As I mentioned at the end of my last post, Joel, my instructor, has taken a new job in Seattle and is no longer available. That left me with finding a new instructor to finish up my last 3.3 hours and to prepare me for my checkride. Teaching instrument training takes an additional certificate from the FAA, so not every instructor can teach the instrument rating. This reduces the number of instructors that are available, and I have to find one that can work with me when I am available. After looking at who was available at the flight school (SunQuest Aviation), I decided to use Paul. This is the same Paul that was my safety pilot for the flight to Bartow last month. So I have flown with him and feel comfortable with him.
I mentioned a few weeks back that my JeppShades I was using as my hood had broken. What had happened was the bit of plastic on the frame that holds the hinge had broken off, and the hood separated into two pieces. I decided to call up Aircraft Spruce, where I bought them from to see if there was anything they could do to help me. When I told them what the problem was, they gave me an RMA number to return the broken ones, and sent me out a new set for free. So major kudos to them for that, since they certainly didn’t have to do that. The only disappointing thing was when the new ones arrived, the hinge design was the same as the ones that broke. I compared these to the ones I borrowed from the flight school a couple weeks ago, and the older hinge design is much more robust than the new design. The new set will easily last until my checkride (the last ones lasted six months), but I will have to say I no longer recommend these since the design will not stand up to repeated use. When these break again (and they will), I will try to find something else to replace them. Of course, that may be several years from now, since after I pass my checkride I will only be using them for currency and Instrument Proficiency Checks (about once every six months or so), not every week like I am using them now.
I met with Paul at the beginning of my lesson to get him up to speed where I was with my training and what my plan was for the remaining 3.5 hours I have left to go. I also wanted to go over the new ILS procedure that changed a few weeks ago. I had some questions on things like the missed procedure. That had changed a little and a few details were unclear to me. Since I am getting close to the checkride, and I will definitely have to fly the ILS during my checkride, I wanted to make sure I understood all the details of it. I told him I was hoping to fly at least 1.5 to 2.0 hours in today, if possible.
We went out to the plane and took off, heading towards Pahokee. I had not flown my plane since getting back from Cedar Key last weekend, and I needed more fuel. So, the first part of the flight would be the VOR approach into Pahokee. I used the RNAV system in my plane to fly direct to the JATEL fix (final approach fix) on the VOR approach, then I did a procedure turn to line up for the approach. The approach went pretty well, except for an extremely large flock of birds (egrets, it appeared) that were hanging out at the end of the runway. Of course they decided to take flight as I reached them, so I stayed high and flew over them before coming in for a landing. There was plenty of runway to stop, but there is only one taxiway in the middle of the runway, and if you miss that one, you have to taxi all the way to the end of the runway to get on the taxiway. That’s what happened.
After topping of the tanks, and finding out from the people working there that the grass had just been mowed and that was why the birds were there (it makes it easier for them to get the bugs they eat), we departed. We flew the complete ILS, which gave me time to practice my VOR skills, which I think I have figured out what my problem was.
The problem I was having with the VORs was figuring out which heading to dial into the OBS. For any particular heading, you have two options, one TO the VOR and one FROM the VOR. Depending on which one you select changes how the needle reacts to adjustments you make in your course. For one option, the needle operates normally, the needle is your course, and you need to fly towards the needle to get back on course. The other option makes the needle operate backwards, and you need to fly away from the needle to get back on course.
Whether you have normal operation or inverse operation depends on two things; the TO/FROM indication of the VOR head, and which direction you are currently heading. That was where my problem was coming from. Winston finally said something last week that made me realize why I was having problems. You will have reverse sensing if the heading in the VOR does not match the heading on your Directional Gyro. That is a quick and simple way to make sure you have everything set up correctly. As I have mentioned several times, VORs are very slow to change, and you may fly for several minutes before the needle moves off the center. If you then turn the wrong direction to correct that, it will make matters worse. And, because you think you are turning the correct direction, but you are getting further off the course, it doesn’t take long before you are confused on what you should be doing. So, hopefully I have that all straight in my head now.
The other, related, problem I have is that my Directional Gyro has started the long, slow path to failure. As the bearings inside the DG start to wear out, the DG starts to precess quicker. What that means is that over time, the DG heading will be off. The more worn the bearings are, the quicker the heading is off. A couple of times when I couldn’t seem to capture a VOR radial, it appears that my DG was not reading correctly, and although I was turning towards the radial properly, I wasn’t really heading in the direction I thought I was. Now that I have realized the DG is precessing quicker, I check it according to the compass more frequently. Eventually the bearings will wear enough that the DG just can’t hold the heading at all, then it needs to be overhauled. I don’t want to do that this close to the checkride, because I might not get it back in time and have to re-schedule the checkride. Plus, I don’t want to spend the money this close to the checkride. I look at getting this overhauled after the checkride.
So I successfully followed the VOR towards the ILS approach. As I mentioned a few weeks ago when I first tried the new approach, it is just about everything I can do to get my plane up to 2500 feet by the time I reach the Initial Approach Fix. On the old approach, it was at 2000 feet and was several miles closer to F45. This puts the fix closer to Pahokee, which is what is making it more difficult to get to it when departing from Pahokee. It isn’t a problem when you are already in the air, just when leaving from the ground. Just as I get to the fix, it is time to descend back to 1600 feet to capture the glide slope.
I flew the approach pretty well, and since I had questions about the missed procedure, we flew the beginning part of the procedure so I could try it out (I haven’t flow the new missed yet). It worked out fine, so then Paul vectored me back around to land at North County. This was an afternoon lesson, and the afternoon showers were starting to close in the airport, so that limited what we could do. Here is the flight path for today:
Overall, everything went pretty smoothly. Paul says I need to be more rigorous about identifying the VORs as I tune them in. This is something that will be looked for on the checkride. I know I have been pretty lazy about that, so I will have to make a special point to do that from here on out.
Due to spending a lot of time on the ground briefing, and the incoming storms, I only got another 0.7 of hood time today. I was hoping to get close to half of my remaining time done today, but it didn’t work out. That leaves me with 2.6 hours left to go.
My checkride has been scheduled, so we now have a timeframe to work towards. Look for some more closely-spaced lessons from here on. We want to make sure I get the rest of my flying time in early enough that if I run into any weather issues I have time to make it up before the checkride.
After that, I will have at least one session with Paul to review the information for the oral part of the exam. Just like I did for my private pilot checkride, there are two parts to the checkride; the oral exam and the practical exam. I have been flying for the last six months, but I haven’t really looked at any of the oral exam information since I took my written test last December. I hope I still remember it all.
Next lesson is Monday evening (hey, I just told you they would be more frequent).