Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Month: February 2018

Twists, Turns, Spirals, and a Vacuum issue…. and I haven’t even left the ground!

So today, much like the previous couple of lessons, the weather just isn’t cooperating for a real flight.  So back to the sim we go to work on fundamentals with more twists, turns, spirals, etc…

I have to be honest, even though the sim is twitchy and I am not aloft in the wild blue yonder, I do kind of enjoy the exercises.  Today we started the same way as last lesson with a low vis takeoff and then tracking the LIB VOR.

We performed an exercise to validate the turn coordinator.  We calculated bank angle based on the speed of the aircraft.

(True AirSpeed/ 10) * 1.5  will give you the bank angle for a standard rate turn.

In order to prove this point, we tried 120 kts and 80 kts in order to see that the turn coordinator always read correctly even though our bank angles were different for the different speeds.  Neeto!

Next We jumped right into the Pattern A to get warmed up.  I thought all was well but somewhere in the haze of everything, I completely missed a 45 degree right turn, so my final track was a bit askew.  Outwardly, I kind of shrugged it off but inwardly, I had my first signs of doubt. If I would have missed this in the air, for realsy, I would be lost.  Why did I not pick up on that sooner?  I guess this is all part of the learning process.

We next moved on to a new pattern, Pattern C.  My instructor gave me this pattern at the end of the previous lesson and I meant to try it on my sim at home first.  The best that I got, was looking over it yesterday a bit.  I knew that this was going to be an interesting pattern. You be the judge (Below).

Pattern C

Two of 270 degree and two 450 degree turns with mixed climbs and descents, I made the comment that there was no way this was going to go well.  My reservations aside, I jumped into the flying and took it one step at a time. (PSA: I am using the term “Flying” here pretty loosely since I am in a room… in a converted car seat in front of a computer. But hey… it works.)

I won’t bore you with the details but overall I think I did fairly well.  The big takeaway from this exercise is that by memorizing your pitch/power settings and if you can stay at least one step ahead of the airplane, you will be ok.  For me, it helps to constantly brief.  After a turn, brief the next leg, then brief the next turn… just keep talking.  I am pretty sure that is what my instructor is looking for but it really does help me.

After the C pattern, we worked on a few partial panel exercises, vacuum failures and then pitot static failure.  My instructor would pose as ATC calling out headings and throwing in a climb and descent at certain locations.  Pitot static failure is where really knowing your pitch/power settings help you tremendously.  Since you don’t have an airspeed indicator, knowing that a certain RPM and pitch attitude gives you a resultant airspeed.  You can also climb and descend at a given airspeed by the same chart.  It was actually really cool…. like magic!

Lastly, we performed some compass based maneuvers.  Working on UNOS, (Undershoot North, Overshoot South).  We worked on 180’s and 360’s to see how this effect worked.  Honestly, the simulator didn’t do a very good job of the lag or the lead on the turns.  We will work on this again in the real aircraft.

Overall it was a pretty good session.  Still looking for the elusive real aircraft lesson.  I am hoping that the foundation that I have been building in the sim, translates to the real world.  We shall see! And you will hear about it!


Time, Turn, Twist, Throttle, Talk …. Oh My!

The Setup

Today was an IFR type of day.  However, I am not quite ready to be unleashed into the fluffy stuff.  So we decided that some basic maneuvers in the sim would be a good course of action. The 5 T’s, Time, Turn, Twist, Throttle, Talk or slowly burning into my mind.

My instructor informed me that we would be working on basic maneuvers including climbs, descents, turns and some VOR tracking.  Basically putting to use the pitch power graph that I built in our previous lesson.  I spent a bit of time trying to memorize the pitch power graph and I do believe it helped with my workload in this lesson.

In order to put it all together, we would be performing some basic patterns that are meant to simulate the type of maneuvering that one would do for a departure, approach, etc.

Example of one of the patterns:


Pattern A


It doesn’t look like much but if you get behind the airplane it could get really messy.  At the moment, I have the ability to have my instructor freeze the sim if I need to decompress or to think through what is next.  When you’re in the soup, that is not an option.

I think that I did fairly well thinking through and verbalizing my way through the patterns.  I honestly thought they were a lot of fun but then again, I am on the ground sitting in a building.  It will be a lot different when it really counts.  One of the issues that I exhibited in the beginning was that when I would go to change the heading bug “Twist”, I would slightly bring the yoke with me as I reached to the right.  This would steepen the turn and cause the standard rate turn calculation to be off.  I was able to manage that a little better as the lesson progressed.

The Lesson

So, first off, my instructor had me take off from an extremely low visible situation.  The idea was to fly the directional gyro and hit the numbers just like a normal takeoff except I can’t actually see where I am going.  In real life, I would never do this but it is technically a legal for part 91 operations.  It is the case of just because it is legal, doesn’t mean that it is smart.

I was instructed to takeoff and track to the LIB VOR.  So shortly after takeoff my first goof came into play.  I setup the VOR frequency and as I lifted off, I was waiting for it to come alive. Waiting… waiting… waiting.  Then I had a feeling that I am sure will become super familiar in the near future.  That feeling of something doesn’t seem right here and I am not sure what is going on.  It turns out that I entered the frequency into the Nav2 so the VOR2 was actually tracking but I was looking at VOR1 which is really controlled by the GPS Radio.  My instructor saw that I was confused and politely paused the sim so we could discuss.  Again, not something you can do when you’re in the soup and ATC is barking at you.

Once that was all sorted, I tracked to the VOR with some climbs, descents and speed changes.  This was the warm up for the pattern work.  (See the “Pattern A” above).

I actually felt pretty good performing the two patterns that we worked on today.  Pattern A was more about timing and turns.  Pattern B added speed changes and a step down descent at the end.  The final maneuver was a missed approach in which I learned a new memory aid,  Cram, Climb, Clean, Cool, Call  (Neato!).  At that point the lesson was over, we didn’t actually execute any missed to a hold.  At this point we had been going for nearly 2 hours.  I think my brain was probably as full as it would get.

You can really see how things are starting to come together.  At each turn I would go through the 5 T’s, (Time, Turn, Twist, Throttle, Talk).  I think I have that burned into my brain now. lol

Here are the results:


Pattern A


Pattern B











(Below is the plotted patterns on the sim.)

Actual Pattern


You can see that they sort of look like the pattern that I was shooting for.  Of course they also look like they could be a virus as well.

Overall, I am enjoying the training so far and looking forward to the next lesson.  I look forward to performing these patterns in a real skyhawk.  I will try to remember to record my flight and link it with Cloud Ahoy so we can compare the sim session with real life.

On a side note:  I moved my blog to a new server, setup SSL and in the process borked the image viewer/uploader.  I think I worked things out but it took me hours during this post to figure it out.  Stupid wordpress update.

Second IFR Flight Lesson: Mixed Reality

Today is the day we were scheduled to take to the skies for the first, real, IFR flight lesson.  The forecast looked great leading up to today. Besides some frost on the airplane and an airmet Sierra for mist, it turned out to be a wonderful day.

We don’t fly with frost on the wings, period… full stop.  There is no reason to take that risk when you can just wait a little bit for the temperature to rise and the sun to do its work.  So while we waited for a natural defrost and fired up the simulator.

The simulator is an interesting tool.  It isn’t quite what you would normally expect in the era of Prepar3d and Xplane.  Think more like Microsoft flight Sim circa 1995.  Which is completely fine because who needs whizzbang graphics when you can’t really see where you’re going anyway.  The actual setup is pretty neat.  You have all of the normal flight controls and then you have a simulated instrument stack with physical knobs and buttons. I kinda wish I had that type of hardware on my fancy simulator at home.

We jumped right in and started building a”Pitch and Power Profile” for the simulated skyhawk.  Basically, the idea is that we would try power settings and pitch settings to see if we could get the climb, level flight, and descent conditions that we would expect.  This will help with the increased workload. Thinking about climb, level, and descent setup, just takes up brain power that could be spent talking to ATC or setting up your approach, etc. This all builds on the idea that we will be very predictable throughout the IFR flight.  Turns, headings, 500 ft/min  or 1000 ft/min climbs and descents.

Example profile:

Vx Climb -> Power: Full -> Pitch: +12 degrees -> Airspeed: 65 -> 900 ft/min

These don’t exactly translate to the real thing but they get you in the ballpark.

After about 45 minutes of building the profile chart by hand, I ran out to check on the airplane to see how the great and powerful sun was doing.  Most of the frost was gone so I spun the airplane around, using my mighty muscles (yeah, there is a joke in there somewhere), so that the sun could finish getting the frost off of the windscreen and leading edge.

After a quick talk we decided to go out and try to do the same thing we just did but instead of virtual reality, in reality reality.  After a quick 15 on the engine preheater, we jumped in the REAL skyhawk and I prepared to dazzle my new instructor with my elite flying skills.  In reality, I just wanted to fly reasonably competent so that I am representing my former instructor in a good light.  In short, I knew I had rust and was completely ready to be schooled.

As we went through the startup checklist, run-up etc.  I learned a few new things like what to do when I get to the item that says “IFR Taxi Check”.  Previously, since I am a VFR pilot I hit that item and looked around to assert that I am taxiing and it is indeed…. NOT IFR at the moment.  Of course it really means something totally useful as far as making sure that your primary instrument cluster is behaving properly before leaving the ground.  Kind of a useful thing if you are going to rely on them soon after leaving the ground.

I also learned how to usefully check that the autopilot will function properly.  My checkout instructor didn’t care for autopilots so he only taught me how to make sure it doesn’t make any noises while i’m flying. I could have pressed him to learn but if figured hand flying was more useful at my stage of development.  I am sure I will get more familiar with that as time goes on.

Oh yeah, I totally blew by a few information screens on the gps that my instructor wanted to go over with me. She played it cool and said we will go over that next time.

Skipping ahead, we take off and start our climb  As we climbed away from the airfield, it was pointed out that even in this simple by the numbers climb, we were basically on the Pitch and power profile that we outlined in the simulator.  Neato!

As we get to our cruise altitude, I hear the phrase that will probably ring out every flight from here on out.

“Go ahead and put on your foggles”.  I comply and now the game is afoot. (<- that spelling doesn’t look right but spell check says it’s all good, I not spell so good in other places either, sooo….)

We spent some time completing climbs and descents using the profile.  Along with some speed changes.  We followed this up with some steep turns and slow flight clean with a transition to dirty.  The bulk of the time she gave me headings and altitudes and I did my best to work on my scan and comply.

Overall it was a pretty good flight.  I had moments where I could feel the mental saturation starting to creep back in.  During debrief, we discussed how I pretty much had us in a spiral on my left steep turn.  We lost a good bit of altitude.  I think I did a little better on my right steep turn as some of my primary training started to kick back in.  On a side note, the G-forces are much more noticeable in a steep turn when you’re under the hood. Neato, dos!

I am looking forward to the next flight which is in little over a week.  I felt pretty good after 1.0 hrs of hood work.  I’m not nearly as fatigued as I felt during my primary training.  I think that is partly due to a combination of my overall flying experience and that the skyhawk behaves a lot more predictably than the mighty 152.  The pitch + power profiles also helped things out a bit I’m sure.  It was nice during my scan, most things were pretty much where they should be with only minor corrections needed.

In the 152, it always seemed that every instrument during the scan need a pretty sizeable correction everytime through.  Of course maybe it is just due to my Elite flying ability now, lol.  (Hazardous attitude detected, corrections applied)  Oh yeah, in the meantime…. back to studying for my next ground school class.

It was good to be back in the air training…It was a good day to fly!

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