Thursday, October 27, 2005

IFR 5 - Arc

The objectives for the flight were: 1) Communications with ATC, 2) Fly an approach with an Arc, 3) some partial panel work, 4) cross country considerations (IFR enroute).

The plan was to fly down to West Georgia Regional (CTJ) and treat it as a x-country flight. Then up toward the Rome VOR where the CFI would specify an arc to fly to the initial approach fix (IAF) for the Localizer approach into Cartersville (VPC) and end with vectors to the GPS RWY 9 at home (RYY).

There was a new twist tonight. My instructor introduced me to another student and asked if it would be OK for him to come along as an observer. It is common for qualified Private Pilots working on their instrument rating to have a 'Safety Pilot' come along for practice flights. (The two students can split the costs, and don't need to pay for an instructor.) Three 'full sized' men meant that we needed a bigger horse, so I got to fly a different, newer Cessna, C172S - (N2165L). It has a 180 HP engine, fuel injection, and a nice Nav package (but not the Gamin GPS I'm accustomed to using).

The briefing went well and focused on GPS x-country operations. (objective 4) What are the minimum altitudes you should use when going direct from point A to point B? (Not on an airway, is the MEA relevant? What about obstruction clearance? What happens if you have a GPS failure/electrical failure/comm failure while tracking to an unpublished way point?)

Flight down to CTJ was fine, beautiful evening, smooth air, but I had 'foggles' on so didn't see the sunset. (Although I was told it was spectacular.) Shot the full (with procedural turn) ILS RWY 35 without a problem. Airwork is getting solid now, no issues with glide slope control.

Executed the missed there, climbed up to 3500 and headed toward RMG. The CFI asked me to do a 7 mile arc from south to east to intercept the 080 degree radial and fly outbound on it to VPC (kindasorta objective 2). Flying an arc is an interesting exercise (example). You actually break it down into small straight segments, correcting in or out as necessary to maintain the correct distance from the navaid. The trick is to figure out the entry (which way to turn) and then when to make the corrections. I knocked some more rust off my neurons and dove in. These days, its nice to have a GPS that provides a picture (but to be honest, I forgot to use it until I was about half way through the arc.)

Once I intercepted the radial, he placed some instrument covers over the Attitude Gyro and the Directional Gyro. This simulates a vacuum pump failure and is called flying "partial panel"(objective 3). The trick here is making turns. The compass is unreliable while turning, so you are forced to make 'standard rate' turns. (2 minutes to turn 360 degrees.) So, you first calculate how far to turn (080-005= about 90) then figure the number of seconds (about 30) then punch the clock and start the turn. Roll out after 30 seconds, check the compass and correct as necessary. Altitude changes are done by setting the known RPM, flying the right airspeed, and closely checking the VSI and altimeter as always. Needless to say, the pilot is very busy...and yes, if this actually happened in IFR conditions you declare an emergency and get all the help (radar vectors) you can get. Now a big advantage today is (again) GPS. It has actual track over the ground information, and some even have a built in Directional Gyro. No it is not 'cheating' to use this.

With full instruments back, the GPS RWY 9 back home was uneventful.

Another good work out, no question that I was tired by the end of the flight. I'm satisfied with the progress I'm making and feel that I'm getting close to where I should be. My headwork is getting better. A few more flights should do it.

Unfortunately my poor little 96c was stuck in my flight bag under a pile of stuff and probably couldn't find any satellites. No track this time.

Time = 1.7

*Congratulations Mandy! Last night was her Off Broadway Debut to an Actors Equity audience for "Tick Tick Boom". While still waiting for official reviews, I'm confident this was just an outstanding performance.

Friday, October 21, 2005

IFR 4 - Say Again?

I had four objectives for this flight: 1) I wanted to practice communications with ATC, 2) I needed to refine my air work especially on Glide slope, 3) I wanted to fly an arc approach, and 4) I wanted to file a flight plan.

I planned to fly the ILS RWY 8 at Fulton County (Charlie Brown), the GPS RWY 7 at Gwinnett County (Briscoe Field) and the ILS 27 back into Cobb County (McCollum Field). The relative close proximity meant I would have to work hard to stay ahead of the airplane.

The preflight briefing went well, and since my plan would keep us close to Atlanta, my instructor asked that I file a flight plan (Objective 4). Not a problem. Really just a matter of filing in boxes on a form and calling Flight Service to activate it. (This can be done from the PC these days.)

The preflight was normal. Once started I adjusted the radios so that I was ready for Charlie Brown. I also had to add a step to get a clearance, the reason for the flight plan. It is important to have a pencil ready becasue all instructions must be read back correctly.

Normal Taxi and runup. (Low voltage light had me reset the electrical power, which meant I had to reload the GPS...but no real problem with that.)

After takeoff McCollum tower had me swicth to Atlanta Approach control. One button push on the GPS. They were very busy. It seemd like five minutes before I could break in and identify myself. "Roger Cessna 361 come left heading 120 climb and maintain 4000. State intentions." (Objective 1) No problem, I flew as directed, read back the clearance and asked for the ILS RWY 8 into Fulton County. "Unable 361, State intentions." Brain Freeze.

The instructor helped me out and asked for vectors to VOR A instead. So, some shuffleing to get the right approach and go through my 'gouge'. This is a pneumonic or acronym pilots use to remember stuff:

MICEATM: Marker beacon and align directional gyro to Magnetic compas, identify (the navaide), Course (final approach course), Entry (radar vectors, or as published), altitude(key altitudes for the approach),Time(if needed for the missed approach), Missed approach (procedures). Adding an "A" in front for ATIS (weather and runway information), makes it "A mice ATM".

Airwork was good, really for the entire flight. I need more polish, but flying the airplane is not my problem. Keeping my head in the game is. I must always ask myself what is next, what else can be done, how do I prepare for the next event. I'm not quite back to that way of thinking.

ILS into Briscoe went fine (objective 2), but along the way the airplane instrument lights failed. Time for flashlights. Always have one ready when flying at night.

Missed approach there, radar vectors to ILS back home. No real problems with that one either. Night landing was uneventful.

A GREAT training flight. I learned much, but still have much work to do. I'll find another approach with an arc for next time. (and really is fun!)

*My thanks to John R ( for his idea about using Google Earth. Pretty cool! There are three tracks depicted, which represent my flights for October.

Cessna 172p
Time = 1.9

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nates 2nd

The Flight School had a window from 11:00 to 1:00 for N53361, and the weather is 'severe clear'. Upon arriving I'm told that the vacuum pump is 'squirley', but for my purpose, this is not a problem. (I'll be practicing partial panel later, but with the outstanding weather, the Directional Gyro and Attitude Indicator aren't mission critical.) Normal preflight, taxi and runup. Nate does all of the checklists for me. Position and hold. I explained what to expect and let him take off. Pretty good job, nice rudder control.

We depart to the west in the general direction of VPC. Talk about airspeed, outside reference and trim. Complete the checklists, etc. We can see to almost forever. Level off at 3,500 feet, and do some basic airwork maneuvers. Turns, climbs, and descents. He does a nice job, very easy on the controls. I think Skydiving has given him "air sense", but I'm not sure if there is a real correlation.

My turn. Back to RYY for some T&Gs. ATIS has changed to Xray, but it is as nice as can be. Light winds right down the runway. Listening for tower calls, looking for traffic and explaining what I'm doing gets a bit hectic, but all works out fine. I abort the first landing (not bad, just not what I wanted) and make two more and a full stop. Nice workout, and I was really glad to have the company. We coverd 89.2 miles, climbed to 4822 feet and had a max speed of 141 mph.

Cessna 172P
Time = 1.2

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

IFR 3 - Aviate, Navigate...

...Communicate. I decided to reduce the number of variables and let the instructor do the talking. I just wanted to concentrate on flying...good basic airwork and solid navigation. We planned the GPS RWY 4 at Cherokee County (47A), my first ever GPS approach, followed by the Localizer RWY 19 at Cartersville (VPC) and finished with the VOR/DME RWY 9 at home (RYY).

The GPS is pretty straight forward, once you get the 'knobology'. Its almost like dialing your cell phone while driving a stick shift in stop and go traffic. Its easier if you have speed dial set up, so I need to learn all of the short cuts to get the Garmin 430 set up quickly. The simulator really helps, and the instructor was able to polish that knowledge a bit more with some good advice. (Direct/enter/enter). My airwork was good. I was able to stay ahead the whole flight without any problems, much better the IFR2.

LOC Rwy 19 was also good. I need to polish my procedures here. Get all of the necessary checklists done (MICEATM), and insure all of the timings are started correctly. I was ahead of the plane, and had not listened to ATIS or CTAF. I need to organize myself better, but overall the approach went well. No longer chasing the needle, instead I put a correction in and wait for effect (about 3 scans) before correcting again. Also, I talk to myself the whole way down stating target heading and next target altitude. That really works. Level off OK, but he suggested I add a bit more pitch up (about one pipper) to really stop the altimeter. Will incorporate that next time.

VOR back home was easy. The approach leaves you way out in 'left field' so it might be dicey in actual conditions, but I had no problems flying it as published. All checklist complete and squeeek on the landing! We covered 95.6 miles in what was a really good confidence builder. Now I need to learn how to talk again.

Time = 1.2

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Weathered Out

I'm learning how to fly in weather, so this should have been the perfect training flight. We decided not to go. Weathered out. I guess it comes down to my personal minimums. I recently saw a DVD with Richard Collins "The Prepared Pilot" (a part of his Air Facts series from Sporty's) and one of the topics focused on things he just would not do. Never overload the airplane, always plan to have at least an hour of fuel remaining after the trip, etc. He also talked about his personal weather minimums. So, what personal rules will I follow?
  1. IFR, solo, at night: It might happen, but I'm not going to plan on it, and will avoid it if at all possible. Accident statistics support this decision.
  2. Dick's idea to plan about an hour of gas in the tank sounds pretty good.
  3. Approach minimus will not be busted, period. (No 'taking a peak'.)
  4. No re do. If the first approach was flown right, no sense going back again because the weather hasn't changed. Go someplace else (with better weather or lower approach mins).
  5. No 'circle to land' at a strange field at night.
  6. Don't continue a flight with things that are inoperative for the sake of making a meeting, job, or family.
  7. Icing is bad. Always check for icing conditions before the flight. Be prepared to change plans if icing is encountered.
I'll have to think about some others.

The pictures at the top represent a "no go" situation. The weather at the field (KRYY) is lower then the published minimums (green arrow) for the most likely approach. Too bad, I was really looking forward to flying tonight, but not into the remains of tropical storm Tammy.