Back at it

It’s been almost a month since my last lesson. I spent two weekends going to and back from Oshkosh/Clinton, and another weekend in Savannah for Christina’s birthday. They were fun, and I did get quite a bit of flying in during my trip to the midwest. I think it was around 32 hours of flying in ten days. Not bad. None of it, however, ended up being any instrument time, so I am basically right where I was after my last lesson.

The plan for today’s lesson was to stay close to home and to review some of the stuff we haven’t done in a while. Joel also wanted to do a partial panel approach, which I hadn’t done since my vacuum pump failed a couple months ago.

We took off and headed towards Pahokee. This was with the full panel, and Joel had me track a radial into Pahokee, and then turn north to enter the VOR approach at the hold. When we first started towards Pahokee, I could tell it had been a while since I last flew under the hood. I felt very unsure of what I was supposed to be doing. By the time we got to Pahokee, I felt more comfortable, but not 100% yet.

As I flew north to the hold in the approach, I couldn’t decide how to enter the hold. I knew it should be either a direct entry or a teardrop, but I couldn’t figure out which one would be the best and why. I asked Joel which entry I should use, and he was surprised I hadn’t already figured that out. I finally decided to do a direct entry, but after thinking about it, the teardrop would have been better.

With a direct entry, you fly opposite the “proper” direction (in this case north), and then make a turn and re-intercept the radial (in this case, going south towards the airport). With a teardrop, as soon as you pass the fix, you make a 30° turn, fly outbound for a minute, and then re-intercept the radial. I did a direct entry, but the problem with that is by the time you make your turn and re-intercept the radial, you are already back at the waypoint, which is the start of the approach. With a teardrop entry, you have a lot longer time to get established on the radial, and are already going the proper direction long before you hit the waypoint. It just makes it a lot easier to get set up for the approach that way. I’ll have to remember that for next time.

We then flew the VOR approach into Pahokee, which went pretty well considering I wasn’t really established when I reached the Initial Approach Fix (IAF). I did a touch and go at Pahokee (which was actually a pretty nice landing), and then we headed back towards North County.

On the way back, Joel covered up the Attitude Indicator and the Directional Gyro. We first flew the ILS at North County partial panel. The last time I flew partial panel approach was for real, and with a safety pilot. I hadn’t flown any partial panel approaches with Joel yet, and he gave me some helpful hints on getting zeroed in on the needles. Once you get the localizer needles approximately centered, it is pretty easy to fly the approach on the needles alone. But it does take a little bit of practice to get the needles initially centered. You have a tendency to over correct if you aren’t careful, and that can cause some problems smoothly flying the approach.

After the ILS approach, we went back around to fly the localizer approach partial panel. On the way back around, Joel had me do some compass turns. It took a few times to remember how much I needed to overshoot or undershoot the turn to end and the correct heading, but it all came back eventually.

Then we flew the localizer approach (which is the same as the ILS except you ignore the glide slope), and then came in for a landing. Everyone was landing on 26L, so I had to “circle to land” on the proper runway. Here was the track of today’s flight:

Overall, today’s flight was actually pretty good. I was a little rusty on some things. Some of that was from not flying on instruments for a month, and some was because I hadn’t done some of these tasks for several months. I did learn, though, that it doesn’t take long to get out of practice flying by the instruments.

Once I get my rating, I think I will probably do an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) every six months, even through they are not required unless you let your instrument currency lapse for twelve months. An IPC is done with an instructor, and is very similar to what I did today, and is an easy way to knock any rust of your flying skills.

I’m down to about 13 hours of instrument time left, so I am on the home stretch now. My plan is to get about another 10 hours with a safety pilot, and then get back with Joel for the last three or four hours to prepare for the check ride. Hopefully my check ride will be around the end of September or the beginning of October.

I will say that I am ready to be done, and am starting to get tired of flying under the hood all the time. I thought my VFR trip last month would get me over the hump, but all it did was remind me how much more fun flying VFR is than flying under the hood. That’s not to say flying IFR is not fun, but all of my experience so far is under the hood, and that does get old after a while.

My lesson today did end on a pretty positive note, though. After we were done debriefing today’s flight, Joel said that if today’s flight was a checkride, I would have passed! So it does appear that I am learning something.

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