IFR Lesson 5: Hot, bumpy, bad flight to NDB approach at Springfield (KSGH)

Howdy folks.

So today was my first real frustrating flight.  Today we planned to do the NDB approach into Springfield. Springfield is mostly an Air National Guard base that is silent on the weekends, so today we anticipated a closed control tower and little or no traffic.

We departed MGY in little wind and mostly sunshine-filled skies.  Once airborne off MGY, I donned my favorite vision-restriction-device and started a Northeasterly track to pick up the NDB beacon near Springfield. The 23nm trip from MGY to SGH only took about 10 minutes.

At 3,000 feet above the ground, I had a hard time maintaining a level altitude as we crossed above shopping centers, highways, and small lakes.  There was a lot of heat coming up from the ground that was bouncing us around, as well as generating up-drafts which aren’t fun at this point.

Today we used an NDB but also the Rosewood VOR to identify the DEFWO intersection while on the final approach course.  Just one more thing to add to an already overwhelming workload for my little brain.

I won’t detail everything, because it is probably boring.. and, I don’t remember all of it.  My brain turned to mush about when we crossed the IAF (initial approach fix) at the NDB.  I did my entry and outbound ok, but inbound was horrible.  I couldn’t track the NDB for a variety of reasons – I didn’t reset the direction gyro to the compass, I wasn’t reacting quick enough to the off-course indications, and I descending through my minimum-altitude on final a little too soon.

Dean had me try it again with a little more success, but when I took the foggles off I was about 1.5 miles south of the runway… Probably too far away to actually see the airport if we were in real instrument-weather.   After this, Dean did the approach to show me how it could still be done given the bumpiness and inaccuracy of the NDB.  His approach was much more forceful and reactive in deviations, precise in adjustments, and pretty darn accurate – only ending up about 1/8th of a mile off the runway on the 2.6 mile leg frmo the NDB.

I tried another one, and while I got much closer to the runway before I took the foggles off and had a look, I was still struggling to keep all the needles and widgets in the their place.  I was not happy with myself and really thought about just heading home at this point. Luckily, Dean helped me with by seeing my frustration and calling it a day.

The interesting part about the IFR training, compared to basic pilot training, is that when you’re fed up with IFR training you still have to fly home for another 15 or 20 minutes and land the damn airplane.  In my basic training, if things didn’t go well, the CFI would just take us back and land.. then we’d talk about it.  Here, I’m still flying and have to land the item of frustration… For me, this is an exercise in patience.   It is ongoing… we’ll see.

Today’s flying: 1.7hrs, 1.5hrs simulated instrument
Total flying time: 164.4hrs
Total IR Training: 8.0hrs

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IFR Lesson 4: Compass turns, timed turns, partial-panel and NDB-A into Lebanon airport (I68)

Today was fun.  Nice Saturday for flying.

I had read up on compass and timed turns, and felt they would either kill me or they were really simple.  I decided this based on the Jeppesen Instrument book only having about 1.5 pages on the subjects… and confirmed with the FAA IFR book also having similar content amounts.

Well, luckily they were within my realm of skills.  We flew out from Wright Bros Airport (KMGY), and headed out to the Germantown area to do some turns, climbs, descents – all by timing or using the magnetic compass instead of the direction gyro.   The day was smooth with mild amounts of at-altitude-haze, but overall good visibility.  However, I would no nothing of this visibility, because after a few timed turns I donned my new setup of foggles.  I was having a tough time keeping the regular sunglass-like-foggles on, so Dean gave me a set of even more limiting headwear that I affixed to my headset.  This let me see even less – my situational awareness outside the plane in a sunny day was immediately apparent – it seems that even with the foggles, your body still recognizes the shadows and movements of light around the instrument panel. WIth that information, you can still kinda fly like you will never be able to in the actual clouds… so good for ego, bad for real skillz.  With these babies – it was lights out. Uck oh.

After Dean (my CFII if you didn’t read the other thrilling posts) was satisfied with my turning ability, we navigated Southeast towards the Lebanon-Warren County Airport (I68).  We approached it on the117 radial from the Richmond VOR. 

I made the initial-approach-fix (IAF) over the beacon, turned right outbound to 158 for a minute, then did a procedure turn left to 113.. one more minute outbound… right turn 180 degrees back to 293 and inbound to make the ADF point to the NDB….So far this was all at 3,000 feet (MSL, about 2,100 feet above the gound)… after crossing the NDB, I pull the power to nothing (really, nothing. or, at least all the way to idle) and dive to 1600 feet.. then stabalize and fly to what I think is the airport.   These NDB off-airport approaches are very non-precision, as indicated by how close I was to the airstrip when Dean had me pull the foggles off.  I wasn’t too too close.

We tried the same approach twice more – but this time, the direction gyro and attitude indicator were ‘failed’ – which means I cant use them.  And I can’t even cheat, and we used Garfield-themed post-it notes to cover up those instruments.  These were flown by looking at the ADF (which points at the NDB) – and once I crossed it – trying to hold the wings perfectly level until getting to the MAP (missed approach point).  This worked out well… Probably because it wasn’t windy.

I once had a great idea of documenting my IFR training with pictures, too; and here would be a great picture of the Garfield-covered-instruments.. However, I’ve realized that all my training is a sweat and brain-flummoxed 2 hours – and if I picked up a camera to take a picture during a flight Dean would shoot me – because so far, I suck at much things and I would only be allowed to touch things attached to the plane that make it not spiral into a dive to the ground….

Anyhow.. enough of that…  I enjoyed the partial panel activities, and think I understand them…I for-sure need more practice.

The goal is to make sure I know how to fly the plane in the event the attitude indicator, the gyro, compass, etc craps out on me.  Hopefully that will never happen in actual IFR conditions.. but given the vacuum operated system that most planes have – it would be a possibility and I’m glad I think I know how to deal with it.   Everything we’ve done so far has been with the Garmin 430 GPS off.  With the GPS, all this would be much easier (which means, when/if this does happen, I would have a much better awareness of the situation/location than what I get with the 1930′s ADF/NDB technology).

After partial panel approaches to Lebanon, we headed for home at KMGY…  Other than one airplane that wanted to land on runway 24 (there is only 02 and 20), and a training flight that wanted to fly into us in the pattern, we had a normal tailwind landing.   Lately, the wind has been direct east or west, and kinda bouncing around on the field.. So after 2500 feet, we touched down.  I’m clearly still learning the 182 and that it won’t just drop out of the sky like a 172 with full flaps (well…it WILL, but I just dont know how to do it safely yet!).

thanks for reading, happy flying and reading!

Mike
nekbet@gmail.com

Today’s flying: 1.4hrs, 1.4hrs simulated instrument
Total flying time: 162.7hrs
Total IR Training: 6.3hrs

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IFR Lesson #3: NDB Approach and more holds

Today’s flying: 1.6hrs, 1.6hrs simulated instrument
Total flying time: 152.3hrs
Total IR Training: 4.9hrs

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IFR Lesson #2: NDB/ADF and holds

Today, we had already reviewed the NDB Approach at Miami-University/Oxford Airport (KOXD), which is about 25nm West of Wright Bros Airport (KMGY).  We were not planning on doing the approach, and thus focused on the holding pattern entries, navigation, course correction, and reporting.  I had read up on it beforehand and felt comfortable with the actual flying of the hold, but was sketchy on getting into the hold.

Dean and I reviewed the entry procedures a few times, and I think I got the hang of it – it really helped to visualize the hold and entry.  Once Dean got the slight impression I was ready, we hopped in the 182R and took off.

Today was hot. Like Florida hot, and I know Florida hot.  93 or so forecast, which means on the tarmac its over 100.  I could not imagine flying a bubble-canopy plane like a Diamond DA-20 or Grumman.

Heat like this makes the foggles fun.  I felt like Robert Hayes in the Airplane! movie…  By the time we taxied out to runway 02, I was drenched in sweat.  Ah, the glamorous pilot experience.

We departed 02, turned West and I donned the foggles.  A few minutes of chit-chat and Dean helps me tune to the NDB @ OXD.  The identification was standard like a VOR; I didn’t use any ADF or NDB navigation in my primary training, as the plane I flew then didn’t have an ADF.

Finding the ADF beacon is pretty easy, especially since we had nearly zero wind at 3000AGL.  I found tracking it and staying on course fairly doable. Amazing! This IFR stuff will be easy! About that time, I realize that I’m 150 feet below my 3000msl target altitude.  Oops.  Back to reality I go – hand flying in bumpy hot weather under the foggles sucks.  I’m trying not to channel my negative energy towards my CFII, Dean.  He understands. I think.

We entered the hold from the East, and decided a teardrop entry was appropriate. That seemed to work ok – we were looking at the approach chart on Dean’s iPad, which had a few complications (glare and the rotation shifting) but otherwise would have been fine for an experienced IR-pilot.  We’ll be using paper going forward, pending I remember to print them out as I promised :-)

The hold

I enter the hold, and forget to start the timer. But that is ok, because I’m not actually in the hold…. I just crossed the NDB.  Oh, no, I do time this – so a few seconds late I start timing… We get out one minute and I turn a standard-rate-turn to the left until I intercept/point-at the NDB station.

Now I go towards the ADF needle, which leads me to the NDB transmitter (which, is right over the Oxford airport, but I can’t see that, because I’m still wearing the awesome foggles..and still sweating.. profusely).  I cross the NDB and turn left (standard rate, 180 degrees per minute) until I hit the outbound bearing of 222 (042′s reciprocal bearing) and fly out one minute (timer, again!).

I get to 1 minute, and start a left turn (again, standard rate… if you notice a trend here, everything is standard, as in standard rate of turn.. which means in two minutes, I will turn 360 degrees around… so we use 1 minute at standard rate to do a 180 turn-around) all the way around to where the ADF needle points to the station, which is close to the inbound heading (042). On the way in, I do some bracketing to make sure I’m flying to the NDB station – it immediately drifted (fell?) off to 8-10 degrees to the left (wind is from the West, off our 8-o-clock at this point), so I turn 20 degrees to the left, wait a few seconds, and watch the needle “fall” again to to about 10 degrees left, then turn back to the original heading + 10 to track right to the station.

That was a lot more work in my head while I was in the airplane, opposed to now, where I’m sitting at a bar in West Virginia wearing no foggles but possibly wearing s splash of red wine from dinner and beyond (what else do you do in WV?)….

Round Two…thru 13…

So this first tracking to the NDB station via the ADF needle was enlightening.  Now, Dean and I spent the next hour doing the same. Track to the station, bracket, adjust, readjust, turn, time, twist, some other stuff, turn again, time, etc etc…. Oh, forget to announce to where I am to ATC.  And repeat….

I really didn’t do 13 laps around the holding pattern – I think we did 4 or 5… but wow…. that’s rough!

This is very exhausting.  In my primary pilot training, I could fly an hour or two, and then go back to work or do something else.  At the end of today, when you add up the heat, sun, mind-math and visualizations when flying, I am lucky to add up 2 + 2 when I land.  Hell, I was lucky to land the plane….

thanks for reading!

-Mike
nekbet@gmail.com

Today’s flying: 1.5hrs, 1.5hrs simulated instrument
Total flying time: 150.7hrs
Total IR Training: 3.3hrs

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IFR Lesson #1: First flight

Today was my first IR training flight.  My CFII, Dean, and I, reviewed the basics on each instrument: how its operated (vacuum vs electric), what happens when it fails (sudden or drifts-off), and what information each instrument provides (or doesn’t provide…).

We departed Wright Bros Airport (MGY) runway 02 in the 182RG around 11:45 in a calm wind.  After climbout, I made a turn to the west and the foggles came out.  I’ve had a few hours in a hood or foggles a long time ago, during primary training.  The foggles let the wearer only see the immediate instrument panel, and blocks out (fogs, even?) the rest of the world.  The goal here is to make the pilot use solely the instruments to fly the plane, and not use the horizon or outside visual references. I think foggles have a useful purpose elsewhere in life, and I will be trying them at my desk at work to block distractions from people walking by.  I also plan to use them when in New York, where you’re looked at as a whacko when you make eye contact with someone on the street.  This will make me much more normal.

So, back to flying… We turn to the west, out towards Germantown Ohio countryside.  Out here, there is lots of uncontrolled airspace, big fields, and a whole lotta nothing really.  So burning holes in the sky down to 500-1000 feet off the ground is completely acceptable.

Dean had me do the basics – turns to a heading, hold a heading and altitude, climbing turns, descending turns, climbs at specific rate (500 feet per minute (fpm), or climb at 100 knots, etc), descents at 1000fpm, descents with the gear up at 500fpm but not faster than 140 knots, etc etc.  I think I did pretty well on most of these, but quickly realized how easy it is to fixate on a single or pair of instruments.  More than once I blew thru my heading while focusing on the altimeter. Whoops!

In addition to the yanking and banking on the yoke, power settings were introduced.  The 182R has a constant speed prop (good write-up here on what they are and their benefits), which means that most adjustments include the throttle and prop knob.  This is a mild addition of attention from flying the basic Cessna 172, which has a fixed-pitch prop and all power change is controlled by the throttle knob.  Luckily, Dean explained that there are only 4 or 5 power settings that really matter, and that my small brain can probably remember them.

Most of the maneuvers I could tie to a specific IFR-flying task – like descending to an altitude, leveling off, then climbing full-bore back up.. That would be a missed approach.

We flew for a long time like this.  I glanced at the GPS a few times to see where we were, and we were basically in the middle of nowhere – West of Dayton, North of I-70, and East of Indianapolis.  Dean punched MGY into the Garmin 430, synch’d it with the CDI and we headed home – by way of me tracking the needle under the foggles.  That didn’t go too bad; as I’ve been trying to use more instruments in my VFR-cross-country flying, rather than flying on the GPS magenta line.

When we arrived 5 miles out from MGY, the foggles came off and I setup to land.  The visual references that I am used to all looked out of whack – the vision restriction to 18″ in front of my face for an hour and a half really makes looking 2 miles ahead look really really far away (but it is not..).  It also gave me a sense of being too high on my final approach to land, which I wasn’t, and yielded a slightly flat landing.  That was a learning experience.

Next up tomorrow, holds and ADFs.

Today’s flying: 1.8hrs, 1.6hrs simulated instrument
Total flying time: 149.2hrs
Total IR Training: 1.8hrs

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Starting my IFR rating

So today was the start of my IFR training.  It consisted of sitting at a table at the FBO and talking for 2 hours.  Departure charts, enroute procedures, and overview of the general instrument and ATC-controlled world.  I’ve read up on most of this before, but it is nice to see if come together from a very experienced CFII.

Total flying time: 138.5hrs
Total IR Training: 0hrs

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A little bit of history….

I’ve had this domain name for a while, with the intentions of writing about my usual traveling around… both for work, commercial travel, and general aviation.  Well then I forgot about writing the actual content.  So now I’m using it to jot down my thoughts and learnings of my instrument flight training experience.
Regards,

Mike

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