Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Month: May 2018

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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