Hold on

Today’s lesson was all about holds. We reviewed the various entry procedures (direct, tear drop and parallel) and then went out to practice!

I need to build some cross country time, so we plan a trip up to Sullivan County Airport and did a bunch of holds at the Huguenot VOR. As I was completing my first hold, ATC tells us that there’s another plane also heading for Huguenot. We had to turn left to avoid it and it screwed up my hold! Aw man! That gave us a chance to turn around and do a tear drop entry into the hold. From there, we flew the VOR/DME 33 approach into Sullivan.

After a landing at Sullivan, we practiced some more holds. I had a lot of trouble holding altitude in all of this. I’m not so used to this Piper Cherokee, so I tend to pull the power back too much. Apparently, it needs to stay up at 2400 or 2500 rpm.

We did something new on the way back and did the RNAV 10 approach into Caldwell. Runway 10! Who uses runway 10 ever!? Actually, I think this was only my second time ever landing on Runway 10. The annoying part about Runway 10 is that it has a tall tree right at the end of the runway that actually blocks the runway numbers. But, the approach gave me a chance to practice another hold. This time it was around a GPS fix, rather than a VOR.

VOR-A into Sussex Airport

Today’s lesson was a quick trip up to Sussex Airport to do a VOR-A approach. We did a hold on the way there, but had to restart it because of other traffic nearby.

It was really quiet on the radio on our way out of Caldwell and it was exactly the opposite on our way back in. There were a couple of airplanes in the pattern and others coming in to land. We stuck to a visual approach and had to do a 360 for separation.

Tom and I came up with the idea to get an exhaust smoker in the plane to be more visible to other planes. Hmm.. we’ll see..

Compass Turns, Stalls, and Unusual Attitudes

A VFR day.. that’s new! We went out today to practice some compass turns. Say your heading indicator dies on you and you’re only left with your compass, it’s helpful to know how to read it and how to plan turns using it. Unlike the heading indicator, the magnetic compass is prone to errors when you’re turning on certain headings, climbing, descending, accelerating, or decelerating. Yea.. can you see why the heading indicator was invented? The trick is to take all of these factors into account when you’re making your turn, and if it’s done properly, you’ll roll out on the right heading.

Tom had to dim the Aspen display so that I couldn’t cheat with the regular heading indicator, but that also got rid of my turn coordinator. Without that, I can’t tell if I’m over-turning or under-turning. We managed to pull a turn coordinator up on the Garmin 496, which worked quite nicely.

We did some stalls after that. Man, unlike the Cessna 172, you can really tell when the Piper is stalling. It buffets and shakes and is not so happy until the nose finally breaks downward. Although it doesn’t have an audible warning horn, it has a bright red light on the dashboard that shines when approaching a stall. Those went well.

Tom took control of the airplane. While I put my head down, he flew that plane every which way to confuse me and left it in, well, “unusual attitudes” that I had to correct. That airplane is really responsive in those turns. However, the Aspen PFD couldn’t take it. The attitudes were so unusual that the attitude indicator had a red X over it and said, “Cross Check Attitude”. I used the backup indicator to pull out of the dives and to prevent imminent stalls.

We headed back to Caldwell and did a new type of approach – a GPS approach – the RNAV 22.

Night IFR in Actual IMC

This has been a great week for instrument training. We kicked it up a notch with a night flight tonight. Not very much is different except for the cockpit being dark and the runway lights shining once you get out of the clouds. It looks awesome, though. Here are some photos:

I getting more comfortable doing the approaches, identifying the plates and navigation aids. I need to start thinking ahead more to setup the radios and navigation equipment before I need it. I forgot to put in the ILS frequency for Orange County. Tom reminded me as we were crossing the centerline.

On the way back to Caldwell, we hit some isolated precipitation. There was some turbulence and we shot up 200ft. It was a lot harder to stay on heading and altitude, but we soon got our descent instructions and started preparing for the localizer.

Ground Track KCDW->KMGJ
Ground Track KMGJ->KCDW

Adding Workload: Communications

Wow.. another flight in Actual IMC. It was even raining!

Today’s flight added some extra workload to the mix. I did most of the radio talk today while also focusing on keeping the airplane right side up. It added complexity but wasn’t terribly difficult until I was caught off-guard when ATC said something like: Cherokee 8-3-5-0-Romeo turn right heading 2-2-0 cleared ILS 2-7 descend and maintain two thousand until established. Sheesh. I asked Tom to answer him.. I’ll be ready next time.

The landing at Stewart was extremely smooth and maybe even rivaled my engine-out night landing. I think Tom got a kick out of that. The landing back at Caldwell was pretty good, too! I think I’m getting a handle on this low-wing.

Mistakes were made, though. On the way out of Stewart, I rushed to write the clearance back to Caldwell as I was taking off. As a result, I didn’t turn to the Huguenot VOR upon reaching 2,000 ft. Instead, I flew the runway heading until about 4,000 ft when ATC asked about that turn. Oops. I also forgot to tune in the Localizer 22 at Caldwell on the way back. You’ll see on the ground track that I blew through the localizer and then turned back. I didn’t realize that was my job now too! Thanks Tom.

I like that I’m getting to start my training in a lot of IMC because when you’re in IMC, precision matters. It motivates you to focus on your heading and your altitude. I hope I don’t slack of on that when I get some VFR weather.

Ground Track KCDW->KSWF
Ground Track KSFW->KCDW

More Actual IMC and a New Approach

The nice thing about having to file an instrument flight plan is that you can check out the radar tracks afterwards. Here are the tracks from today’s flight to Stewart and back to Caldwell.

Tom started increasing my workload to identify navigation aids, frequencies and altitudes on the approach. It seems much less hectic than that first flight, but eventually I’ll have to do all the navigation tuning and communicating, too.

The highlight of the trip was when on our way back we heard a some communication between ATC and another pilot:

ATC: “[Call sign], you have a guy sort of orbiting in your airspace; he’s just all over the place.”

Pilot: “OK, we’ll look all over the place!”

We just burst out laughing. Oh, pilot humor.

Ground Track KCDW->KSWF
Ground Track KSFW->KCDW

Flying in Actual IMC

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The weather cooperated this time – it was overcast and perfect for practicing instrument flying. Tom and I went up to Orange County again and did the same approach as yesterday. Today was a lot better. I held altitude and heading a lot better and was able to stay well centered on the ILS approach into MGJ.

During the flight, I managed to devote some attention to looking at the approach plates, although Tom was still handling the navigation and communication.

Coming into Caldwell, we did the Localizer 22 approach, but had to circle to land on Runway 4.

Today’s treat is a video we shot with a GoPro. I made it into a time lapse and you can see at one point we were between two layers of clouds. Awesome scenery on these flights!

Ground Track KCDW->KMGJ
Ground Track KMGJ->KCDW

First Instrument Training Lesson

Wow.. it’s time to break out the flying blog again. I can’t believe that it’s been about a year to the day of my last post, but here I am finally starting my Instrument Training. I’ve been flying but not blogging (sorry!) over the last year and have had some awesome experiences, but today… today opens a new chapter in my piloting education.

I’m flying with Tom Fischer at Fischer Aviation out of Essex County Airport (KCDW). To change it up, I’m flying a low-wing Piper Cherokee as opposed to the high-wing Cessna I’m used to flying. That right there adds a little bit to the workload of flying – fuel pump on/off… switching tanks… which way do I turn the trim? Where the hell is the switch for this.. that.. that other thing? Wow, there’s a lot to get used to – like getting into a new car and trying to figure out how to turn the heat on. But, it’s a neat little airplane with a small glass panel, and great visibility because the wings aren’t in the way. I like the idea of getting used to a different type of airplane. I think it’ll make me a better pilot in a number of ways and increase the comfort level when switching other types of planes.

So today’s flight can be described as full sensory overload. Luckily Tom handled all of the navigation and communication. Just trying to hold heading, altitude and follow instructions from ATC while getting used to the new airplane proved challenging on the way out to Orange County (KMGJ). If I were to get the radar track from today’s flight, I’m sure it would look more like I was on a slalom course than a direct route to the airport.

After a touch and go at Orange County, it got a lot better. I got a better feeling of the flight characteristics and got used to the CDI needle display. I felt a lot more focused on the way back to Caldwell and was able to keep my assigned heading and altitude. Maybe next time I can put some brain power into navigating.

Ground Track KCDW->KMGJ