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.