Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Month: June 2018

Life Thwarting My Progress Err Vacation For Realz

Well, life isn’t exactly thwarting my progress as much as me needing to take a vacation.  My family and I spent 10 days at Disney World to reward ourselves for surviving Soccer and Dance Seasons.  This, coupled with some aircraft scheduling conflicts, has lead to a bit of a flying drought.

It will still be another week or so before I am back on the flying schedule and I need to do my club annual as well.  I should be back to blogging shortly. In the meantime, I am trying to focus on some simulator time and getting ready for my club annual which consists of two tests and a flight test.  I am hoping to roll this into my ifr training in order save some time (and money) but I also want to get it done soonish so I can fly outside of my training flights.

My wife and I are obnoxiously big Disney fans (don’t judge), so here are some pics from our vacation!


Getting on the Magical Express!


Entering the park for the first time


I love the view of the castle from main street


My daughter said it would take 20 pics to get this… second try!


Me and the Man! D-Duck!


It was my wife and daughters birthday trip!

VOR tracking, Communicate, Leave the state… just barely.

In todays Lesson, we planned for the KDAN (Danville Virginia) VOR 20 approach and then back to TTA for the RNAV 21 approach.  This lesson contained a healthy amount of VOR tracking to DAN and some partial panel on the return.

Once I arrived, my instructor confirmed the weather and said we were all good for the KDAN trip.  Once preflight was complete, we did our run up and this time I made sure all of the radios were set for navigation.  This entailed dialing in the KDAN VOR and RAL VOR initially with the SBV (South Boston) VOR for once we got closer to our destination.

We departed KTTA and I was given a mock vector and altitude of 4500′ and cleared direct DAN, with a confirmirmation once established on course.  Once I reached 1800′ I called up Raleigh approach for the flight following and this is where the wheels fell off.  I have never had much of an issue making a call for flight following but my tongue decided to throw me a curve.

Once given the squawk code, I established myself on the KDAN VOR.  “53587 established on course to DAN”.   “Are you sure that you are established?”  Um… well… uh.  At that point I got the hint that I needed to verify the VOR audibly.  Doh.  Ok.  Next my instructor asked me to let him know when the old Chapel hill Airfield would be at our 2 o’clock.  Ok, let’s see.  I have the Raleigh VOR and if I set it up for the 279 radial, when we are on that radial, the airfield should be at our 2 o’clock… easy peasy?  “Are you sure?” Oh doh!, verify the RAL VOR. At this point, I told him that if I was smart I would have verified the RAL VOR after I verified the the DAN VOR.

A lot of this is just getting into the habit and it will come with time.  The important part here is that I was not overloaded and I was able to use the 2 VOR’s effectively to figure how where we were.

I was asked a few times to report where on the track we were currently and I did this by using the secondary VOR.  When I switched over to use the SBV VOR as we neared Danville.. I verified the VOR audibly… YAY!!!!!

I briefed the approach and we got the ASOS at DAN.  Raleigh Approach released us and my instructor said “About 10 miles out we will start making radio calls”.  This was the cue to figure out how to tell if we are 10 miles out.  Easy peasy, find the spot on our track that is 10 nm’s out and then get the radial to the SBV VOR and dial that in.  Once the VOR Centers, Robert’s your mothers brother.  Or bob’s your uncle, which ever you like better.

“Skyhawk 53587, cleared for the VOR 20 approach, cross DAN at or above 3000 until established”.  I won’t bore you with the details of how many times I had to have this clearance read before my read back was correct.  I began my descent from 4500 down to 3000.

Once over the DAN VOR, we started the clock… err…. I was reminded we needed to start the clock for a 3 minute outbound before the procedure turn.  As we tracked outbound I made sure we could identify EDWIN on SBV.  By being able to identify EDWIN we are able to descend 400 feet lower.  This would be awesome if we were actually in the soup.

Side Note, I learned that due to a recent regulation change, you are now allowed to identify intersections like EDWIN using GPS.  Evidently, in the past, this was not allowed.

Everything else about the approach was pretty standard.  I completed the procedure turn and then once established, descended to 1480 until EDWIN, then down to 1060 and foggles off, for the cross-wind offset landing.

Why Offset landing?  One of the more interesting things about this approach was that the runway is actually offset 5 degrees from the approach course.  The approach course is 195 and the runway course is 200.  No big deal but the visual in my head about where the runway would be located did not match reality.  I figure it would be more right in the windscreen.  No matter, I was able to actually complete a competent crosswind landing which was probably the highlight of the flight to be honest.

After the touch and go I performed the missed and was given vectors and altitude of 3000.  “Wow, your GPS started working again!  Cleared direct to OZOPE”.  I punched in the RNAV 21 OZOPE approach in the GPS, set the CDI and turned direct.  At this point I was told that I should contact Raleigh Approach about 30 miles out.  This radio call was better than the first call when we left TTA.  I got the squawk and ident even though she didn’t ask for ident.  I am an idiot. ugh.    Listening is fundamental kids.

As we go closer, I briefed and we tried to get the weather at TTA a few times to try to figure out if we would have to perform the circle approach.  Once we reached OZOPE, I slowed us down and by this time, we knew we would need to circle to land. Oh, and now we are partial panel, no AI or DG. Meh, no biggie.

Once I hit YUXSI, we cancelled flight following and I commenced to blowing radio calls at TTA.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how far away we were.  I kept telling them we were on the RNAV 21 approach instead of simply inbound final runway 21 circling approach 03.  Eventually, I got my act together and followed the glide path down to the circling minimums of 760, took off the foggles and joined the downwind for runway 3.  It was good practice flying the tight short pattern. In hindsight, I didn’t actually make a radio call after I called downwind until I said I was taxiing back.  UGHHHHH.  My radio work is very porous at the moment.  IT WILL GET BETTER!!!!


Ok, radio communication flubs aside, I guess I should be heartened that I did make more radio calls today. Handled dialing in the nav frequencies, and tracked the VOR’s and generally navigated well.  My instructor seems to be pleased with my progress and in general I know that I am hard on myself.  It was a really fun flight though and I had a great time.  Looking forward to the next flight which should be to KHRJ for the Localizer 05 .

A real world learning experience and 2 new approaches

Today I was able to get in 3 different approaches and one came with a real world learning experience.  The plan for todays lesson was to fly a VOR/DME Arc (VOR/DME A) at KCTZ (Clinton Sampson County)  and then fly the PAR at Fort Brag (PAR 27).    That was really cool because not many students, or pilots in general have access to that type of approach.  We couldn’t land, but were cleared for the low approach. Once the PAR was completed back to TTA for the ILS 03 Y approach but best laid plans?

Today was an interesting lesson really because of a lot of different factors not just because of the wide range of approaches.  My company scheduled a last minute meeting that would have me cutting it really close on my lesson.  If you have read previous posts, you know it is really important to me to be thoroughly prepared.  I felt like I was rushing all the way up to the point the lesson began. I knew that I was in a rush but I made sure to take my time with preflight because this a big bear trap.  You don’t want to be a statistic because you rushed the pre-flight in order to get off the ground quicker.  I kept this in my mind for the entire process.

Part of my unpreparedness came in the form of not having the latest downloads in ForeFlight. It caused me a momentary issue on one of the approaches because it wouldn’t activate the geo-referenced plate overlay.  However, it isn’t a big deal, the plate is for briefing. However there was an update to the missed approach altitudes that my instructor relayed to me.

Once off the ground, we turned toward the FAY VOR. The is the VOR used for the DME Arc). We picked up flight following from Fayetteville approach and requested the VOR/DME-A approach with HOCKMU as the IAF.  Once in the system, we flew direct HOCKMU at 3000 with a clearance to stay above 2500 until we crossed ALEXA (IF).

I felt really good flying the airplane today, stable and ahead of the airplane.  Ahead of the radios? not so much.  I made a few sporadic radio calls and a few times I hesitated and right before I was going to make the call, my instructor would do it for me.  I think I need to be a little more assertive in this respect.  On the bright side, I feel ahead of the airplane enough that I felt I could make some radio calls, but I still need a lot of work in this area.

One thing that I am still forgetting is that we need to get weather at the destination.  Since this was a circle to land, we need to know which runway. doh!  This is another thing that I am not sure why I am tripping over.  When I fly on my own, this is automatic.

Back to the arc.  Flying the arc wasn’t all that bad.  We don’t have a DME in the airplane so we simulated it using the gps.  My instructor killed the moving map and we were able to just see the waypoint distances to use in order to simulate the arc.  I never really felt behind and I think that was due to how well my instructor eased me into it.  He gave me a couple of instructions about nudging the turns to check to see if we get the desired results… ie. distance is converging or sticking to exactly 12 miles.  He also had me adjusting the VOR to know what radial I was on in order to know where in the arc I was flying.

This was interesting because he approached it as a (Paraphrasing) “Just twist this every so often so that you know where you are and you can tell me”.  The point was really to know how close we were to the 095 degree radial which is ALEXA and the turn inbound.

I really like the way my instructor can break things down in a simple manner that would otherwise be complex.  Sometimes instructors will go through the entire process on the ground (It’s cheaper right?) but then in the airplane you are trying to remember the whole sequence and you start to get behind the airplane.  Once you get behind the airplane, bad things happen. I really liked the way this was conveyed during the lesson.  Once we reached ALEXA, I turned us inbound and flew the step down for the circling approach.  This is where I performed a less than graceful touch and go (for the X-Ctry time).  It was really less than graceful, we’ll leave it at that.

Once on the missed, we asked approach for the PAR 27 (Precision Approach Radar) at Fort Bragg.  This was really cool because not many students much less certificated pilots get the chance to do a PAR in real life.  Again my instructor broke it down pretty nicely for me.  He gave me the skinny on what the controller will say “Right 270”, “Slightly left of track correcting”… things of that nature.  He also told me the many traps students fall into.  Like when they say “Slightly left of track, correcting…”, it is advisory in nature, no need to do anything it is just letting us know what he sees.  I really really had fun on this approach.  I felt stable and was able to split the DG by single degrees.  It felt really awesome that I could be that precise.  I’m sure my instructors definition of precise is a little different. But I felt good about it, lol.

After we reached minimum altitude, was told the controller we would go missed and we flew our missed approach and went back over to Fayetteville approach for our return to KTTA.

We requested vectors to KTTA for the ILS 03 Y approach.  Now this is where a real world learning experience comes into play.  I was able to get through the approach brief and I began working on setting up the radios when my instructor said “Remember, we need to tune in to verify the ILS”.  VOR 2 on the correct frequency and turned up the volume….. um…… static…. um… nothing.  I say that it doesn’t seem to be working.  “Well, let’s try the other one”.   I setup VOR 1, and static.  hmm.  “What do we do?”  We talked about how we couldn’t fly the ILS because duh, something is wrong but we can fly the RNAV so we reconfigured for the RNAV 03 approach.

This was interesting in a few ways but most importantly, the learning aspect.  There wasn’t yet a published NOTAM about this. And this goes to prove why at TTA the ILS 03 Y approach is not allowed to be used as an alternate.  In real life, THIS CAN HAPPEN!  So what do you do.  It was a good lesson in decision making.  Of course my instructor already knew this because it wasn’t working earlier and he gathered a few bits of info to report on.  Oddly enough the glide-slope seemed to be working, no flag. weird

Once down to minimums, I pulled off the foggles and landed the airplane.  This time I landed with a hint of competency.  I don’t know why those demons are haunting me, I think I am just in my own head about it.  In the past, landings have always been one of the things I did well. Oh well, I will get better.  Always learning they say!

So 3 approaches today, two new ones and one with a curveball.  The one thing I like about flying is, no matter how much crap is going on in your daily life, work, family, etc.  Flying allows me to put it all aside. While I am flying, none of that even exists, just the task at hand.  I really love to fly and I am really enjoying IFR training.  I know a lot of people just kind of slog through it to get to some checkpoint or goals for the future, but I really enjoy it.  Part of that comes from the instructors and members of our flying club. Most are not there because they have to be, or as a stepping stone.  And most of all, I see why our instructors win so many AOPA awards including my current one.

So no matter the rush, the stress of meetings and the pressure of life, I got to fly today.

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