Archive for the ‘IMC Training’ Category

IMC Renewal

November 5, 2014

After regaining currency on my last flying trip, it seemed like my next goal should be to renew my IMC rating. I managed to arrange a day off work at short notice (to take advantage of a favourable weather forecast) and tied up with Roger (the CFI at Lyneham Flying Club) to carry out the test. The Club’s IMC equipped Warrior was in for maintenance, but Roger was happy to carry out the test in the Arrow, with a handy bonus that it would also reset my Arrow currency in the same flight.

Roger managed to gain approval to carry out an ILS into Brize, and was happy to use one of the two approaches from our last flight in the Arrow back in April as the other required procedure. I carried out all the planning at home, marking out the plates for both 08 and 26 as the wind forecast was almost 90 degrees across the runway. I took my time calculating an appropriate DA and DH for both approaches, referring back to the ‘Thom’ book on Instrument Flying to refresh my memory as to the means of calculating these. Weather and NOTAMs showed nothing that would particularly affect us, so I headed off to Kemble in good time, arriving around 15 minutes before the booking time.

Roger gave me a thorough brief before the flight, working through the various manoeuvres that would be required. These basically amounted to:

  • Straight and level flight on partial panel
  • Climbing and descending on partial panel
  • Turns onto a specific heading on partial panel
  • Recovery from unusual attitudes (sustained 45 degree turn, steep descending turn, approach to the stall) on partial panel
  • Let down and approach to DH / MDH
  • Missed approach
  • Bad weather circuit
  • Landing

I questioned a few aspects of the test, and once we were happy we’d covered everything, I completed a basic PLOG (containing the frequencies and morse code idents I’d need) and we headed out to the Arrow to prepare for the flight.

It was helpful to have two people checking out the aircraft, Roger carrying out the external checks of the electrical items and then taking samples from the 3 fuel drains while I completed the remainder of the walk around. It was a relatively brisk morning, and I was glad to be able to complete it in less time than usual as a result. We then settled ourselves in the cockpit, and ran through the checklist to get the engine running once start clearance had been gained from the FISO.

While taxying I checked the brakes and then all the required instruments in turns (AI level, wings left, ball right, compass, DI and ADF reducing – and repeat for a turn to the right). Roger later pointed out that I hadn’t actually identified the NDB. At the time I had not done this as I knew I wouldn’t be using the ADF for anything other than to prove that it was indicating correctly, but Roger later said that he would have preferred me to identify it before using it. Kemble were operating on runway 08, but we were cleared to backtrack the runway to carry out the checks on the North Apron. During these we experienced some plug fouling (this had been noted in the tech log) and this required running the engine at 2400 RPM for a minute or two to clear. Once we were happy that the engine would run smoothly on both individual sets of magnetos, I completed the power checks and pre-departure actions (including an emergency brief) as quickly as possible in order to prevent this from happening again.

We were cleared straight on to the runway and I backtracked to the threshold in order to use the full length available. After a quick check of the engine indications, I applied power and then turned on the fuel pump, landing light and wing strobes (something I’d managed to omit before taking to the runway). The take off roll and rotation all went well, and I set course to the South to head towards Lyneham to carry out the initial portion of the test. Once we reached 3000 feet (perhaps climbing slower than I really should have) I went under the hood, and Roger had me carry out a few turns, climbs and descents on full panel in order to get myself settled before beginning the main part of the test.

Roger covered up the AI and DI, simulating a failure of the aircraft’s vacuum system. This left me with the altimeter, VSI and turn / slip indicator as the only means of maintaining control of the aircraft. We began with a timed turn which initially went well, the first turn bringing me to within around 30 degrees of the required heading. I made a small slip when beginning the second attempt to reach the heading, beginning to turn the wrong way due to misinterpreting the compass. However, I caught this quickly (receiving a ‘well spotted’! from Roger) and the second attempt brought us to within 10 degrees of the heading. After a short final turn we were then on the required track. The required standard is that within around 60 seconds of the completion of the initial turn, the heading should have stabilised to within 15 degrees of the heading specified.

We repeated this with a turn to the left, and again this required a couple of small corrections after the initial turn, but on the whole I felt that this had gone better than it had on previous time I’d been required to demonstrate this. We then moved on to climbing and descending on partial panel, and again I managed these aspects of the flight better than I recall doing on previous occasions.

Roger then took control and had me look inside, carrying out some turns and climbs in order to attempt to disorient me. He then put the aircraft into a series of unusual attitudes and had me recover from these. These all went relatively well, although the recovery from the approach to the stall was perhaps a little slow, and I had to catch myself from adjusting the bank of the aircraft before I had got the airspeed back up sufficiently.

This completed the initial portion of the test profile, and Roger removed the covers from the AI and DI, and I settled myself back on full panel and oriented myself with respect to Brize Norton using the ADF and distance reading on the 430. I called them to request vectors to the ILS approach into runway 26, and the Controller began to give me headings to steer followed by a descent from our current altitude of nearly 6000 feet down to the ‘platform’ height of 2800 feet. I initially began this descent at 500 feet per minute, but it soon became clear that I needed to descend quicker than this in order to lose the required height in time. I made the mistake of attempting to get the ATIS (a recorded announcement giving airfield and weather information) after making the initial call to the Controller, when I should really have done this first. This meant I had to keep turning off the ATIS when the Controller was giving me instructions, meaning it took several attempts to get the full details.

As we approached platform height we entered cloud, meaning that the approach proper was mostly flown in ‘actual’ IMC. While good practice, I could probably have done without the increased turbulence brought on by this when carrying out a test for the renewal of my IMC rating! The Controller soon instructed us to continue our descent to 2300 feet, and began giving us headings to steer to intercept the localiser. Following Roger’s previous advice, I was taking care to set the heading bug on the DI as soon as a heading was given in order to use this to refer to. In hindsight, I should have written down the altitudes I was cleared to, as when cleared to 2300 I initially responded ‘descend altitude 2000’, before correcting myself with ‘correction, altitude 2300’. I’m not sure the Controller heard me correct myself, as he then repeated the instruction highlighting my mistake, but it was good to see that this required readback had highlighted a possibly misinterpretation, and the Controller had taken care to ensure I had correctly understood the instruction.

The Controller turned us to intercept the localiser, clearing us for the approach and asking me to report when established. I then began to include the ILS indication into my scan, watching for it starting to move so that I could turn to align myself with the runway track. However, I obviously wasn’t checking frequently enough, as between two checks the needle had gone from full-scale deflection to the right, to almost centred. Realising I’d left the turn too late, I resisted the urge to turn sharply to intercept (a mistake I’d made on previous occasions – when flying on instruments all turns should be made as standard ‘Rate 1’ turns). I set up a 20 or 30 degree intercept to re-capture the localiser, but failed to take into account that I now had a strong tailwind.

The Controller questioned whether I had captured the localiser, to which I responded ‘negative, attempting to capture now’, and the tailwind soon blew me back through the runway centreline on the other side. As I again tried to intercept, I noticed the glideslope was now active, and was starting to indicate that I was too high. Again, I correctly maintained height until established again (you should not begin descent on the glideslope until correctly aligned with the localiser) but by now the glideslope was more than half scale deflection below. I began the descent to see if I could regain the correct profile, but it soon became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to do this. I reluctantly announced to Roger that I’d messed this up and would have to follow the Missed Approach procedure, before initiating a climb back to 2800 feet and informing the Controller that we were going missed, asking if we could have another try. My tracking was a little off on the climb out (the missed approach procedure called for maintaining of runway track).

After a short period of quiet, we were cleared for another attempt, and began to be vectored back around to begin the procedure again. The missed approach instructions included a change back to the Approach frequency this time, and it took me a while to get the radios set up again with the required frequencies for the approach and missed approach. Roger was complimentary on my decision making in deciding to abandon the approach, as well as in respect to not beginning the descent before I was correctly established on the localiser. We were again vectored around (on a significantly wider pattern than normal to allow an aircraft to depart) before again being vectored to intercept the final approach track.

This time I made a much better job of capturing the localiser, beginning the turn to intercept as soon as the localiser needle started to move. The turbulence made maintaining the correct rate of descent a little tricky, and the workload increased somewhat as I got closer in to the runway and the needles became that much more sensitive. I had been counting down the height remaining to decision altitude, but was distracted slightly by a prompt from the Controller to confirm that I had the gear down. I lowered the gear and confirmed this to the Controller, levelling off as I approached DA. During the initiation of the Missed Approach procedure,  I did descend slightly below the specified minima, but this is allowed for in the criteria for the procedure.

The tracking on the Missed Approach was a lot better this time, and while climbing back to 2800 feet Roger instructed me to request 1300 feet to depart in order to remain below the cloud. I began to descend and Roger had me remove the hood in order to carry out the final requirement of the test, the bad weather circuit. It was strange to be able to see outside again, and I initially mis-identified Fairford for Kemble, before using the ADF and 430 to get a better idea of my position. We requested a frequency change back to Kemble and signed off, thanking the Controller for his service.

The bad weather circuit is a manoeuvre that might be required should an instrument approach be made successfully, and for some reason it not be possible to land at the first attempt. The test profile is to simulate a low cloudbase (in our case around 600 feet) and poor visibility (an IMC rated pilot is permitted to make a visual approach with visibility down to 1800m (about a mile). We would therefore approach Kemble down to 500 feet, before then carrying out a low, tight circuit in order to make a further attempt at landing. As we approached, Kemble were still using runway 08 and had another aircraft carrying out circuits as we approached. His position enabled us to join Downwind, and we followed him around the circuit.

He was just climbing out as we approach 500 feet, and we made a constant turn onto Downwind from around the mid-point of the runway in order to ensure we could stay inside the other aircraft, and hopefully land and clear the runway in time for him to continue his circuits without disruption. Still used to flying on instruments I initially started to make a rate 1 turn, before realising that this could easily put us more than a mile from the runway, and hence outside of visual range in our ‘simulated’ conditions. I tightened up the turn, establishing us on a Downwind leg on a circuit perhaps half the size of those normally flown at Kemble. I’d left a single stage of flap in to enable us to fly the circuit slower than normal, and carried out the pre-landing checks on the short Downwind leg.

I began another constant turn from Downwind to Final not long after passing abeam the threshold, and began a steady descent, pulling increasing stages of flap as required. On short final I made the usual checks (Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps – mixture rich, prop fully fine, gear down, flaps set) but omitted to mention ‘gear down’ on my ‘Final’ call. I elected to land long in order to prevent a lengthy taxy, but as a result of this ended up flying along the runway relatively low before eventually bringing us in for a slightly firm but acceptable landing. It had been a long time since I’d flown the Arrow, and I’d ‘forgotten’ to take account of the different control inputs required during the roundout when compared to a Warrior.

I kept the speed up as we taxyed along the runway, bringing the aircraft to a stop after passing the hold line and announcing that we were clear of the runway. Once the after landing checks were completed, we taxyed back to the parking area and positioned the aircraft in readiness for refuelling. Happily, Roger announced “We’ll call that a pass” as we shut down, and I was an IMC rated pilot again!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

Once we’d refuelled and pushed the aircraft back to its parking space we unloaded all our gear and headed back in to the Club to debrief. Roger was happy with my flying as a whole, saying that despite making a few mistakes I had proven that I was safe in all of the manoeuvres we’d carried out. While the initial ILS was abandoned due to an obvious mistake on my part, Roger was happy with my decision making during a time of relatively high stress, not least in avoiding the temptation to descend once the glideslope became active even though I wasn’t yet established on the localiser.

Roger had a few pointers to help reduce my workload in future, not least to try to get radios set up in good time and while the workload is light, including retrieving the ATIS in order to prevent tying up the frequency having the Controller pass the same information to me. He also reminded me that I should always report ‘Final, Gear Down’ when flying a retractable aircraft. This is something I often forget to include, although I’m always very careful to carry out the ‘Final’ check (often a number of times!) to ensure the gear is down and the aircraft is configured correctly.

I was pleased with how the flight had gone. I felt like I was always in good control of the aircraft despite a lack of practise at flying on instruments. Although allowing myself to get slightly behind the aircraft at times of high workload and stress, I had at least demonstrated an ability to make good and correct decisions even when the going got tough. I must try to make more of an effort to remain in practise with instrument flying, perhaps planning more trips to airfields with instrument approaches to try and fly approaches more regularly. On the whole, a tough but enjoyable flight!

Total flight time today: 1:30
Total flight time to date: 256:15

IMC Renewal

July 28, 2012

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

IMC Rating!

June 5, 2010

Had been trying to tie up with an Examiner ever since the last failed attempt at the IMC Flight Test, so was glad that I managed to find a window in both mine and Graham’s schedules that coincided with some decent flying weather! I hadn’t flown for over 6 weeks, so was also on the verge of dropping out of currency with Lyneham, so it was good to kill two birds with one stone on this flight!

My flight on instruments was generally pretty good despite the long lay off. We headed out towards the CPT VOR to do the tracking exercises. Graham had me track towards the VOR initially, and then had me turn to intercept a different radial as we got closer in. As ever, my trimming was a little poor on this flight, but this was exacerbated by the fact that conditions were perfect for the formation of lots of thermals today!

The recovery from unusual attitudes on full panel was again generally good, although I was perhaps a touch slow to recover from the approach to the stall.

My limited panel work wasn’t great, I had trouble maintaining height and the first couple of turns on the stopwatch weren’t particularly good. I obviously settled in to it though, as the final turn through 180 degrees was a lot better. Recovery from unusual attitudes was again pretty good on limited panel, although as usual I wasn’t particularly good at sorting out the trim!

Graham announced he was happy, and we headed back to Lyneham for an ILS approach. We received vectors for this to avoid having to head all the way to Lyneham only to then head back in this direction to fly the full procedure. My tracking of the ILS was a lot better on this flight, although I did still have a tendency to chase the needles slightly. Thinking back, in my entire flying career I’ve probably only flown about 10 ILS approaches, so hopefully things will improve as I get more practice.

The final approach to landing was generally Ok, but I think I flared a little high so the actual touchdown was a little firmer than I would otherwise have liked. On the taxy back to the Club Graham announced that he was happy, and after all the paperwork was completed I was the new holder (well, almost!) of an IMC Rating!

The track of the flight is below. I’m a little suspicious of the line from Lyneham to the CPT VOR. It looks far too straight for it to be correct, but there do appear to be GPS results all along it, so perhaps it is real!

The GPS track of the flight

The GPS track of the flight

Total flight time today: 1:10
Total flight time to date: 127:20

IMC Test Attempt 1

April 24, 2010

After a bit of frustration due to the Volcanic Ash around the UK, finally got to take the IMC Flight Test today. Was trying to arrange it with Graham but due to other commitments he was unable to make it. He managed to arrange for Roger to fly with me though.

Arrived at the Club in good time, and Roger gave me a quick brief about the flight before he went off with a student for another flight. I spent the time making sure I had all the plates I needed, and all the required frequencies on the plog. Roger had surprised me by asking for an ‘Alpha’ departure (I’d never done an instrument departure before!) but when I checked the plates it turns out that this is just a climb out on runway heading until 1600 feet QFE. Not too taxing!

After a good departure, I turned and intercepted the required track (220 radial from the LA NDB) and we headed out of the Zone. Ran into a small problem initially when we weren’t asked to report the Zone boundary so I didn’t know when we left the Zone. I made a quick guess based on the DME before setting QNH instead of QFE, probably a bit later than I should have done!

Roger had me climb up to 5000 feet, and we downgraded our Traffic Service to a Basic Service as he had good visibility. I had questioned this during the briefing and was a little surprised that he wanted a Traffic Service as it would likely result in a large volume of radio traffic.

My work on full panel was pretty good, I wasn’t having too much trouble holding height (my usual problem!) and all the turns onto specified headings went relatively well. Roger put me into some unusual attitudes, and I was slightly surprised that he had me close my eyes, as I didn’t think the test required this. Anyway, I managed some good recoveries and he seemed happy with how the flight had gone thus far.

We moved onto the limited panel work (without an Attitude Indicator or DI), and again this generally went well. Some of the turns onto heading went a little awry, I’m not 100% sure why, but I managed to regain the required heading relatively quickly which while wasn’t ideal, at least appeared to satisfy Roger. After the flight Roger gave me the tip to always take a pause before turning to ensure that the compass reading was correct (if you aren’t in straight and level flight the compass won’t read accurately).

Again Roger put me in some unusual attitude. Once again these were eyes closed, and Roger even adjusted the elevator trim on one. Still, I managed to recover well despite probably doing more than I strictly needed to!

Around this time Roger had me fix our position. I used the Compton VOR and the LA NDB. Roger didn’t comment on how accurate my fix was, but he announced he was happy so it can’t have been too far out.

Now it was time to track back to Lyneham for the approach part of the flight. The inbound track to the NDB went well, as I maintained the same track to the beacon. From there though, it all started to go a little wrong.

The outbound track from the from the NDB calls for a track of 088. Today, the 2000 foot wind was virtually from the South at about 20 knots, meaning this was almost a 90 degree crosswind for this leg. I made things trickier for myself by beginning a descent from 2600 feet on this leg, before quickly realising that this descent shouldn’t begin until the end of the leg. Roger said he was pleased I’d realised that in time! This distraction meant that I suddenly wasn’t on the correct track any more, so I made a good correction to regain track. However, I failed to make an appropriate correction for the rest of the leg and we continued to drift to the North.

I made the turn to intercept the localiser, but almost as soon as I’d levelled off the localiser needle was moving, so I had to make the turn to intercept. This should have been a clue as to the strength of the wind (not only had I been pushed North on the outbound leg, but also the base leg had been with a strong tailwind, meaning it took a lot less time than usual).

I just about managed to capture the localiser inside the limit (although I did overbank a little to do this) and again failed to correct for the southerly wind. As a result, we continued down the localiser right on the limit of half scale deflection of the localiser needle.

Roger asked me to try it again, and he positioned us for another ILS. He told me to use the time to plan the approach, and I failed to take the hint and correctly calculate an appropriate correction angle. As a result, although the second ILS was better, Roger still had to give me a number of pointers on the way down.

Once we reached 500 feet, Roger had me carry out a bad weather circuit to land. Somewhat flustered now by my two poor attempts at the ILS, I somehow managed to convince myself that instead of doing a single circuit to land on runway 24 (the runway the ILS leads on to) we were actually doing a circle to land on 06 (as I had done on all of my training flights due to the unusual easterly winds that week). As a result, my circuits was completely inappropriate. I ended up calling ‘Downwind’ and Roger had to tell the Controller to disregard it, as we were actually about to turn Crosswind. At this point, it became obvious the mistake I had made.

A Chinook was on an approach to a low level go around, so we had to orbit to the South of the field. At one point Roger took over and put us into a very steep turn to avoid annoying the locals by overflying their village at 500 feet. As we continued the approach, I at least felt I’d made a good crosswind landing given the conditions.

Roger took over and taxyed back, and announce what should have been obvious to me by now: ‘Sorry mate, I can’t pass you on that’.

Flight Track

Flight Track

We headed back into the Club and debriefed. Roger gave me a few tips to hopefully make things go a little easier on my next attempt and I left the Club feeling a little dejected about the whole thing. Of all the things I had been concerned about for the flight, the ILS had been the least of them and I had made a complete hash of it.

Hopefully I’ll be able to take the test again soon and make a better job of it next time.

Total flight time today: 1:30
Total flight time to date: 126:10

Finishing it all off

April 14, 2010

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


Unusual attitudes and an SRA

April 13, 2010

One of the items to be tested on the flight test is recovery from unusual attitudes on both full and partial panel. We decided to cover this today, as well as doing a couple of bad weather circuits at nearby Colerne to try to sort out the problem I’d been having with them.

We departed Lyneham and I was soon under the hood. We initially tracked direct to the KMB NDB, before tracking the VOR to Brecon for a while.

Once in clearer airspace, Mike put me into some unusual attitudes (nose high, close to the stall and turning, and nose low, speed increasing and turning) on both full and partial panel. I’d done some work on this previously with Matt, and in general my recoveries from these were pretty good. Useful to cover it again though to ensure that I hadn’t forgotten anything.

We then headed over to Colerne to practice some bad weather circuits. Mike initially demonstrated, flying a close in circuit with a constant descending turn from base to final, culminating in a landing very close to the threshold of the runway. I took over at 500 feet on the climbout, and had a go myself. Sadly, it didn’t go very well, and I ended up the wrong side of the runway with insufficient time  to recover the centre line. So, around we went and we headed away from Colerne again. Need some more practice with these.

Once clear of Colerne, Mike had me fix our position using the navigation instruments. Initially we did this using a cross cut between the Brecon and Daventry VORs. This basically involves using the cockpit CDI to work out what radial you’re on, then drawing this on the chart. Repeating the process for the other VOR given a sufficient cutting angle will give you a good estimate of the current position. My position had us a mile or two east of Hullavington, whereas we were actually a mile or two West. Not too bad on the whole.

We repeated the process again, and then tried the same thing using a VOR cut and a QDM from Lyneham (a radio derived bearing to the airfield from our position). In hindsight, a QDR would be more appropriate (the bearing from the airfield to us) to enable us to plot our position on the chart.

We tracked the CPT VOR for a while, before heading towards Kemble to practice some more holds. Sadly one of Ultimate High’s Extras was about to take off to do some aeros, but he kindly held on the ground for us to allow us to carry out one trip around the hold before we headed out to the West.

Back with Lyneham, we were given position for an SRA. This is similar to a PAR, with the difference that the Controller doesn’t have any height information. Every half mile on the approach the Controller will read out what height we should be at, and we use that information to adjust our descent rate.

That’s the theory anyway! After a couple of miles we ended up a little low. We hadn’t really briefed this approach properly, and all I did was level off for a while, then lower the nose again to continue the descent. As a result, we ended up perhaps 100 feet low at 500 feet. Conditions were a little blustery down low, and the landing wasn’t my best.

What I should have done on the approach was to enter level flight once we were told we were low, and hold this until the Controller issued the next height indication. We could then use this information to decide whether to recommence the descent or not.

Flight Track

Flight Track

On the whole a good flight, but I need some more practice at bad weather circuits and SRAs.

Total flight time today: 1:55
Total flight time to date: 121:05

More holds and some ILSs

April 12, 2010

After yesterdays poor attempts at holding, we were hoping to redress that a little with today’s flights!

The plan for the first flight was to take up the hold at Compton (it being a weekday it should be a lot quieter today), then return to Lyneham for an NDB/ILS approach to 24, culminating in a bad weather circuit to land on 06.

After a normal departure (they all seem like that these days!) I was soon under the hood. We tracked direct to the Compton VOR, switching to Brize Radar as we neared the beacon to receive a Traffic Service due to the fact that we were popping in and out of cloud.

The holds today went a lot better, although in fairness they were made a lot easier by the fact that there was next to no cross wind at the level we were flying. We carried out a number of holds at the CPT VOR, with each one going pretty much to plan. Once complete we again headed back to Lyneham.

Tracking direct to the LA NDB, we carried out a teardrop entry into the hold. Again, the holds around the NDB went pretty well, helped somewhat by the lack of crosswind. After a couple of trips around the hold we carried out the procedure for the NDB approach to runway 24. This involves initially tracking away from the beacon for some 8 miles, before turning to intercept the localiser and continue down the ILS.

Tracking an ILS is very similar to tracking a VOR, with the additional complication of having a glideslope needle to follow as well. The full scale deflection is only some 3 degrees compared to the 10 degrees for the VOR indication, so much smaller turns are required to maintain track. On the whole the ILS went Ok, but I never really felt I captured either the localiser or glideslope correctly, always being around half scale deflection on both.

Once down to 500 feet or so, Mike had me remove the hood and we positioned for a left downwind approach to 06. Being in the circuit at half the usual height was very alien to me, and I made a bit of a mess of the base and final legs, ending up very high over the threshold after having to track back in due to overshooting the centre line by a long way. At a more normal airfield this approach would have been abandoned, but having 2 miles of runway at Lyneham meant that there was plenty of time to get things stabilised.

The approach ended in a rather messy crosswind landing, far from my best!

Flight Overview

Flight Overview

CPT Hold

CPT Hold

LA Hold

LA Hold

For the second flight, we decided to manufacture a crosswind in the hold by heading up the Kemble’s relatively new NDB, and fly a North based hold around it. After a short hop to Kemble we were soon speaking to them, and entering the hold at 4000 feet to remain well clear of any other traffic operating around Kemble.

The holds again went very well, with a good capture of the inbound heading after each outbound leg. Things had certainly improved an awful lot since the first failed attempt at holds around the Brecon VOR!

After a few trips around the hold, we again tracked back to the LA NDB, for another attempt at the ILS. Things were a little more busy at the airfield, and we abandoned the plan to hold in order to fit in with other traffic. We headed outbound from the beacon, and the Controller asked us to turn much earlier (at around 4 or 5 miles instead of the usual 8). As a result, I passed through the localiser and never really captured it again. This was partly because of trying to capture it much closer to the field, and also not helped by me making heading adjustments that were much too large to attempt to recapture it.

As a result, I wasn’t happy with the performance on the ILS. Once visual, we carried out another bad weather circuit (this time positioning for a left downwind) and again the base and final turns weren’t executed very well, leading to us being much higher than we should have been over the threshold. I think this is something I’m going to need to work on again.

Flight Overview

Flight Overview

KMB Hold

KMB Hold

LA Hold and ILS

LA Hold and ILS

Mike seems generally happy with my progress on the whole, and we’ve been talking about when to get the flight test organised. I also have a written exam to prepare for, and there’s been some debate as to whether I can do the flight test first (as I’d planned) or whether I need to get the written exam out of the way. Must get that resolved soon.

Total flight time today: 2:50
Total flight time to date: 119:10

VOR Hold

April 11, 2010

The main focus for today was getting to grips with holding. This is one of the things I’d been most concerned about after reading the books, as it seemed to be quite involved. We had planned to do this on the previous flight out at the Compton VOR, but as it was so busy we decided that this wouldn’t be such a good idea.

After a normal departure, I was soon under the hood and tracking towards the Brecon VOR. We planned to enter the hold with an inbound track of 270 degrees and left hand turns. We had calculated the appropriate drift and timing for the outbound leg before leaving, so in theory this should have been relatively easy.

The tracks show this to be far from the case though! The first couple of times around the hold I found it pretty difficult to maintain the correct track and level. The last couple of holds felt a whole lot better, but I noticed some odd behaviour from the DI on the outbound leg of our final hold. It was behaving as if it had ‘toppled’, and when we completed and headed back it was shown to be a mile out from the compass setting. As a result, the detail track below shows that our last couple of holds were on a heading of something like 045 for the outbound leg, as opposed to the correct 090.

We tracked back to the LA NDB, and were given another PAR approach. This again went well, and the flight ended in a relatively normal landing.

VOR Holds Overview

VOR Holds Overview

VOR Holds

VOR Holds

More work needed on holds by the look of things! Next flight, some ADF and VOR holds and an ILS.

Total flight time today: 1:50
Total flight time to date: 116:20

ADF and VOR Tracking

April 10, 2010

The plan for today’s flights was to do some NDB and VOR tracking, followed by some holds.

The day was pretty much ideal for anything except IMC training! Barely a cloud in the sky and next to no wind.

The first flight was planned to head to the Gloucester overhead (tracking the GST NDB) then out to the Brecon VOR and back to Lyneham. If possible we would carry out a PAR back into Lyneham.

Checks and takeoff were normal, and I was soon under the hood. The GST NDB had been identified on the ground, and we then tracked it to the Gloucester overhead. Mike handled most of the radio work to give me chance to concentrate on the flying initially.

The tracking to Gloucester went fairly well, and once we passed the NDB we tracked towards the Brecon VOR on the radial we were on. Again, this went fairly well, and the tracks show a distinct improvement in my tracking of the various radio aids over the course of the flight.

Overhead the Brecon VOR, we then tracked back to Lyneham using the NDB, being passed from Cardiff to Bristol and finally to Lyneham. It felt like being a proper airline pilot!

The approach into Lyneham this time was a PAR. In the past I’d done an SRA with Matt. The PAR is similar, with addition of height information being available to the Controller on the talkdown frequency. As a result rather than just being issued target heights, you are given regular updates as to whether you were on the glideslope or not, as well as progress towards the runway centre line.

It was very satisfying to remove the hood at about 500 feet and have the runway appear directly in front of us!

VOR and ADF Tracking 1

VOR and ADF Tracking 1

The plan for the second flight was to practice some holds at the Compton VOR. Again, a normal departure, and the tracking towards the VOR went fairly well. As we approached the VOR though, we were receiving lots of traffic information. There appeared to be a number of gliders thermalling not far from the beacon, and as usual it was a bit of a funnel point for GA traffic too. As a result we decided not to practice holds in the busy airspace, and just continue the NAV part of the flight.

So once we reached the VOR we headed for the BZ NDB. I was back on my old stomping ground again, although this time I couldn’t see anything! Mike said we passed overhead the field at not far from the midpoint of the runway, so my tracking was obviously Ok.

Heading back to Lyneham to the NDB, they were unable to offer a PAR this time, so Mike established us on a left downwind and I removed the hood. The rest of the approach was standard VFR flight, to the ground.

VOR and ADF Tracking 2

VOR and ADF Tracking 2

On the whole a couple of pretty good flights. I need to pay a bit more attention to my height keeping, and I still have the tendency to over-bank in turns when I’ve got a lot on! Must pay attention to that.

Total flight time today: 2:45
Total flight time to date: 114:30

Above the clouds, with my eyes closed!

April 5, 2010

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