Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Transitioning to G1000 course, because… why not?

One of the things this pandemic has given everyone, is an abundance of time. Along with learning to fly more complex aircraft, I am also learning to fly a technically advanced aircraft (TAA). One of the requirements, for the aircraft I want to fly, is that I take a transitioning to G1000 course via online ground school.

Had the first class last night. We covered all of the internal workings of the G1000 system including the electrical bus and Line Replacement Units (LRU’s) that replace all of the fancy electrical and vacuum systems in current steam gauge aircraft.  See Diagram Below:


G1000 LRU Diagram


We went through each of the systems and discussed how they are connected, failure modes, etc.  Being an engineer, this fascinated me.  I have a good understanding of how steam gauges work and their failure modes and basically each of these LRU’s replace a single analog component.


  • The GDC (Air Data Computer) replaces your vacuum system and calculates the Airspeed, Altitude, VSI and Temperature.
  • The GRS (AHRS) replaces your attitude indicator to give you Attitude, Rate of turn and slip/skid.
  • The GMU replaces your vacuum DGI to give you heading.
  • The GTX 33 in this diagram replaces your transponder/ADSB

You have two screens that read information from these core systems to display data.  Each has a dedicated GPS, Comm, Nav, Glide slope, etc.

If one screen fails, it defaults all the pertinent information to a single screen.

If your alternator fails, your avionics run on a battery just like a normal steam gauge aircraft.  You will have to unload some of your avionics to preserve power just like any aircraft.  If that battery fails, you will automatically kick over to a backup battery that powers the “Essential Bus”.

The Essential Bus powers, the PFD, the main LRU’s (ADC, AHRS, GMU… etc), Com1, Nav 1.  The MFD and push to talk on copilot side is disabled, but engine data that is normally displayed on the MFD is moved to the PFD.

Basically, you’re now in an emergency situation and you need to get down.  Once on the backup battery, you have 30 minutes of power in order to find a safe place to land. You still have the backup steam gauges as a last resort but you really want to find a place to land and figure out what is going on. Especially if you are in anything but Day VFR conditions.  Safety first!

We haven’t even talked about using the G1000 in any practical manner but I found the background very interesting.  Of course as a pilot, I want to know how everything works in case of an emergency situation, things are easier to troubleshoot.

I am technically familiar with the G1000 through at home simulators and several training flights that I have had in the past but I haven’t had any formal training that can fill in the gaps.

Besides… I’m stuck at home for the most part, might as well learn something new!

Bigger Airplane? The time has come …. sorta

It has been a while but it is time for me to start my commercial training in earnest. In order to complete the training, I need at least 10 hours of commercial training in a complex or Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA). So the time has come to checkout in a bigger airplane. Well, bigger than I have flown myself.

I am going to checkout in one of our clubs Mooney M20J’s. Not quite high performance, only 200 hp.. 1 hp short of high performance, but complex. It has a variable pitch prop and retractable landing gear. Quite a bit faster and more capable versus the Cessna 172 that I normally fly.

A bigger airplane and more complex airplane introduces more challenges and opportunities to learn. I look forward to the challenge. So far, I have limited my flying to Cessna aircraft. This means that I have been engrained with the Cessna way of doing things. I don’t worry about switching fuel tanks, I am used to how high wing airplanes enter the ground effect, etc.

I will need to build a new set of skills as I transition to this new aircraft. I’ve only flown 1 aircraft with a variable pitched prop and during this flight, I didn’t mess with it because I was in cruise during my time at the controls. It isn’t really all that difficult from what I understand but it is another variable to deal with.

The new skills that I will need to learn include but not limited to:
– Remembered to switch tanks
– Adding the fuel boost pump during takeoff and landing
– Remembering landing gear on takeoff and landing
– Obviously the V-Speeds
– Prop adjustments
– Fancy Fuel management system (Installed in the Mooney)

Those are just the things I can think of at the moment. It should be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to it. My club is just now starting to reopen as my state has entered Phase 2 of the Covid re-opening. Everyone at the club is taking special care to make sure that we keep each other safe… so things may not move as fast but looking forward to getting back in the air.

Crazy Times, lockdown blues… a view from the couch

It has been a while and as the title says, it is crazy times my friends. Since my last post I haven’t actually been flying as much as I want. A lot of work and other obligations have gotten in the way.

This past fall, I joined Civil Air Patrol and currently, working on getting qualifications for Search and rescue as well as flight operations. I should be qualified transport pilot in the next few months. My sights are set on Mission Pilot and Cadet Orientation Pilot.

I have always wanted to do more with my flying, searching for purpose outside of hanging certificates on the wall.  The dream has always been to fly with purpose.  $100 hamburgers are fun with friends but the goal has always been more purposeful.

I have not abandoned my quest for Commercial certification and hopefully will be back in the air working on that in the next few months. My quest to build time has been slow but I am coming up on the 250 hours that I need. I am currently sitting at 204 hrs. I figure around 15-20 hrs of commercial training, so really only need around 25 or so. Between trying to get current VFR & IFR after the lockdown ends, I will be close.

We may be in strange and crazy times right now but it is a chance for all of us to be thankful for what we have in front of us and refocus on the things that matter. Family, health and safety as well as looking to the future. I hope everyone stays safe and see you in the sky soon!

Flight Review, Club Annual and a curve ball

In early June my family and I took our annual summer vacation.  I knew when vacation time was over it was time to get my flying club annual and biannual flight review (BFR).  Today was that day.

I am alway nervous for these things, though not sure why.  It always results in good refreshers of procedures and I get to shoot some approaches since I am now instrument rated.

I scheduled some time with an instructor but could only get afternoons after 2:30pm.  The temperatures have been obnoxious lately and wasn’t particularly looking forward to a couple of hours of sweating and thermals.

As luck would have it, I was able to slide into a last minute morning slot at 7:30am due to a cancellation. Yes please!

I arrived early and completed the preflight.  Once my instructor arrived, he suggested we do the flight portion first, while it is cool.  I agreed so we jumped in and got to work.

This flight was pretty laid back, it isn’t a test as much as brushing up on skills.  I liked that I was asked questions in general conversation on how I would handle this or that.  It was very informal which made it more fun and less like an examination.

We departed for the practice area where we went through steep turns, stall series, unusual attitudes.  Then I shot the VOR – A approach to KSCR with a low approach to runway 22 before breaking off.

We headed back to KTTA and along the way I was tested on an emergency descent.  My field selection was spotty as it looked more hilly than I thought it would be.  It would have been survivable but not pretty.

Next, I shot the ILS 3 approach into KTTA.  Nothing earth shattering here, I was pretty stable and the air was nice and smooth which aided tremendously.

After going missed, I headed back to the IAF at IKTOW to shoot the RNAV 3 approach.  While I setup, I was asked a few more questions followed by idle chit chat.  A lot of the time this is just for distraction, to see how you cope.  As I got setup, my instructor covered up my Attitude Indicator and Directional Gyro.  This would be partial panel.  It was fine, it is good practice.

I briefed the approach and entered teardrop for the procedure and here’s where things got interesting.

As I turned inbound I noticed the vertical guidance flagged.  I thought, hmm that is odd.  Soon I realized why.  As we approached the FAF at IKTOW, I saw a message popup on the GTN 650.  It displayed “Loss of Integrity” and the LPV went from green to yellow.  Either we are having a real GPS failure or the instructor did something.

Soon after, all the information on the GPS went blank.  The squawk book reported this but it was supposed to be fixed.  My instructor obviously didn’t set it up because he was taking pictures to document for maintenance.

I decided to flip the CDI back over to the ILS 3 Y approach since I was already setup and follow the ILS down.  In hindsight, I should have just did the step down with a timer but for some reason felt better about the ILS 3 since I just shot that approach and was configured.

It was interesting shooting partial panel with just the compass and not having the GPS available for track.  It was awesome real world practice though.

Things turned out fine and I landed without any drama.  If you have read previous posts, I seem to struggle landing with instructors…. not this time demons!!

All in all, it was a really fun flight and got my flight review and club annual completed.  I really enjoy the instructors at our club and always learn new things.  More flying to come soon!

Commercial cross country, why not!

In my previous post, I talked about my first commercial lesson.  As part of a commercial certificate, you need to complete a commercial cross country.  You can do this on your own without an instructor but it must be solo.  The regulation states (CFR Commercial Cross Country):


i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straightline distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point.

I found a day that was unusually severe clear throughout the southeast so I figured let’s go flying!

I have been planning this flight for several weeks waiting for the right time.  The plan was to depart TTA (Raleigh Executive) and fly down to SSI (Mckinnon St. Simons) and back. Flight plan:

KTTA – KMNI (refuel) – KSSI – KTTA

How we meet the criteria:

One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance

The total distance of the flight from KTTA – KMNI – KSSI and back is 589 nm.

… with landings at a minimum of three points,

I landed at KMNI, KSSI, and of course KTTA. (I actually landed at another point but i’ll get to that later)

… one of which is a straightline distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point.

The straightline distance between KTTA and KSSI is 289 nm.

So as you can see, the flight plan completes all of the criteria for the Solo Commercial Cross country.

Note: I call this solo because you have to either be solo or have a CFI ride along.  The CFI isn’t supposed to help you just there for moral support I suppose.

Let’s get to the flight portion of this trip.  Honestly, it was a pretty easy trip, not a whole lot of excitement.  Mostly just listening to ATC and hearing some horrible radio calls.

I woke up early planning to depart at 7:30 am EST.  The weather was predicted to be sky clear all day but the temperature told me that afternoon clouds/thunderstorms are definitely in play.  I figured this would take me around 6 hrs of flight time and around 7 hours total with the stops.  So this would have me back around 2:30 – 3pm EST.

After thoroughly evaluating the weather and convincing myself that this could actually be true (Severe Clear all day). I decided to go for it.  Because you always need a backup plan, I am an instrument rated pilot so if need to file, I can.  And the backup, backup plan … land and wait out bad weather.

I departed TTA at almost exactly 7:30 am EST.  I navigated to my first landing to refuel at KMNI.  However, nature would have other plans.  Since it was early in the morning, my bladder had decided that it wasn’t completely ready to start a long trip.  As such, I decided to make a quick stop at KUDG which was right in front of me.  I figured I could refuel and de-fuel (if you get my meaning).  I was able to successfully perform one of the tasks.  Unfortunately, they unexpectedly ran out of AvGas so a bathroom break would be the only event.

Back in the air for a short flight to KMNI.  This was a sleepy little airfield with Lake Marion right off the southern end of the runway.  After refueling, I was set for my next leg to KSSI.  The lake being right off the southern end of the runway bothered me and with calm wind, I decided to take off on runway 02 (North facing) and do a wide pattern to gain altitude before blasting across the lake.  My reasoning was that I wanted to gain enough altitude to be able glide to land while I was over the water.

The rest of the flight to KSSI was pretty uneventful.  The flight path took me along the east shoreline of South Carolina and Georgia.  Very pretty and very swampy.  It made for a good exercise of “Where do I land if my engine goes kaput!”  I had a few options including some private airfields and long stretches of empty beach in which the tide was low.  It was actually rare that I wasn’t within gliding distance of an airfield and the chances of a catastrophic engine failure is low.  From my understanding, if you have engine issues, typically partial loss of power, not complete failure, is the typical scenario.  However, it was a good exercise to stay vigilant.

Mckinnon St. Simons airport is pretty nice, with picturesque views and nice FBO.  I had a 6 knot gusty crosswind on landing.  Not a big deal, was able to smoothly land.  I watch a few others land and let’s say they made it more interesting than should have been.  Students perhaps?  I guess we’re all students of flight so I shouldn’t pass judgement… I’ve had my moments even after my certificates.

Some pics from the KSSI FBO (Golden Isles Aviation):


After a short break here to eat a snack and top off the tanks, I departed KSSI for the flight back to TTA.

The flight back was a little more eventful in that clouds started to pop up around the 4500′ level.  About an hour from TTA, I had to descend from 5500′ to 3500′.  To say bumpy as hell would be an understatement.  So much so, I thought about getting a popup IFR so I could climb back up out of the chop.  However, I was already maneuvering a bit to avoid the restricted area and Fayetteville approach seemed to have their hands full with all manner of strangeness.  From pilots not responding due to radio issues to pilots who didn’t seem to know the phonetic alphabet.  D is Delta, not DogF is Foxtrot, not Frank … and so on and so on!

At one point, this pilot just quit with the phonetic alphabet and just said letters.  I have to give Fayetteville approach credit, they were extremely patient.  The request was for a flight following and at one point the controller said, “Can you please repeat your aircraft number and type?”  The wayward pilot responde by telling the controller the letters to the intersection that he was going to. (Not phonetic or faux phonetic, just letters)  The controller then said, “I am asking what the numbers are on the side of your aircraft.”  I have to admit, I giggled a bit.  The struggle is real.

I arrived back at TTA at 2:23 pm which proved my estimate wasn’t too bad.  I logged 6.1 hrs of flight time.  I was pretty efficient in my stops and didn’t lose a whole lot of time on the ground.

It was the longest flight that I have taken without appreciable breaks and once home, I took a nap.  It was really fun and I built some confidence along the way.  I am looking forward to building more hours and starting my commercial training with vigor.

Few more pics from the flight:


Fly it like you stole it, back in the sky for more training

Today, the motto was “Fly it like you stole it”.  This is a pretty apt motto for the introduction to my next challenge.  Though I am not quite ready to begin training full time, today my instructor and I climbed back in the cockpit for an intro to commercial flying.

Now I know what you’re thinking because I always get this question, “So you want to fly airliners?”  True, you need a commercial certificate in order to fly for the airlines, but you also need a lot more.  The commercial certificate is a threshold that starts opening new doors in the aviation world including, but not limited to, becoming a flight instructor, ability to take money in order to fly someone or something, and of course the road to commercial airline pilot.  The first and second of these are what I am more interested in achieving.

Getting paid to fly opens up the world of aviation to bigger airplanes with less hit to the wallet.  Or so I hope! 😉

So back to the matter at hand.  I fired off a text to my instructor asking if he would give me an introduction to commercial training.  I wanted to get an idea of what’s ahead to help motivate me to get some more flight time in the books.

Once I arrived, I pre-flighted the aircraft and then we sat down to discuss some terminology and maneuvers that we would be attempting.

These included:

  • Power-Off 180° Accuracy Approach and Landing
  • Chandelles
  • Lazy Eights
  • Eights on Pylons
  • Emergency descents
  • Slow flight
  • Steep turns
  • Accelerated stalls

Note: You can find the full ACS here – > ACS Standards for Commercial Pilot

Once we finished briefing, off to the airplane for some fun.  Part of the ACS for commercial, is a repeat of some private pilot maneuvers, Shorts & Softs, steep turns, emergencies, etc.  On the takeoff, I performed a soft field takeoff as a refresher.

We started with a demonstration of the Power-Off 180° Accuracy Approach and Landing.  This involves pulling your throttle on downwind abeam your touchdown point and then maneuvering the aircraft so that you touch down at the spot on the runway selected.  In my case, (and seems to be most others) I selected the 1000 ft marker.  The key to this to turn base a little early and high, especially with a headwind on final.  Then you can use some tools such as S-Turns and Slips in order to lose altitude if needed to fine tune your landing spot.

The first attempt was more of a demonstration by my instructor with me shadowing the controls.  TBH, at this point I was uncomfortable with the banks at this low altitude.  However, on the next attempt I took the controls and after doing it with some assistance became more comfortable.  It will take further practice in different wind conditions for me to feel really good about it.

Next, we flew out to the practice area and demonstrated right and left steep turns.  I practice these on my own every once and awhile, so I was comfortable with them.

I may go out of order here but next, I think, we performed an accelerated stall.  I banked the aircraft into a steep turn and then pulled back hard until we heard the stall warning horn. It was pretty easy and we moved on quickly after that.

Moving on, we started the chandelle series.  This involves a climbing 180 degree turn that slowly bleeds off airspeed until we are 180 degrees from our starting heading. If performed correctly, the stall warning should just start to sound as we finish.  This is going to take some time and practice but I think I should be able to pick this one up pretty quickly.

After the chandelles, we moved into lazy 8’s. Lazy 8’s start off a lot like a chandelle except at the 45 degree point in your turn, you use the rudder to help the nose sort of just fall in the direction of the turn.  Once you complete the 180, you perform the same maneuver the other direction.  I think these are going to take me the most time to get figured out.

After doing several lazy 8’s we performed an emergency descent in order to lose altitude and then an engine out procedure towards a field that conveniently set up our next exercise, Eights on pylons.

Eights on Pylons were the most fun of the exercises.  In an overly simplified explanation, this involves two points in which you perform a figure 8 between.  This is similar to turns around a point but with other criteria involved.  These maneuvers are also performed pretty low to the ground.

The setup is to enter like you’re on downwind and once the wing is to your first “Pylon”, bank and lock that pivot point in on the end of the wing.  You need to manage throttle for your airspeed but you’re mostly pushing and pulling on the yoke in order to keep your pylon point on the center of the wing tip.  If the pivot point moves to the front of the wing, push forward on the yoke, if it moves to the back of the wing, pull back on the yoke.  Once you roll out you should be on downwind for the right turn around another pivot point.

We actually did this maneuver across 3 separate pairs of pylons.  The second set I helped choose.  I think this was the most fun maneuver out of entire flight.

After this, we flew back to TTA and performed one last Power-Off 180° Accuracy Approach and Landing.  The last one felt pretty good and my instructor said I would have passed this maneuver if it was a flight test.  I’m not so sure about that but it is definitely a confidence boost.

I felt really good about today’s intro into commercial training.  I have a much better idea of what to expect.  Next, I am going to plan the long commercial cross country (since I can do that on my own), Build some hours and start studying for the written.

Look for some more blog posts in the near future as I ramp up. Until then, Fly it like you stole it!

Got it done! Checkride continued…

The title says it all, I got it done.  In order to complete my instrument rating I needed to go back up and cleanup a couple of things. Unusual Attitude Recovery, shoot a non-precision approach and a precision approach.

I think a lot of this came down to checkride jitters.  I always try to look on the bright side and I believe that shining a light on a few of these deficiencies will make me a better, safer pilot.  I definitely feel more confident in each phase of flight.  Now don’t get me wrong, there were still things on this ride that I can improve upon.  I think the important part here is that as pilots we are always learning and striving for improvement.

So today, I arrived at the club ready to go up to clean up a few things with a prep ride.  The weather was really wonky and didn’t line up with the TAF’s very well.  We could see things to the west going IFR and that weather was coming our way.  My instructor and I decided to review the approach plates and talk over some things before committing to the skies.

My examiner showed up by chance as he was working with another student.  He asked if we wanted to do the checkride after our flight and added there was no pressure if we don’t feel ready.  I responded that if the prep ride goes well, I would be game to give it a shot.

After a bit, my instructor and I decided that the ceilings were holding so we went up to practice UAR (Unusual Attitude Recoveries) and shoot the full ILS Y 03 approach with the procedure turn.  I was expecting this one on the ride from previous history.

Everything with the prep flight went well and I gained a lot of confidence in the procedures and felt ready.  Once the examiner showed back up after his current lesson, we did the final paperwork and briefed.

In this ride, I would takeoff and get vectors and altitude to the practice area where we would perform the Unusual attitude recoveries.  The examiner did a really good job yanking and banking to make sure I was nice and disoriented before saying “You have the flight controls, recover”.  The first time we were in a climbing left turn.  I performed the necessary corrections that I practiced.  Easy peasy.  Next after more banking back and forth, up and down.  “You have the flight controls, recover”.  This time we were in a descending right turn.  I applied the necessary corrections once again.

After these two maneuvers, I was told “Climb and maintain 2500, cleared direct OZOPE for the RNAV 21 approach”.  I dialed up the RNAV 21 approach and configured direct OZOPE in the GPS. As we neared OZOPE, I got the weather, briefed the approach and made sure the CDI, approach and radios were squared away.  The examiner failed the WAAS on the GPS so this would be an LNAV approach instead of an LPV approach.  Also, since the winds favored runway 03, we would make this a circling approach, so a little higher minimums.

The approach went pretty smooth, I made all of the stepdowns and made reports on the CTAF.  I messed up a radio call where I said I would go missed instead of circling to land runway 3.  A little prompt by the examiner and I cleaned up this call.  There was incoming traffic that I was coordinating with and the examiner keyed the mic to make them aware that I was on a checkride.  The traffic was gracious enough to give me a wide berth in honor of the checkride.  Much appreciated nameless radio traffic.

Once to circling minimums, I took the foggles off and set up on the downwind making sure to not bust my circling minimums.  “At what point can you descend below minimums?”  I answered that when you were in position to make a normal landing.  “What else do you need”.  I fumbled through this by saying when the runway was in sight.  Ultimately he coaxed the correct answer which is when the runway environment is in sight.  Language means everything in this business and I need to make sure that I am more accurate in my language.

Once abeam the runway touchdown point on downwind I was give vectors and altitude. “Fly heading 300, climb and maintain 2200.  Once ready, fly direct IKTOW for the ILS Y 03 approach.”  I took my time climbing and cleaning up the heading.  I changed the approach in the GPS to the ILS Y 03 approach.  Once I was stable and took a breath, I configured direct IKTOW and made the turn.  I next informed approach, my examiner, that I was now direct IKTOW for the ILS Y 03 approach.

Next I got the weather again to confirm the winds still favored Runway 03.  I set the radios including the ILS frequency.  I briefed the approach and went through my flow.  I had everything dialed in and briefed a teardrop entry for the procedure turn for the approach.  As I got closer, the examiner cleared me for the approach, “Cross IKTOW at 22oo cleared for the ILS Y 03 approach.”.  Ok, now cleared and as I crossed I made a slight course correction to catch the teardrop entry.  Now I knew that I needed to ID the ILS Nav frequency and as I turned back toward the approach course I verified NAV 2, Verified NAV 1 on the GPS had ID lit up on the GPS and verified NAV1 audibly.

I had descended down to 2100 in the procedure turn and cleaned up a little before I reached IKTOW.  After crossing IKTOW, next HEDYY would be my FAF and glideslope intercept point.  I made the radio calls that I was on final and appropriate distances.  As I intercepted the glideslope, I started down.  Throttle 1800, 5oo fpm descent like I have done so many times before.  I started getting butterflies because it’s almost over.  I was hyper focused on the needles making small adjustments to remain on the glideslope.  As I reached the DA of 460, I took off the foggles and configured to land.

Taxi’d back to the ramp making a little small talk but I was pretty sure that I passed.  After I shutdown, the examiner said, “Well, Are you going to shake my hand?”  I passed.  It was a great feeling.  A lot of hard work culminated in this outcome.  My instructors and the examiner all contributed to making me a better pilot.  I am now an instrument rated pilot.

As I type, I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet.  Ultimately, this is just another step on the journey to be a better pilot.  I try my best to learn from the lessons of others and never take things for granted.

A big thank you to all of the club members and instructors who have helped me out along the way.  You know who you are and I am forever grateful.

What’s next?  Well, I am going to exercise my new privileges and build some time.  Next up is commercial but I need another 100 hours to make that happen.  I see a lot of flying in my future. I will still try to post here from time to time as I complete currency flights and some lessons here and there.

I hope the outcome of these blog posts inspire others to embrace their passion for flight and either get that PPL or add on rating.

My final totals for this rating:

Total PIC Cross-Country: 53.3 Hrs

Actual or Simulated Instrument: 42.6 Hrs

Actual or simulated instrument flight training: 22.0 Hrs

# of approaches completed: 34


Checkride day!!

I know it has been a while since I have posted but checkride day is upon me.  Mainly studying and getting ready for my checkride.  I enlisted the help of a second instructor to get a different perspective on my abilities. I felt confident and ready to go.

I’ll save you the suspense.  I failed.

I make no excuses, they were things that I should have done.  My instructors were top notch in getting me prepared, I just messed up on a couple of things.  The examiner was fair and gave me a few little nudges along the way, I just blew it.

I showed up early to get things ready for the oral portion. Also to study a few last things before the examiner arrived.  Once the examiner arrived, we did some paperwork, IACRA, signed off on acknowledging that I am PIC, pilot’s bill of rights, etc.

Once this was completed, we headed to the club classroom for the oral portion.  This part went pretty well.  There were a couple of things that I wasn’t 100% on but you don’t have to be perfect.  We completed the oral portion pretty fast, I felt pretty good about it.

For the flight portion, we filed IFR because of a few low clouds in the area.  I filed via foreflight and then called to pick up my clearance with the understanding that I would call back for my release.

I was cleared to TTA via Direct Liberty, KSCR, TTA as per my filed plan.  This would have us perform the VOR-A approach. Next, I briefed and prepped and after a nudge I tuned in the VOR to verify the vor.  Almost blew the ride here because I was nearly at LIB and almost performed a teardrop entry instead of the parallel entry that the gps sequenced.  I got a little flustered with this because I was slightly behind the aircraft.  ok, back on I performed the procedure turn and headed back in towards Liberty VOR.

This is where I screwed up.  I was told I could use the GPS for this approach but the problem is, I don’t think I have ever done a VOR-A approach with the GPS.  Not an excuse just trying to layout the chain of events.

Once I crossed the Liberty VOR I Started the clock as normal for a timed approach.  However since I was using GPS I could follow it instead.  The Examiner even said, “Are you doing a timed approach or GPS”?  Hint… ugh.  So, for the VOR-A at KSCR there is waypoint VAYRU that if you’re using the GPS you can step down from 1380 to 1240.  However with the timed approach, you can’t.  I have always performed the timed approach and even though I saw VAYRU Sequence, part of me said if I stepped down I would fail.  So I didn’t step down…. I failed.

This is where I let it get to my head.  I performed the missed approach back to LIB when the examiner said I failed.  I elected to continue, might as well right?  Well after back with ATC, they put me on a vector (Which I sucked at today) and asked which approach I would like.  I told them the RNAV 21.  At this point the examiner asked ATC if we could have a block altitude.  This meant we were going to perform an unusual attitude recoveries.  Well, the only thing I thought about during the unusual attitude recovery was the failure, so guess what…. I messed that up as well.

Shake it off.  The examiner requested we ask ATC for the full approach instead of vectors, so we were given OZOPE.  I flew to OZOPE and began the approach.  My clearance was descend 2000 to YUXI cleared for the RNAV 21 approach.  I thought this was weird because the route segment said 2000.  When I got down to 2200 I asked ATC to re-confirm my clearance to 2000 and she affirmed.  So I descended to 2000.  After about a minute, ATC apologized and asked me to climb to 2200.  I didn’t get dinged here because I asked for verification. After YUXI, I descended, albeit late, down to 2000 for the glidepath intercept.  At this point I was partial panel with no attitude or directional gyro.  It was ok, I had the GPS.

I flew the rest of this approach with no issues and as we descended, the examiner said to go ahead and cancel IFR because we could do the rest of the ride in VFR weather.  I flew the missed and then was vectored to the west with intention of intercepting the ILS Y 03.  At this point I screwed up again.  I started to setup my flows and when I got to verifying the ILS We were still too far away so I said out loud, “I need to verify the ILS”  Guess what I forgot to do once established?  Yep, didn’t verify ILS.  I looked at the ID on the GPS but didn’t say anything about it being ID’d that way.

Flew the rest of the ILS just fine and landed.  Ride over. Confidence in the gutter. I never thought it would happen. I feel lousy not because of me but because I feel that I let my instructors down and one of them got a ding on there record for a failed checkride.

What next?  Let’s look at the bright side.  This was the real deal.  IFR weather on the checkride.  Not a lot of people get that opportunity.  And the best part was, that wasn’t my issue.  I handled being in the system just fine.  Made the radio calls.  Only real radio call issue, I had to ask them to repeat one call because I was briefing out loud to the examiner.  I feel good about catching the route altitude problem.  I let the first issue (Stepdown) cause the second issue (Unusual Attitude Recovery) and the third issue (Verifying the ILS) was just me forgetting.  If it wasn’t for those things, it was a pretty fun ride.  I was able to function well, for the most part, through the 2nd and 3rd approaches even though I was pretty distraught.

The silver lining in this whole process is that my original goal was to be a safer pilot.  Even though I worked hard and thought I was ready, this experienced shined a light on some deficiencies. Maybe it isn’t what I wanted but what I needed to get to the next level, to be a safer pilot.

It won’t get me down. In the next post, I will be posting about my success.  Stay Tuned!


A little more time building with a slight hitch

Today was another time building flight.  I still need a little more hood time and some more cross country before I can start my final checkride prep lessons.  Also a whole lot of studying but that is another story.

Todays flight will take us from TTA -> OCW (Washington-Warren) -> CRE (Grand strand) -> TTA.  Today’s weather was to be severe clear for most of eastern North Carolina with some scattered clouds starting around noon.  On our first leg from TTA to OCW the predictions were correct.  Severe clear weather, though I was under the hood to get my hood time in.  I didn’t get to enjoy the clear hazy skies.

Once we were on the ground at Washington Warren, we got some fuel, used the restroom and then back in the airplane to head south towards North Myrtle beach.  Pretty uninteresting for the most part.  I played with the VOR tracking along the Wilmington VOR as we would pass to the west of the terminal area.  My safety pilot alerted me to some clouds ahead around 4000′.  We were currently at 4500′ but decided to climb to 6500′ to make sure that we would clear them with ease.

A few minutes after we leveled off at 6500′ something interesting occured.  The engine ran rough for just a second.  Then about 20 seconds later, again a short rough spot.  Then again and again.  Ok at this point, I have Wilmington international to the left and a small airfield to the right.  We have altitude, 6500′, and options.  At first I thought, duh, mixture.  So I adjusted the mixture but the problem persisted.  Next, I thought, ok carb ice?  I have never experienced carb ice before and the conditions seem to be right for this phenomena.  I turn on the carb heat and saw the expected drop in RPM.  The engine roughness disappeared.  Ok, weird.  I thought that carb ice manifested in a slow rpm decrease over time.

At this point, I told my safety pilot that we were going to head back home.  There were no clouds back to the west and we had lots of airfield options.  We discussed dropping down to a lower altitude to see if the problem persisted but I chose to keep the altitude we had unless we were forced to give it up.

After a few minutes on route back to TTA, I tried to turn off the carb heat again and before I got the knob fully pushed in, immediate roughness. Odd?

Another thought that crossed my mind was that maybe the air intake vent was somehow clogged.  Bird, bug, trash?  Carb heat gives you a backup air intake source, that would explain why there was immediate roughness when carb heat was disengaged.

During the next 30 minutes, I would intermittently remove carb heat to see if the roughness persisted and it did.

Assessing the situation:  We are at 6500′, gliding distance to 2 airfields and we have airfields lined up the entire route back.  Airplane is performing fine with carb heat applied.  I made the decision to continue on with the caveat that if anything else seems funny, we make a precautionary landing.

We also made the decision that we would test the carb icing theory by descending down to 4500′ closer to home, within gliding distance of KHRJ. That way if we didn’t like the situation we could be on the ground at Harnett County quickly and safely.

Sure enough, once down to 4500′, I removed the carb heat and everything ran fine the rest of the trip.  I made a point to talk with our chief flight instructor and my IFR instructor to make sure that I was approaching the situation in a sane and safe manner.  This was a learning opportunity and just because things turned out fine, doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton to learn from it, good or bad.  I wanted to debrief and make sure there wasn’t something else that I could have done better.

I had sufficient power, I had altitude and I had options.  In the end, I made safe logical decisions.  The lesson here is that you should rely on your training, work the problem and go through your options.  I’m sure some will look at this and say, “Pfftt, that is nothing, this one time…..”.  When you’re a relatively low time pilot, events like this, no matter how small, test your training.  Hopefully, I added a little bit more to my experience bucket and didn’t lose too much from my luck bucket.

Today’s flight had a tiny bit of nerves for a bit but I got to fly and I learned something valuable.


Long IFR cross country, from time to think to under pressure

Today the weather and schedules lined up for me to complete my long IFR cross country requirement.  With a high pressure dominating much of the area, it was beautiful blue skies today.  I spent nearly the entire time under the hood with the exception of a touch and go.  Oh, and I looked up as I flew through a single cloud on vectors to ILS Y 35 Approach.  Flying through clouds are cool so I took the option of looking up for the occasion.

Ok, so the night before, my instructor said to plan for KTTA -> KILM (ILS) ->  KFLO (VOR ARC) -> KTTA (RNAV) with a 9am departure.

So, here was my first, sort of, mess up.  I performed a intermediate NWKRAFT on the flight plan.  NWKRAFT is a flight planning tool:

Known ATC Delays
Runway lengths
Fuel requirements
Take off and landing distances

Once I got to the fuel requirements, I plugged in 3.5 hrs, which is typical for fuel to the tabs.  I planned like we were going to file multiple times with a fuel stop either at KILM or KFLO.  I Should have asked if we were going to top off which would allow us to fly the complete trip without refuel.  Because of my poor assumptions, this stuck in my head for the initial configuration of our flight plan.  More on that later.

After preflight, I sat down to look at weather briefs for our entire route.  I plugged in 2 flight plans, first KTTA -> KILM and then KILM -> KFLO.  The first reason I did this, as stated previously, I figured that we were landing at KILM. Second is because of the way foreflight briefing gives me the proper notams and FDC Notams.  It also helps me compartmentalize each segment to make sure I don’t gloss over things.  Sometimes with the foreflight briefing, it is easy to miss some notams if you don’t plug in the actual route airport as the destination.

Ex. If you plugin KTTA -> KILM -> KFLO -> KTTA, then you will get a nice break down of notams for your departure and destination.  In this case, both are KTTA.  You have to dig out the others from the enroute data. By creating separate briefings for the legs, I get better Notam breakdowns.  Note to self, look into

Ok, after briefing, I plugged in the entire route into the flight plan so that I could file our IFR Clearance.  Once my instructor looked everything over, I clicked the file button.

On a side note, there is a lot of satisfaction in filing IFR flight plans.  I am not sure why but I think it is really cool.  It is also neat that within a minute or so, I get an email with my expected route. Makes me feel professional…. ish.

Before departure, we would need to top the tanks off in order to be able to complete the entire trip without refueling. It is really annoying that we can’t call for fuel anymore.  It seems that our club is being unjustly punished but that is a story for another blog post. Oh, and the pump refused to give me a receipt so that added insult to injury.

Ok, so once we were fueled up, I performed the preflight runup and checks. So here is where my planning the night before messed me up.  I plugged in KTTA -> KILM and left it as that.  In part of my mind I said, well, I am going to call for my clearance in a few minutes, I will change it then.  However, when I was ready, my instructor said, “It’s a pretty clear day why would we waste time on the ground”  Good point, we can pick it up in the air.

We taxi’d and departed.  I went under the hood and my instructor gave me vectors around the pattern until “Proceed direct”  After a hint, I resequenced the GPS direct.  After gaining some altitude, I called up Fayetteville approach and picked up our clearance.  “N72675 cleared to Sanford as filed, climb and maintain 5000”  At this point, I should have rechecked the flight plan in the GPS and resquenced accordingly. But nay, I did no such thing and this would cause me a moment of strife later in this adventure.

The trip to Wilmington was pretty uneventful.  I configured the autopilot and my instructor and I had a quiz session on IFR Chart symbology. This went pretty well but I could tell (I’m sure he could as well) that I was rusty. Time to hit the books.

Once we were closer, we were given vectors for the ILS Y 35 approach (As we previously requested).   Nothing unusual about the approach and we did a quick touch and go then runway heading back up to 2000.

Now this is where my ineptitude of the flight planning comes into play.  Now remember I just had KTTA -> KILM sequenced in the GPS.  Once I was handed back to approach, I was cleared direct to KFLO.  Ok, at this point I had no idea what the course was and fumbled to input the changes into the GPS.  At about the time I get everything situated I hear, “N72675 are you going to turn direct to KFLO?”  I think at this point my instructor keyed the mic to respond that we are turning now.  I wish I could say that it was a great learning experience that would forever be etched into my brain but sometimes it takes multiple times to really get the point across. More later, lol.

Once on course it was pretty boring to be honest.  I started thinking about what was next and configuring for the ATIS at KFLO and that I needed to use the restroom.  I flushed that from my mind ( pun intended) and began setting up the radios for the VOR.  Even though we were on the GPS for the VOR Arc, it is good to have these things in case something goes wrong.  I pulled up the VOR approach and briefed as much as I could since we didn’t actually have the approach clearance.  The point here is that I was trying to stay ahead of the aircraft where I could.  I felt like I did a fair job on this flight in that regard.

Once cleared direct to JONAP for the VOR Arc, I finished the brief and we discussed the entry and when I could descend down to 1100.  This comes down to when you’re established on final. (And definition of established)

The Arc went fine (The joys of GPS), and I flew down to circling minimums.  I won’t go into detail but we had some issues with tower really really not wanting to let us just break off the approach and continue back to TTA.  They seemed to really want us to fly the full low approach over the runway.  We ended up circling around to runway 9 and then on climb out we were handed back over to approach.

“N72657, radar contact 5nm east of Florence Region, one thousand eight hundred. Climb five thousand and let me know when you can copy an amended clearance”  Okydoky, I cleared my kneeboard and responded “N72675 ready to copy”.  “N72675, cleared to Sanford via Direct Sandhills VOR, Sierra Delta Zulu, then direct Sanford”  I repeated back the clearance and now we need to resequence for Sandhills.  Like before, it took me a minute or so to resequence the GPS and I hear, “N72675, are you turning direct sandhills?”  Again my instructor keyed the mic and said we were turning now, just had to clean up the GPS.  This time the controller said no problem take your time.  However, this was the second time this happened.

I recognize that the second time was really due to an amended clearance and that is justifiable but the first time was completely my error in not being prepared.  We then used this as a teachable moment and discussed ways of handling it.  I could have just put direction Sandhills in the GPS then made the turn on course and after established finished up with the rest of the flight plan.  The other thing that I could have done is asked ATC for an initial vector and that I would let them know when I could resume on navigation after the resequence.

The big takeaway hear is that I need to have my flight plan in order and also I could use some more time practicing with the GPS.  I will spend some time on the Garmin simulator.

Once on with Fayetteville approach, we were cleared direct TTA through a restricted area.  My bladder was extremely pleased as this cut around 10-15 minutes off our flight time.  This was wonderful as the pressure was literally building inside of me.

We were cleared straight in  TTA RNAV 3 approach, my bladder yet again thankful that we didn’t have to perform the procedure turn.

After landing and a quick trip to the potty, my instructor and I debriefed.  Other than my flightplan snafu and one missed radio call, I did pretty well.  I think that he was pleased.  He said that my radio work is good enough for checkride and that I should start the hardcore bookwork as my checkride is on the horizon.

I currently still have 5.1 cross country left and about 6.5 hood time that I need to get done before.  Checkride prep should cut into half of that time so I will have another building flight time post in the near future.

I really like IFR flying and plan to fly in the system a whole lot in the future. But for now, it is crunch time.  Time to take all of what I have learned and finish the rating.  For today however, I got to fly and that is always cool!

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