Today was another instrument flight, this time with a new safety pilot, John. I met John last year when we met at the ground school for the instrument written test at one of the local high schools. He has yet to start his instrument lessons due to getting layed off from his job. I hope he finds a new job before his two years expire on his written test. In any case, he hasn’t been flying much, so I thought I would take him up with me, plus he could be my safety pilot.
Yesterday, I asked John where he wanted to go and he said Okeechobee. I thought about that and decided we could fly up that way, but there really wasn’t any point in landing there since they don’t have any approaches I could fly. So I modified the flight plan a little, and instead we would fly to Okeechobee, overfly the airport, fly to the LaBelle VOR, fly over to Pahokee, do the VOR approach there, stop and top off the gas tanks, and then fly back to F45 and fly the ILS. That should be around two hours of flying time.
I met John at North County around 10:00 in the morning. I had arrived a little early so I could get the preflight done before he got there. This would be John’s first time being a safety pilot, so after spending a few minutes discussing what we would be doing, we took off. The first waypoint was Okeechobee (OBE), so I programmed that into my KNS-80 system. I have been having problems with VORs for some unknown reason and so I thought I would try to fly the whole route today using VORs. Programming the location of OBE in the KNS-80 lets me fly to it the same way I would fly to a VOR. Flying up to OBE went pretty well, it just took a little bit in the beginning to get right on the “radial” to OBE.
Once we got to OBE, I dialed in the LaBelle VOR (LBV). I didn’t have to put any radial or distance information in the KNS-80, since I would be flying direct to the VOR. That went pretty well, too. As you will see in my flight path, following VORs is not quite as straight as when I follow a GPS path. The VORs are just not super accurate, and you are pretty far off course by the time the needle moves a little bit. This gives the flight path a tendency to wander a little bit around the radial. You can see that on the flight tracks for the first two legs.
Once we got to LBV, we turned direct towards the Pahokee VOR. This was pretty much the same as the two legs before. We listened to the radio at PHK as we flew the leg, and initially people were landing on runway 35, but then there was a period where it was quiet with no one on the radio. When a few more people showed up, they all of a sudden started landing on runway 17. I wasn’t sure if the wind had changed or if people just started landing on 17 because there was someone doing practice approaches (and misses) for runway 17. My plan as we approached PHK was to turn to the north for the VOR approach into Pahokee a little early so John could look out the window and check the windsock. I didn’t want to take the hood off on short final only to find I was going to land with a tailwind.
So we made the turn, John spotted the windsock and there was mostly a crosswind, but the winds were favoring runway 17. That makes the approach easier, because you just go in for a landing when you get to minimums instead of circling around to the other side when the wind is coming from the opposite direction.
Once we made the turn, I tried to line up with the 002° radial for the approach, and that was when everything went wonky. For some reason, I just couldn’t find the radial. The needle on the OBS was pegged to one side, and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t find it. Finally, I glanced up at the GPS to see where the heck I was, and turned back towards the direction I should have been headed in. I really don’t know why I couldn’t get going the correct direction. I think the problem started at my very first turn, but I should have easily been able to recover from the turn. For some reason, I just didn’t have firmly in my mind where I was in relation to the radial I was trying to track. By the time I finally found the radial, I was 10 mile from PHK instead of the 5 miles I was supposed to be. I turned around and tracked the radial in just fine, but I don’t really know what went on in the first part of that approach. The flight track is very ugly there, as you will see later. I feel like I shouldn’t be making these kind of mistakes this late in the training.
So after that ugly approach, I landed at PHK where I topped off the tanks and visited with the employees who work out there a little bit. Then we took back off and headed back towards North County, where I would fly the ILS 8R approach for the very first time. I’m sure you’re thinking, “doesn’t he fly this approach all the time into F45?” Or maybe you haven’t been really paying attention when you read these things and don’t realize that I have been flying the ILS 8R for six months now. Well, the truth is that the FAA has almost completely re-written the ILS approach into F45, so it was all new to me. Here is the old approach and the new approach side by side:
So there you have it, the old ILS and the new one (old on the left, new on the right). There are basically three big changes, and many, many small changes. The first big change is that the initial altitude is 2500 feet instead of 2000 feet. The second big change is that instead of descending to 1600 feet to capture the glide slope at the DUJBY intersection, you now descend to 1600 feet at the YIGBO intersection. YIGBO is further out than DUJBY was, and is identified from a cross radial from Vero Beach (VRB) instead of a cross radial from Palm Beach (PBI). The DUJBY intersection no longer appears on any of the approaches into F45 anymore. The final big change is that all the descent minimums have been raised up about 20 feet or so. Little changes include missed approach instructions and a procedure turn added into the approach. I’m not really sure why they made the changes, but I’m sure the FAA has their reasons. The thinking of the pilots at the airport is the changes were made to align the ILS approach (which has not changed in many, many years) with the GPS approaches (which are relatively new). All the GPS approaches, for example, use the YIGBO intersection. There also might be some considerations for traffic flow.
Anyway, it was interesting flying the approach for the first time. I had trouble capturing the radial out of PHK again, just like I did during the approach to PHK. I did discover two mistakes as I was attempting to track down the radial. The first was I had dialed in the approach radial (089°) instead of the radial out of PHK (078°). That made a difference, but the big difference came when I realized my Directional Gyro (DG) had precessed quite a bit. It was off by at least 10° when I noticed it. Once I reset that, I captured the radial pretty quickly. I don’t know if the DG was the problem at PHK, but it could have been. Looking at the track, it looks like I was off by ten degrees or so when I was searching for the radial.
I finally caught the radial, but by that time I was already at YIGBO, because it is closer to PHK than DUJBY was. I also had to climb up to 2500 feet instead of 2000 feet. Those two changes doesn’t give you a lot of time to get everything set up when flying from PHK, at least in my plane. Once I passed YIGBO, it was back down to 1600 feet to capture the localizer and eventually the glide slope. This part is more or less the same as before. I just had to make sure I remembered what the new minimum descent altitude was to break off the approach. I lifted the hood at minimums, and was off the runway just a little bit. I corrected that and landed. Here is the not-so-great track from today:
I suppose it was all a good learning experience in the end, but it was a little frustrating at the end there. Another 1.7 instrument time in the books this flight. Down to 6.9 hours left.
I am planning on going to the Triple Tree Fly-In in Greenville, SC next weekend if the weather is good. Tropical Storm Lee or Hurricane Katia could force me to cancel those plans. If I go, it will be two weeks until the next update here. If I can’t go next weekend, I will try to get a couple more hours next weekend.