Thursday, January 12, 2006
I had a personal accomplishment last evening. I completed my IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check) and am now allowed by the Federal Government (FAA) to fly in clouds. I can now use the radar systems of the United States (ATC), fly on designated airways and execute standard approach procedures into airports. I've always felt that the Instrument Rating was the most difficult one to get, and am pleased to have these privileges reinstated.
I arrived at the airport about 4:00 PM local, had a short brief with the CFI , grabbed the dispatch kit and went out to start the preflight. The cold front that passed through with such energy in the morning, had left behind a beautiful blue sky and unusually mild temperatures (65F). The preflight was normal (although getting up to check the fuel level with my 'bum' leg was a bit difficult.) All checks complete, I got to the point where you turn the key and....nothing. Dead battery. I don't believe in 'bad omens' but this was not an auspicious start. Fortunately another C172 (w/Garmin 430) was available so we jumped over to that one.
Taxi was a bit unusual as some paperwork needed to be delivered to the maintenance shop on the north side of the field. This was my first time over there in an airplane, but no big deal. The nice thing is, they have a 'formal' run-up area, felt almost professional to have a space to do this other then a taxi way.
The plan was to fly north up to Calhoun, do a 'mystery' approach somewhere, and come home with the ILS. I took my time and used AMICEATM to get set for the approach. Weather is obtained from CTAF, or use the Rome altimeter settings. The Rome frequency is not listed on the approach plate, so I used the GPS nearest function to get the frequency. I fumbled a bit getting GPS back to the approach, but no major errors. The clock was broken in the airplane, so I used a combination wristwatch and Westclok for the timings. Overall, the approach went well. There were strong crosswinds but I was able to keep the needle alive. I executed the missed there and headed for the holding pattern.
The intent of the 'mystery approach' was to have me control the airplane while reaching back for my approach plates, leaf through the binder to find the right approach, brief it, set up the radios and execute it. This simulates a contingency situation, the kind of thing that happens when for whatever reason, the planned approach doesn't work.
Key here is scan. Flying the airplane while searching for the approach is cumbersome, but good trim and constant scan make it doable. He chose the GPS RWY 34 at Pickens County (which can be found under Jasper). While I could easily dial in the GPS, I needed the approach plate to determine the closest IAF. The rest of the approach was normal, except that the last pilot had set the GPS for 'airplane up' instead of 'north up' which is my preference. I got slightly confused on the first turn as I tried to transition form the screen to the plate. (Later, we changed the preference.) The rest of the approach was uneventful. Missed there and headed for home. By this time it was getting dark, and it was nice to find that the panel lights worked! (I still had my flashlight at the ready.)
Climbed to 3000, headed roughly south and listend to ATIS for KRYY. I contacted Atlanta Approach and requested vectors for ILS 27. No problems. I was 'on rails' until the end where I zigged to the left a bit. Overall a very good approach and nice landing.
Assessment: The most challenging (and interesting) part of this 're-training' was the use of GPS. Tuning in and flying the needles came back rather quickly. However, adding the 'TV Set' into the scan, and prioritizing it properly was much more difficult then expected. Once I learned to relegate it to a secondary system, I did much better. (I spent far too much time trying to tune the GPS, when I could have accomplished the same thing by twisting a radio knob.) There is no question that the situational awareness provided is simply wonderful, but the other aspects of Aviate - Navigate - Communicate can not be sacrificed for that extra bit of added awareness.
Time = 1.7