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
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 flightplan.com
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!