recover. I had mentally prepared for these exercises, so had the recovery procedure well rehearsed in my mind. In this case, the procedure is power to idle (to arrest the airspeed increase), roll wings level before raising the nose to return to level flight (the wings are levelled before raising the nose to prevent entering a stall due to the aircraft banking at the same time).

Graham again took control, this time bringing the aircraft close to the stall. In this case, the procedure is full power, lower the nose and then roll wings level (lowering the nose first ensures that the wings are not going to stall when the ailerons are used to roll level). There was a slight oscillation in height as I recovered, but I thought I had performed fairly well in this exercise.

Graham gave me a short time to get myself settled back on full instruments and confirm my position (which I announced to him as 10nm West of Gloucester when in fact we were 10nm East!) before I contacted Gloucester in readiness for the Approaches. In hindsight I should have retrieved the ATIS from Gloucester before contacting them asking for the Approach.

I requested the NDB/DME approach, and was offered the direct arrival from the East (which again I had intended to ask for!). This involves tracking towards the NDB on a track of 263 degrees, descending to 2400 feet 10nm from the field. I was already virtually on the correct radial (or so I thought!) and was a little close in to the field so tried to lose sufficient height while turning to intercept the appropriate track. As a result of this I allowed the aircraft to overbank slightly, rather than maintaining a rate one turn as I should have.

I continued tracking towards the field, and was given the Missed Approach instructions, which I did my best to note down while maintaining the correct course. I meandered slightly on the approach, but managed to make corrections in order to maintain track. About half way down the I noticed that the the DI was actually around 10 degrees off the correct heading. As a result of this the track I’d been following was actually somewhat South of where I should have been. I was also occasionally glancing down at the plate on my kneedboard which was causing my to briefly leave the correct heading or rate of descent, after the flight Graham had a few suggestions on how to prevent this.

Towards the end of the Approach I did manage to get us a bit closer to track, and we came down to minimums and approached the missed approach point (1nm from the field) before beginning the missed approach procedure. I began a climbing turn to the right to track away from the field on a heading of 360. Initially I was climbing at around 90 knots instead of the required 75 knots, so I raised the nose to get the speed under control again, and we continued to track North.

The Controller asked us to confirm our heading and report when we had reached 3000 feet. Once level, I informed him of this and was asked to carry out a turn for identification purposes (Gloucester presumably do not have access to SSR and transponder codes) and we headed back East to set up for the SRA. The Controller announced we were on the Downwind leg, and gave us an indication of how much further we were likely to track East before heading back to the field. I probably should have taken the hint and carried out my checks now, but I ended up doing them on the Base leg when I was more busy and hence a lot more distracted.

I was starting to feel the pressure slightly now, and was so intent on maintaining the correct height and heading that I missed the radio call for our turn to Base. Graham responded on the radio and prompted me for the new heading, and we began the turn to align ourselves back with the airfield. The pre-landing checks I carried out caused further slight deviations on this leg, and probably caused me to miss the radio call for the next heading adjustment as well.

Realising that I wasn’t managing the workload correctly, I tried to relax on the controls and turned the radio up slightly to help prevent me missing further transmissions. This certainly helped, as I managed to be a lot less focused on one aspect of the flying to the detriment of others. The interception of the Final Approach track went well, and when instructed to I began to descend at the appropriate rate to maintain the correct glideslope. I took a quick look at the plate a couple of times to verify the minimums and missed approach point, and again Graham picked up on this during the debrief after the flight.

At the various checkpoints on the Approach I thought I was slightly high (but only perhaps 50 or 100 feet) and the Controller had me make a few very small course corrections towards the end of the Approach. Graham later commented that in fact we’d been showing two reds / two whites on the PAPIs, indicating that we were bang on the glideslope all the way down the approach. We approached minimums and the missed approach point at almost the same time, and I began to climb away, before Graham had me turn left to head back to Kemble. I double checked whether he wanted me to handle the radios from now on, and he handled them for the return home.

Again Graham provided me with heights and headings to follow, as we set up for a right base join back at Kemble. I managed to follow the headings and heights quite nicely, but at one point we seemed to gain a huge amount of lift, requiring a large correction and power reduction to counter. I mentioned this to Graham and he told me we’d just headed under a big black cloud, which explained it! We’d also spent a significant portion of the SRA in cloud too (unbeknownst to me!). As we approached another aircraft appeared to be approaching with radio failure, Graham thought it was the same one that had been having problems finding his way around on the ground earlier.

Graham took control briefly at about 500 feet or so to allow me to remove the hood and see the airfield nicely in our 2 O’Clock. I then continued down the rest of the Approach (allowing us to get rather slow which caused Graham to comment) before bringing us in for a fairly nice landing.

I had assumed we would be refuelling, but Graham needed to get away so we tried to get a backtrack back to the Club. Sadly the FISO hadn’t realised that was what we wanted, so we had to continue along the runway before taxying back on the grass. I began to carry out the after landing checklist as we rolled clear of the runway, but Graham stopped me and switched things back as they were, telling me he’d explain why as we debriefed. He (quite rightly) explained later that people have done this before, and inadvertently raised the gear while doing so without fully concentrating on what they were doing.

Back at the parking area we closed down, and Graham announced that he was happy with the way I’d flown but had a few comments:

  1. When on the runway before leaving Kemble, I’d applied the parking brake while we waited for the aircraft ahead to clear. Graham had picked me up on this, and explained that if we had a dragging brake on the ground during taxy we’d probably easily notice it. However, should the same thing happen on the takeoff roll at full power we might not, and it could have a serious affect on the takeoff performance of the aircraft.
  2. On the SRA I’d correctly carried out the pre-landing checks, but should have taken the chance to do this when downwind when I was less busy, rather than wait until later.
  3. On the NDB approach, I’d tracked the NDB relatively well, but had neglected to check the DI at the start of the approach. As a result I was always about 10 degrees to the South of where I should have been. However, despite being slightly out of position, we could easily have landed off this approach, which is the real aim of the exercise.
  4. Apparently on the takeoff roll at Kemble I didn’t have a hand on the yoke until we were doing about 45 knots! I don’t remember doing this, and it’s certainly not something I did intentionally or have ever noticed doing in the past. I must keep an eye on this in future to make sure it’s not a bad habit I’ve got into.
  5. He mentioned the fact that I was looking down to check the plate while on the Approach. He said that most of the time my flying was good, but when I did look down it always caused some sort of deviation. He suggested perhaps making a small note containing the important pieces of information (final approach track, descent rate, minimum and missed approach point) and pinning this somewhere visible so that my scan wasn’t interrupted. Also, the deviations would likely have been less of an issue if I’d been correctly in trim.
  6. He mentioned the after landing checks too, saying that you should always wait until you’re well clear of the runway before stopping and taking the time to carry them out without distraction. This is something I always did at Lyneham, but I’ve always been more concerned of holding people up at Kemble. He makes a good point though (I’d hate to raise the gear on the Arrow and cause a load of damage), so I’ll try to remember this in future.

We headed back in to the Club, and Graham signed my ratings page, validating the IMC Rating for another 25 months. I must make more of an effort to try to keep in practice (my last IMC Approach was back in January) so that I don’t get as rusty before my next revalidation. Graham headed off, and I taxyed the aircraft down to the pumps to refuel, before meeting up with the family in AV8 for a nice lunch and a well earned beer!

Track flown

Track flown

Profile

Profile

On the whole, I was pretty happy with how my flying had gone, but there were quite a lot of niggly little things that I must make more of an effort to cut down on. Maybe I’ll try to fly with David a little more, and get him to try to pick up on any bad habits I’m picking up.

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 197:15

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One Response to “IMC Renewal”

  1. 2012 Summary « Andy's Blog Says:

    […] 33 flights (including 1 currency check on the Arrow and a flight for the renewal of my IMC rating) […]

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