Monday, August 03, 2009

First IFR cross country

After a long wait and many practice flights under the hood, the day finally arrived! I went on my first IFR flight with my instructor. While we didn't fly in actual weather (i.e. we were VFR all along), the fun of filing a flight plan, getting clearances and flying approaches under radar controller was an amazing experience.

The weather in this part of the country has been dicey this summer. Fronts seem to sweep this area like a dust mop :(. Some days are gorgeous and calm, while others are filled by spells of pouring rain. Saturday was questionable as well.

As per the plan, we were supposed to take off by 8am. Any later and we would have a long wait getting an IFR slot. So I woke up at 6:15am, checked the weather and then filed a flight plan from KCDW -> KTTN (SBJ V3 MAZIE, flight time 40 mins). The weather promised to be pretty good, with some concern for early morning fog. Luckily, no alternate was required to be filed.

Heading off to the airport, I had a funny feeling. I was going through the trip in my mind. What would I do on takeoff, how would my route look like? What if I was given a hold? After a quick preflight and weather check, we were ready to get our clearance. Goof up # 1. I had forgotten to get the clearance delivery frequency for CDW. For some reason I thought I would get my clearance from ground. Anywho, besides the snafu, the clearance went fine. A paper and pen in the cockpit is essential for any IFR flight. We got the following clearance:

"Cleared to TTN, turn left 180, vectors to SBJ, direct ARD direct trenton, maintain 2k, expect 4k 10 mins after departure, departure freq. 119.2, squawk on release". Pretty straightforward and close to what I had filed (actually I had looked up recent flight plans on and that may have helped, besides filing a TEC route).

We taxied to runway 22 and then waited for a release. Almost 15 mins later, we got our clearance (IFR in this part of the country means a lot of waiting on the ground!). Off we go. 800' and we turn left 180. The ride from there was pretty smooth. We soon got a clearance to climb to 4000 ft and interestingly the controller asked us to go direct to ARD before we reached SBJ.

We shot ILS 6 approach to TTN with circle to land on 24. This was the first time I actually circled to land. It was quite an experience seeing jets waiting on departure end of the runway as you land in your little cessna. Much better than waiting in line for departure behind a jet (as we did later on the way back!). After taxiing we got our clearance to head back to CDW and after a brief wait, we were back up in the air. The reverse route was similar, direct ARD, direct SBJ vectors to CDW.

The return flight was uneventful as well. I was under the hood the entire time. We shot the LOC 22 approach into caldwell. After a decent landing, we were taxiing back to the ramp. On the way back I finally got some time to reflect on the 2 hour flight of the day. It dawned on me how much it helps to keep planning and staying ahead of the plane. I remember constantly checking the DG, trying to figure out where we were, preparing for the next phase and so on.

The first thing I did when I got home was to check my flight on What a great site! :)