Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Page 2 of 9

Building time and new places

Today and for the next couple of flights, it will be about building time for my IFR.  I am around 20 hrs short for cross country and simulated/actual time.  My instructor has cut me loose to fly with a safety pilot in order to get some of these hours, so I am taking advantage.

I have found a few Safety pilots that are willing to look out for me while I fly VFR with the foggles in order to get credit for simulated.  My original plan was KTTA -> KCRE -> KEDE -> KTTA which is about a 4 hour trip.  However, weather had other ideas.  I noticed that there was a low pressure being pushed across the border of NC and SC that would bring yuck weather south and up the Coast of NC.  Once I accepted this would be more probable than not, I planned an alternate path.

We ended up with plan B, KTTA -> KCPK -> KDAN -> KTTA.  This would take us northerly still within the dominate high pressure area and away from the yuck.

We preflighted and jumped in the skyhawk, me the pilot and a pilot friend of mine as the safety pilot.  We briefed responsibilities, I was PIC, he was PIC as well when I was under the hood.  He was responsible for safety of flight. In an emergency, I would have the controls, he would have the checklist and troubleshoot. Crew resource management was the name of the game.

We departed at 10:00 am and headed for KCPK (Chesapeake Regional Airport) at 5500′.  I picked up flight following from Raleigh Approach and we were on our way.  Pretty uneventful trip, that terminated with an RNAV 5 approach at KCPK.

Once on the ground, we taxied to refuel.  After refueling, we used the facilities and checked the weather… all was good.  After a few minutes troubleshooting why our secondary comms were not turning on, (Turns out was a bad switch that had to be coaxed a little) we prepped for our trip to KDAN (Danville).

Once we were airborne, I picked up following from Norfolk approach.  We stayed at 3000 feet due to clouds.  The ride was more bumpy and I had to work more under the hood, but pleasant and uneventful.  We finished this leg with an RNAV 20 approach at KDAN.

After refueling, we departed on our final short leg back to KTTA.  When we were 5 miles from KTTA, I pulled the hood off and made a normal crosswind landing on runway 3.

Total Trip time: 4.4

Simulated time: 3.8

As you can see, I spent quite a bit of time simulated today. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad.  I remember back during my private, simulated would exhaust me. Today I felt pretty good.  I guess it means that I am starting to get the hang of the scan and workload.

I think the main takeaway from this trip is that I was able to practice all of the things my instructor has trained me to do.  Like setting up navigation and radios, thinking ahead to the next event, briefing the approach, talking with ATC.  Even though I was only on flight following, I made requests for altitude changes, requests for the approaches, etc.  I was vectored or given direct to the approaches just like when we are on an IFR clearance.  It helped me build some confidence and I felt like a real pilot using the tools of the trade.

All in all it was a good day.  I got to fly and airplane… a lot…. under the hood.  And I made some much needed progress towards my instrument rating!

Enjoy some pics from todays flight:


Back in the foggles, first localizer back course

Today’s lesson had me back in the foggles for a quick trip to Fayetteville (KFAY).  With the rise of GPS approaches, localizer back courses will soon be a thing of the past so it is cool to try them while they exist.

I arrived at the airfield and performed the pre-flight like normal.  My instructor asked me to check KFAY to see if the winds favor the Loc 22 BC.  Indeed they were.  We have talked about doing this approach for the last couple of lessons but one thing or another has caused us to change plans.  Mostly my club annual that I have mention about a million times.  Don’t worry, it’s done.  I won’t mention it anymore…. I promise.

Until next year…

So we jumped in the airplane and started our flight preparations.  I was able to setup the radios and our initial navigation mostly on my own.  My instructor had to prompt me a few times with phrases like… “What else can we setup ahead of time?”  I am starting to get better on the preparation but still have to button down a few things.

I set the primary and en-route radios, including the Localizer frequency for the approach.  Loaded up our initial flight plan, a simple direction KTTA->KFAY.

As we departed, my instructor gave me an initial altitude of 2500 and when I asked if we should turn toward KFAY, “You’re cleared direct to KFAY at 2500” and we were on our way.  I reached over and re-sequenced direct to KFAY and performed the match-set operations.  My instructor helped out by checking the ATIS and we were current with information Zulu.

At this point, I am thinking, how do I get ahead of the airplane.  Looking back, this in itself is progress.  Not too long ago, I was almost saturated and could barely think about what is next.  Anyway, back on point.  In futility, I tried to see if I could recognize the localizer, and since we were still pretty far away, no dice, makes sense.

Next, I called up Fayetteville approach. I did ok with the radio call here.  I was supplied a squawk code and and I asked for the localizer 22 BC practice approach.

After this we were given a vector.  During the next few minutes, I loaded up the localizer 22 BC approach plate and briefed. I started to really just skip over the frequency section.  My instructor made a point to make sure that we go over each of the fields.  This is good because I set these before we departed TTA.  If I skip that part on the brief or gloss over it, I may not catch a potential error.

At this point we get a call that we are cleared for the approach, on the missed, I was instructed to  climb runway heading to 2000 and contact approach on 133.0.  I briefed the rest of the approach and when I got to the missed approach section, my instructor said… “Are you sure?”  Doh, yeah I have the missed approach instructions from ATC and I read back those.

As we approached the localizer intercept, we were given another vector to establish and instructions that we were cleared for the approach.  Once established I made the call that we were established and the controller told us to change to tower frequency.  Once on tower we were cleared for the option.

I didn’t have too much of an issue with the reverse sensing.  I remarked as we got closer that you can really see the sensitivity.  I had read previously that it is really sensitive because the front course localizer antenna is actually broadcasting from the departure end of the runway. Since we were on the back course, that meant that it was near the approach end on our side, thus really sensitive.

I reached my minimums around this time so my instructor said “Hang here for a bit and let’s see how sensitive it gets”  I was splitting degrees to stay on course.  Cool.

Once I looked up, it was pretty neat to see the runway right there but also that a regional jet was holding short waiting on my slow little skyhawk to get on with it.

We went ahead and declared the missed and started the climb back to 2000 on runway heading.  Once back over to Fayettville approach, we were vectored back to TTA and cleared to IKTOW for the ILS LOC 03 Y approach.

As I was loading the approach, the GPS asks the question if we want to perform the procedure turn.  My instructor said “Do we want to?”  At first I said no because we were on the side of the hold entry that we don’t need to.  Really, I thought he was asking me if I wanted to do it.  It was a good lesson on identifying if you have to perform the procedure turn and we discussed more in debrief.

There are 5 times that you don’t have to perform the Procedure turn.

  • Vectors to final
  • Cleared for the straight in approach
  • We find “NoPT” on the plan view of the approach chart                            (And we did for IKTOW in the direction we were heading)
  • You are on a DME Arc
  • Timed approaches from a holding fix

This is where I had my biggest brain fart of the day.  I thought we talked about doing the LOC 03 Y approach and when I briefed, I started briefing the step down by identifying AMIRS.  It turns out, and if I listened, “You are cleared for the ILS 03 Y approach”.  The ILS is easier, though I was probably more off the needles this time than any other.  Slightly high and left.

It did prompt a good discussion in debrief about whether or not we can identify AMIRS. This comes down to the difference in having a DME vs GPS only.  The short of it is that we can’t use AMIRS without a real DME on board and calculating the distances is unacceptable.

All in all it was a good flight.  There were highs and lows, no pun intended. In the end, flying always puts me in a good mood.


Finishing up my club annual and a peek at the future

Today was a really short lesson, all about finishing up my club annual .  I need to finished up before my instructor heads out of town for vacation.  This way, I can get in some cross country flights with a safety pilot. This will help met get some of my last IFR requirements out of the way.

In the previous few lessons, we took care of a lot of the items on the club annual.  After looking over the checklist, we found that I really only needed emergency engine out testing.  With weather coming in, I decided we could just go do those real quick and let my instructors other students start a little earlier.

We were going to stay in the pattern, so I was mentally prepared to have the engine “Fail” at any moment.  There was quite a bit of traffic at the airfield at the time, so I was able to predict, with some accuracy, when the engine failure would come.  That and my instructor giving me some really good hints as to what, when and where.

For the first maneuver, I was instructed to climb to 2000 and we performed a spiral down engine out maneuver over the numbers.  I have done this once in the past during my private pre-solo check with the chief flight instructor.  I did a little better then than I did this time.  My instructor said “pick a spot” and fumbled around a bit but went with the numbers as to what I would aim for.  I am pretty sure he was setting me up for the big lesson on the next attempt.

As I descended down lower and lower, I decided that we couldn’t make another 360 and we would go for it. I should have extended the downwind on that last turn a bit to set up for a more natural approach to the threshold but instead I dropped full flaps and tried to slip down.  Now you have to understand, when I started this, I was already over the landing point that I said I was aiming for.  Do you think I could make that spot?  ha, …. no.  I am not even sure I could have made the end of the 6000′ runway but we decided to go around before trying.

Now the cool part.  This time we went up to pattern altitude and performed a power-off 180 accuracy landing.  A maneuver that you learn during your commercial training (Which is coming up after my IFR).  This maneuver involved pulling the throttle downwind abeam your touchdown aim point, in our case the 1000 ft markers.  When you turn base, you judge your height (too high? too low?) and you can use S turns in order to better lose altitude until you are right on target.

We performed this maneuver two times and hit the 1000 ft marker both times.  Before this, I only had a few tools in my bag, judging distance on the downwind, flaps and slips.  By adding S turns, you can use the bank as a way to lose some lift. This allows you to better control distance between you and the touchdown point.

It was a great lesson in energy management and a really cool peek into my future training.

Next on my list is knocking out about 20 hours or cross country and simulated instrument time. I am planning some long cross country flights with a safety pilot to try and get some significant hours.  Should be a lot of fun.

The check ride is coming soon and honestly, I have had so much fun that am not sure I want it to end, lol.  However, my instructor is awesome and we are already talking about the commercial so there will be more fun to be had!

I got to fly again, whoa, I’m crusty… err rusty

Today I got to fly again.  It seems like forever between vacations, schedule conflicts etc.  In reality it has only been a little over a month.  I think it was a good lesson in that I gained some confidence but also because I got to see rust in IFR flying.

By the regulations, you are IFR current if you have performed 6 approaches and holds in either actual or simulated conditions in the past 6 months.  This is one of those weird things that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Even though you are technically current, doesn’t mean you are really ready to launch off into the clouds.

Today, the clouds were decently low so we decided to file a round robin IFR to KHNZ Henderson-Oxford (Which btw, I sucked at remembering the name)

I filed the flight plan, (forgot to do round robin, more on that) and headed out to turn money into noise.  Run-up went fine and as I called for my clearance, the first bit of rust showed.  I called up Raleigh approach and asked to pickup my flight plan….. sigh… I should have asked to pickup my clearance.  Ok no biggie, however we were asked if we could take off and pickup the clearance in the air since the field was already locked due to an incoming aircraft on IFR.  We decided we needed to wait so they asked us to call back in 10 minutes.  ugh.

After thinking about it for a minute, my instructor looked at the weather again and decided that we could try to pick it up in the air.  We departed and I performed a soft field takeoff (I am in need of a club annual so we are going to do some things to help that out).  Once we were aloft, I made the call to approach to pick up the clearance.  We got a squawk code and after a minute or so, we were given a vector and altitude.

Since I actually failed to file Round robin, we discussed how to request the amended clearance.  I made the call and they amended us for the round robin and asked which approach we would like.  I requested the LOC 6 approach and we were on our way.

I had decided earlier that I wanted do the hold so we discussed how to ask for the hold.  At the appropriate point, I asked for and received the hold on the LOC 6 appraoch.  We were flying at 5000 and pretty much IMC for the the duration of the trip to KHNZ.

Preparing for the arrival, I setup the radios, checked that the localizer was tuned on the primary and en-route radios and set the CDI.  I then briefed the approach.  This part of the flight started feeling better.  My radio calls were sometimes… um… terrible.

Once we arrived, I donned the foggles to make sure that I would get credit for the approach and performed the hold and then turned inbound on the localizer.  I performed the step downs to minimums and voila…. runway right where it is supposed to be.

Making the inbound radio calls I kept forgetting the name of the airport, Henderson-Oxford.  Even while writing this I have to look it up.. ugh.  In the future, I will write this down on my kneeboard.

The landing went well, performed a soft-field landing and followed up by short field take off ( more club annual work).  I performed the missed approached and called Raleigh approach up to get back to TTA.  I was given an altitude and vector.  We asked and received the RNAV 21 and we were vectored to YUXI.  It was my request to perform the RNAV 21 is because I wanted to do the circle to land.

The approach was pretty uneventful and I followed the RNAV LPV glide path down to the circle to land minimums.  To finish the approach I completed a short field landing.

Overall, I think I did well today.  I was very rusty, with my scan and with my radio work.  I think I did pretty well in the areas of configuring to land, briefings, etc.

As I stated at the beginning, it was a good lesson in how you can quickly that you get rusty and even though you are technically current in the FAA eyes, doesn’t mean that you capable.  I will take this lesson with me for the remainder of my aviation career and hopefully guide me in making better Aeronautical decisions in the future.

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.

Short flight in before the storms, 3 approaches? Yes please!

Today’s lesson was pretty short, only 1.3 hours.  It was, however,  packed full of soupy goodness. We moved our flight time up a few hours in order to get in before the storms started forming.  We noticed a cell moving from the west and we decided to take a short hop south to Southern Pines (KSOP) to get in the RNAV 23 approach.

Today, I filed the flight plan after my instructor reviewed my inputs.  Side note, ForeFlight makes filing too easy.   After run-up, I was allowed to call flight services to get our clearance. (Actually, I called directly to our local RDU TRACON, more on that in another post maybe)  This was interesting because last time, my instructor called and I listened to his read back and copied to my kneeboard. This time, however, I called and he copied my read back.  It was a small thing but was cool none the less.  It was a simple clearance:

C – Cleared round robin to TTA

R –  As Filed (Direct)

A – Climb maintain 4000

F – 125.17

T – 5364

I mean honestly, it couldn’t have been more simple but for my first, I’ll take it.

We departed Rwy 3 at TTA, once up to 900 ft I began a standard rate left turn towards Southern Pines (KSOP).  As soon as I rolled out on course, we were in the soup.  My instructor handled the radio work for the most part.  Once checked in with Fayetteville approach, we asked for RNAV 23 approach and given clearance to proceed to OWWEN.  We also chose the procedure turn for practice.

The cruise was pretty short and I quickly realized that without help I would be in trouble.  For short trips you really must be organized, especially in a single pilot environment.  I am still having trouble pulling up my approaches while in the clouds.  I also am just a step behind configuring the GPS.  I am sure this will get better with muscle memory but I am noticeably behind the curve and so far, I am not really making the radio calls.

As a personal point of pride, I make great effort to be as prepared as possible for my flight lessons and so far I am struggling to find a way to sharpen some of the skills outside of the cockpit.  There are few ways to properly simulate the multitasking.  Even my flight simulator doesn’t really fit the bill because it is so inherently unstable and you have no feel for the bumps, so that it is building some of the wrong skills.

Many students with the same problems have come before me so there is nothing new here.  It will click….eventually. 🙂

After going missed at KSOP, we proceeded back to KTTA where we asked and given the ILS 03 approach.  The original plan was to go missed and then perform the RNAV 21 approach since the winds were favoring 21.  About halfway down the glideslope, my instructor told me to give the horizon a peek.  I pulled up my foggles and saw a giant Cumulonimbus cloud building right near where the RNAV 21 IAF would be.  At this point we decided that after missed we would shoot the RNAV 03 approach and circle to land runway 21.  I haven’t actually performed a circle to land to an actual landing so it would be new.

I shot the RNAV 03 approach just fine down to circling minimums and began sliding to the right of the runway to enter a tight left hand pattern.  I have never actually flown a pattern that tight before and it was pretty neat.  I nearly greased the landing except for my left toe giving a little brake pressure… doh.  I quickly corrected that issue and we rolled out just fine.

I realized that for some reason, on IFR approaches I keep my feet higher on the pedals and a by product is the toe pressure right on the brakes.  I think it is mostly nerves, I will correct that.  It was, however, my best landing with my new instructor.(the landing was mediocre, but best with my new instructor)  I finally demonstrated that I can indeed land an airplane.

I am feeling really good about instrument training so far.  I think my strengths are Holding altitude, course tracking, stabilized descents and overall stabilized approaches right on the needles.  All of those things are starting to become second nature.

For my weak points, my brain, radio communications, my brain, working the gps, my brain, and um…. oh… my brain gets in the way.  I am joking but only partly.

I am making progress though.  In a previous post I mentioned that I felt my approach briefings were less than stellar.  I feel like I did a fair job on the 3 approaches today.

Todays flight:

1.3 hrs of flight time

1.0 hrs of actual

0.1 of simulated

I am getting more comfortable in the soup.  I like actual a whole lot more than the foggles.  I find it easier for some reason.  We have discussed how you have move your head more with foggles leading to more disorientation.  That could be the reason why.  The other thing is, you don’t feel quite as closed in.

The most important part was that I got to fly…. and in clouds!

Chased the weather… In the soup and err… “I have a number for you to call”

In this lesson, we were originally going to fly west over to Piedmont Triad (KGSO) for an ILS approach in busy airspace.  Side objective was to get a little cross country time.  I am still lacking over 20 hours of cross country to meet the IFR rating requirement.  Once I arrived at the airfield, we noticed all of the clouds were east of us, so we chased the weather to get some actual.

My instructor decided that we would do a round robin to Rocky Mount/ Wilson (KRWI).  We would file for 5000 in hopes of making the flight smack in the middle of the clouds.  We were close and skimmed along the tops in and out and eventually deep in the soup.

For the first time, I filled out the flight plan and once my instructor looked it over, I clicked the file button.  Since it was VFR conditions above TTA, we decided to pick up the clearance in the air.  This was a first as well and I handled the initial call.

After calling up Raleigh Approach, I was given a vector, altitude assignment and squawk code and then asked to standby.  They were vectoring us around traffic before we could climb.  As I was setting the airplane course and trimming for the altitude, the clearance came across the radio and I was totally not expecting. (Why not you ask?  who really knows but I messed up).  Luckily, my instructor was writing down the clearance and handled the radio call.

The flight to our destination was pretty uneventful, other than being in the soup.  I had the airplane trimmed out and was flying along tracking to the destination.  We were handed off to Washington center and they asked us what type of approach we would like.  I responded we would like the ILS 04.  She cleared us direct to  BELGA intersection.  After a bit, approach asked us if we wanted vectors to final or would like to perform the procedure turn.  My instructor looked at me and I said, “Let’s do the procedure turn”.  My instructor keyed the mike and said “My student is requesting the procedure turn”  with a hint of pride.  I guess that was the right answer?  I figured, hey we are in the soup and likely staying in the soup until below 1700, why not do the procedure turn.  Good practice right?  I mean, this is for real and I want to be able to add this to my experience bucket for when I am doing this single pilot.

I briefed the approach, feeling better about this piece now. We performed the procedure turn at 2700 and we would be able to drop down to 2100 once we crossed BELGA.  Then we intercept the glide slope. As a side note, we requested a touch and go instead of a low missed approach so I could get credit for the cross country time.

Once we touched down, cleaned up the flaps and back in the air for the missed approach as per ATC instructions.  Climb to 1200 then climbing right turn to Tar River VOR (TYI) at 2100.

I contacted Washington Center once we were above 2000 and we got our clearance back to to KTTA.  Initially, they gave us an altitude of 6000, but we requested 4000 so we could stay in the clouds all the way home.

We were cruising along when I started to notice that the Attitude indicator was starting to precess a bit indicating a slight left turn when we were actually level.  We noticed that a bit of right rudder cleaned it up so I held in some right rudder.  As my leg tired I noticed that it was precessing more and the rudder wasn’t helping.  At this point we talked over whether or not this was a must report and under what conditions we would declare an emergency.  With the knowledge in hand that 500 feet below or 1500 feet above we would be in clear air, we decided to watch it and pretty much fly partial panel.  The important part here is we talked over our options on what we would do if things did become serious.  Say the Directional gyro starts to go or the Attitude indicator tumbles.  At this point, it just read about a 7 degree left turn but other wise seemed to be functioning.

As we neared our destination, we were handed off to Fayetteville approach.  We asked for the ILS 03 approach and were given vectors to HEDDY.  As we were briefing the approach we heard an interesting exchange on the frequency.  We only heard one side of the conversation, that being approach. “NXXXX, you are over 300 feet below your assigned altitude.” …….. “Do you have my number?” ……. “Call me at 555-555-5555”.  My instructor and I both moaned at the same time.  I mean, very glad it wasn’t us but ugh.  I haven’t been flying that long, only a couple of years but I do maintain contact with Approach for flight following on most flights and I have never actually heard the dreaded “Call Me” on the radio.  Bad news for any pilot, I feel for whomever it was.

We were vectored onto final and I followed the ILS 03 down to minimums, this time with foggles since we broke out of the clouds around 3500.  I was a little bit right of the runway but right on the glide sloop.  The landing was pretty disappointing.  We had gusting winds right down the runway swinging a little right to left and lets just say it wasn’t my best landing.

Crappy landing aside, I felt pretty good about the flight.  If anything, I was disappointed with my radio work.  It seemed my instructor was going to see how much of it I could handle and honestly, I did pretty poorly for all except the basics.  I missed copying the clearance, I had to be prompted a few times.  I guess like everything, that comes with time but I felt I should have been a little more prepared.  So I will take that knowledge and do some more chair flying and personal simulator time and see if I can figure that out.

Even the most frustrating days in the cockpit are good days, I got to fly….. I got to fly in clouds!

Blue Skies, heads down, instruments…. going down?

The skies were beautiful today…. if you were on a VFR flight that is.  Only high cirrus clouds today and very few if any.  However, summer is definitely on the way as afternoon convection made todays lesson nice an bumpy, so being on instruments would be interesting.

The preflight brief had me looking over the VOR-A approach at Siler City (KSCR).  I was informed that the GPS may or may not be on the fritz, hint hint.  This lesson is all about VOR tracking, timed holds and a circling VOR-A approach.

As we taxied, I received my mock clearance, “Cessna 72675, cleared to KSCR via radar vectors to Liberty, climb and maintain 3000 squawk 1200”

Once I was in the air and donning my fashionable foggles, I was given a convenient radar vector that lined me up direct to LIB VOR.

The ride to liberty was a non event.  Other than the air being a little bumpy, I was able to trim things out go through the cruise checklist and then start looking at the brief.  At that point, I hear “Skyhawk 72675, You are 9 miles from Liberty, Hold NW on the Liberty VOR as published, Expect further clearance 1620 current time 1600.”  I read back the instructions and went back to briefing the approach.  I briefed the entry into the hold, we would perform a parallel entry.  once we crossed the VOR we would start the clock… more on that in a minute.  Then we would make a right turn back to the VOR inbound course and begin the hold.

Sounds like a piece of cake huh?  Well, it starts getting real.  Once I crossed the VOR I turned on the outbound course and started the errr…. timer… err… crap, I wasn’t ready, I can’t figure out how to get the timer in timer mode.  “Don’t worry, We’ll keep the timer over here, you just tell me when to start and stop”  Whew… bailed out by the instructor.  Note to self, figure that out sooner.

Ok, 1 minute, right turn back to the the inbound heading.  “Are you sure we are turning to the inbound heading.” Doh, no, we need to turn back 45 more to the right to track the VOR inbound.  This sequence was the only part of the flight that I reached saturation.  I quickly corrected and got us back on course and around the hold we go.

Once we did one loop around the hold, as I was turning inbound, I was given the clearance for the approach.  Once we crossed the VOR, We started the clock.  5:28 seconds until we reach the missed approach point (MAP), And I was able to descend to 1380 msl for the circling approach.  As I was trying to get stable, I noticed that I was a little fast.  Even though I was stable through the descent to minimum altitude, I was consistently fast.  As we neared the MAP, I was told to take off the foggles.  We were going to be over the airport before the timer reach 5:28.  Evidently, this is pretty common.  My instructor informed me that most of the time, once you reach the MAP via time, the airport is slightly behind you.  Oh, and I forgot to configure for the approach.  Mixture wasn’t rich… doh.  Caught it on the missed.

Once on the missed, I was given clearance to TTA direct OZOPE at 2500 msl.  And… my gps magically started working again!  Once I was established direct.  I was then assigned a block altitude for maneuvers.

At this point I was asked to setup for steep turns at 95 kts.  I performed steep left and right turns.  Went pretty well.  Next, departure stall, slowed to 65 and full throttle.  Once I heard the horn I was allowed to recover.  Next, slow flight full flaps.  All of these maneuvers went well… no real issues.

Back on course to OZOPE at 2500 msl.  I see my instructor fiddling with something then all of the sudden, Covers go on the Attitude Indicator and Directional Gyro.  I lost my vacuum system.  Yay, partial panel.

Honestly, this part wasn’t really all that bad.  I immediately started to rely on my GPS track to keep me tracking to OZOPE.  I was able to brief the approach and stay pretty steady at 2500 msl and on the needles to OZOPE.

I briefed the approach…. well, ok, let’s be honest here.  This is where I felt kind of a bit lost.  I started with the name of the approach then jumped to the altitudes to cross OZOPE, then the descent to capture the glide path on the RNAV 21 LPV approach. then, I completely forgot the missed approach until prodded.  I feel this is an area that I really need to work on.  I’ll get it, just takes time.

As we crossed OZOPE and turned inbound on the approach, I hear… “Hmm, looks like the LPV indicator is turning yellow”.  What?  “Yep, definitely something going on here, we’re losing the WAAS, can we still proceed?”  Yep, we can use the LNAV minimums and step down.

I re-briefed, that once we cross YUXI, we can descend to 2000, then across WIZNY we can descend to 1060 until we cross OQBOK.  Once across OQBOK, we can descend to mda of 700.  Again, forgot the missed approach brief.  AAAAHHHH.

My last instruction was that once I reach 700 I can take off my foggles and land.  I took off the foggles and immediately blew the 700 minimum.  I was reminded that I needed to stay above that until I reached a normal descent point.  We were still about two miles away from the normal descent point.

Once we landed, we debriefed and I was told that I was his first student to fly partial panel on the second flight.  Neato, I guess I am doing well. 🙂

In the end, looking back, we did a whole lot in a 1.3 hour lesson.

  • VOR-A approach
  • timed hold
  • steep turn
  • slow flight
  • stalls
  • Partial panel
  • RNAV 21 approach to LNAV since we lost WAAS

I was pretty tired but really excited about everything.  I personally felt I did well and my instructor echoed that sentiment.  Even though I was hot, sweaty, bounced around and mentally pretty tired.  I got to fly an airplane today!

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