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.
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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