Learning to fly

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Oct 6, 2001, 1pm
A scattered overcast, and cool with a stiff breeze from the northwest. Wayne decided that we should do the DME arc at Habersham and the NDB approach for 47A today. I was anxious to get in the air in anticipation of some actual IMC. After filing an IFR flight plan, we took off in N733WW, a plane I'd never flown in before. No real difference from the other C172's except a bit more power with 180 horses.

During the climb to our assigned altitude of 4000', we passed through a large portion of the overcast and I got my first taste of what it was like to feel motionless and see nothing but white all around you, yet know that you were boring through the clouds at 100 knots. But I knew that we'd break out on top soon, so I lowered the foggles and got concentrating on the instruments again.

We were cleared direct to AJR and used the LORAN for our directional cues. Setting up for the IAF, I was picturing our entry as north to south, but it was jus the opposite so I had to reorient my visualization to get the mental picture right. That put me a bit behind the plane and the arc was a sloppy one. Not accounting enough for the wind drift didn't help either.

But once I turned and was on the inbound radial, I was back on track mentally and it went fairly smoothly from there. I did notice a bit of nervousness or anxiousness in myself when we got near the minimum altitude. I feel like I'm too close to the ground and should be looking outside. That won't be good if I'm in actual, so I'll have to overcome that. Practice will help I guess. After the approach, we turned toward 47A and shot the NDB approach and I think I did a fairly decent job with a few rough spots. I need to remember to track the ADF after the needle flop too, not just on the front side.

July 17, 2003, 7 pm
I've started chasing the instrument rating once again after a long layoff. My wife Candance bought me a ST1100 motorcycle as a surprise back in October of 2001 and I thought it would be best to take care of some financial stuff before spending extra cash on the next rating. Since we're nearly where we want to be with that, here I am again.

By now I already have the required 50 hours of PIC cross country time out of the way, plus quite a bit of familiarization with the Arrow, so those two things should save time and money, if only to a small degree.

Hazy and warm with almost no wind. While I ran through the preflight, Andy gave me a quick rundown of what we would be doing. West to Rome for the ILS and VOR approaches. Then back to Cherokee to do the GPS approach. He had wanted to start off working with power settings and standard rate turns, but Randall told him I was proficient enough in the plane that I really didn't need that, which actually turned out to be true.

Just before the runup, we set the Garmin 430 GPS, VORs and Loran for DME at Rome, then taxiied out to 22 for takeoff. A few hundred feet later, it was on with the hood and follow the needle to the Rome VOR and KAREL intersection to intercept the localizer. I surprised Andrew and myself too by the way I was able to hold a pretty good heading and altitude once I established them both, but it really helped that there was practically no wind to worry about. I've learned to keep the corrections small and deliberate by using more rudder than I would in a VFR flight. Keeping the plane trimmed right also decreases the workload significantly, freeing up more brain cells for reviewing the details of the next approach.

We called off the ILS approach shortly after the final approach fix due to gliders in the area, and headed back to the VOR to begin that approach. A little confusion on my part about the entry into the VOR hold, but we discussed it after we landed and I saw what we did. The GPS helps with the situational awareness, but it was zoomed out too far to be much help and we weren't using it for this approach anyway.

Then we turned inbound for the VOR/DME approach and I held the needles fairly close all the way in, but again we broke off a little early. Up with the hood to get a look at our position and relax a bit while we set up the GPS for the approach back into Cherokee. I am still holding the needles close to course although they would wander a bit when I looked down at the plates. My radio work still needs improvement. I'm not horrible, but I stumble too much. Relax, relax, relax.

The GPS was a pretty easy approach. Program it, activate it and fly the purple line. Needles are active, but not really needed since the line is there and the GPS tells you what to do. Awesome tool. We broke off from final on 4 at the last minute to transition into the pattern and around to base for a good final approach and real smooth landing on 22.

August 7, 2003, 7 PM
Weather has kept me out of the cockpit for the last 2 lessons, so this one was a bit of a catch-up lesson. I've been trying to keep my head in flying by study and listening to ATC on the Net. It doesn't seem to help when it comes to communication over the radio, vapor lock seems to set in after 45 minutes or so.

Warm and very hazy, but calm after the thunderstorms rolled through today. Probably just on the edge of legal VFR in places. Today's lesson was with Ryan, who I've never flown with and won't again for some time again because he's headed back to school in Florida on Sunday. We took off from runway 4 and headed in the general direction of McCullum to shoot the ILS a few times and talk to ATC. He handled the ATC part while I flew. I flew OK in spite of the layoff. We checked ATIS at McCullom and then called up Atlanta. They vectored us south to intercept the localizer, which we did pretty easily. But there seemed to a lot of other planes in the pattern with us and with visibility as bad as it was, a lot of Ryan's time seemed to be spent looking out for them. That meant that the approach was OK, but sloppy and I was WAY behind the plane as we passed the outer marker.

I was holding the needles and airspeed OK, but everything else seemed to take a backseat and I was always catching up: GUMPS, altitudes to watch for, etc. The GPS map helped a bit for situational awareness, but I really wasn't having a lot of problems with that anyway. Down to the MDA and the hood came up and we did a touch and go. On the climbout, we turned right and the tower handed us back to Atlanta where we requested another go at it.

The controller was very busy and kept getting our call sign wrong and that seemed to set the tone for this approach. He kept calling traffic for us that we never found, then ran us through the localizer, circled us around 270 degrees left to intercept and then forgot about us. Ryan had to call 3 times for the switch to the tower and while he was doing it he had a fairly good grip on the yoke. That interfered with my concentration and although the localizer wasn't too bad, the glideslope was.

We had to put the nose down pretty good and chop power to get down for the T & G. Climbing back up again for the GPS approach to 47A, he had me lift the hood to look at how it was starting to get darker and visibility was getting worse. We plowed ahead and I did OK, but was getting tired now and less precise in my flying. Altitude 100-200' off, heading 20 degrees off...argh.

Then on final GPS approach into 4, I busted altitude(!), and we had traffic in front of us that Ryan never found, so we went missed. Back to the hold and turn around for another try. A little better this time on my part, and when we got to DH, I lifted the hood to land. Not a big deal, fairly close to the centerline, but I let it get a bit slow and he had to tell me to throttle up.

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