Tuesday, February 10, 2009

IFR update

No no, I am not IFR rated yet. Still working on it... :)

This saturday was interesting. After a long hiatus, I drove back to the school for another IFR lesson. Arriving at the school I found that there had been some scheduling conflict with my Instructor and another student of his had also shown up for a lesson. To remedy the situation, the school offered me an upgrade to a 172SP and I flew with another instructor I knew (who also happened to be my Stage check instructor while doing the Sim). All in all, a great deal :) I feel that ts always good to fly with another instructor/pilot from time to time, just to avoid catching onto the habits of a single instructor.

The day was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bit windy aloft, but on the ground it was hardly anything. Due to the long break, I thought that on takeoff, I would probably goof stuff up, i.e. either pull the yoke too hard, or not manage the rudders properly. It was reassuring to find out that the takeoff was as smooth as ever.

Waiting for takeoff took forever. It was really very busy in the pattern and I am sure we were holding short of 28 for like 20 minutes (for a VFR flight!). I guess that's a good IFR patience practice, given the long delays IFR GA pilots experience here in the Northeast. The takeoff clearance was like a sweet melody to the ears. "Cleared for takeoff 28, 225 Juliet Victor" and off we went.

Ok! 600 feet AGL and I put on my foggles. These things annoy me sometimes. They tend to get fogged up a bit during wintry days! Anywayz, instrument scan it was from there on. We did the standard departure procedure and then headed out to the northwest.

"Intercept the 300 radial to Sparta and fly to the VOR" was my first task. Winds aloft were out of the south west (230) at 30 knots. So it took quite some wind correction to fly to intercept the radial and then track it inbound. Once at sparta, I tracked it outbound on 270 radial for a bit.

Then the instructor asked me to do slow flight, steep turns, power off and on stalls, all while under the hood. All of the manuevers, except the power on stall, went pretty well (we even caught our own wake on the steep turns :) ). It seemed that the 172SP doesn't want to stall at all. Then my instructor told me a neat trick. He said that to get the fastest stall, let the speed go down to 50-55 knots (I was adding power at 65) before adding power and don't be shy to pull up the nose. He showed me a stall and the next one went pretty well. See, it does help to fly with another instructor from time to time :)

After this we did some unusual attitudes and then did a hold or two. I goofed up on a parallel entry turn but other than that it went ok. I still need to practice a lot when it comes to holds and tracking radials. As my regular instructor says "When the needle stops, you stop!". The trouble is, I can't seem to realize when the needle stops! It seems to be in a persistent state of motion :(

Anywho, on reaching Sparta a second time I was pleasantly surprised. My instructor said, let's do an instrument approach into Caldwell. This was a first :) This way we could avoid the busy traffic pattern at caldwell and get in faster. A call to New York approach and we were approved for the localizer 22 approach but under VFR (he would just give us advisories).

I pulled out the approach plate, did a quick brief and then started setting up for the approach. We were flying outbound on the 120 radial of sparta. My instructor was giving me vectors for the localizer. I descended to 2000 feet and soon the needle came alive. It was time to wait for SNAFU, the Final Approach fix. We started our descend to 860' and once we identified KOLLI, got down to 540 feet. I was pretty impressed that I could maintain 540-560 feet without much trouble. My instructor said he would tell me when to remove my foggles and boy, when he did, the runway was right in front of us! Nothing compares to the feeling you get when you expect to see a runway right in front of you and its right there :)

I did do some major blunders on this little jaunt though. First off, I forgot to identify any of my Nav aids. Secondly I missed out on starting the timer for missed approach after crossing the FAF. Finally I let the needle slide past quite a bit on the localizer. The huge correction seemed to do the trick, but I shouldn't have let the needle slip in the first place. So these are things I need to keep in mind the next time on, esp identifying my nav aids.

The landing was pretty mundane compared to the approach :) Turning off on Delta, we taxied back to the ramp. They're building new T-hangars at the airport and it sure does look quite different now.

I am now scheduled to fly again this Saturday, weather permitting. Isn't it ironical that I need VFR weather for IFR training :) But very soon I am hoping to get actual IFR time with my instructor, so that's something I am eagerly waiting to experience and blog about! Till then adios and blue skies.