Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stage 3, Part 2

After getting “winded” out for the flying portion of my instrument stage 3 check, I was anxious to finish up the check. I met with the head of our flight school (“Chief”) on Thursday afternoon in hopes that I could still do my checkride on Friday. Since we had completed the oral, we headed straight out for the plane. I had already pre-flighted, so was already settled in the plane when Chief came out. He did a fairly careful walk around, checking to make sure there were no obvious problems, checked the oil, and then got settled in the plane. After the delay of a few days, my nerves had gotten a bit worse, but I jumped right into the checklists, hoping that action would calm me down.

We taxied out to the runup area and after going through the necessary checklist items, I called for our clearance. This was to be a JYO-JYO flight—staying with ATC the whole time. I managed to get the clearance copied without any trouble (I was worried about this as some controllers talk like auctioneers—and it’s tough to copy down the clearance correctly!). Our first stop was the VOR-A for OKV. After takeoff, I delayed donning the foggles for a moment to make sure we cleared the airspace without tangling with any of the several planes in the pattern. Then it was straight to the instruments. We were cleared direct to MRB, and I began to set us up for the approach (I had made the mistake of forgetting to set all this up on the ground, but I think I did okay getting it together in the air.). Just before we were to turn inbound on the approach, Chief reached over and punched the reversionary knob on the dash, making my multi-function display (MFD) and therefore my moving map be replaced with a second set of the PFD instruments. Hmmm. Okay. This is new. But- no worries. I can just fly the needles. My situational awareness is impacted slightly, but I’m still fine.

At the MAP, Chief tells me that we’re still in the clouds, so I begin to initiate a missed approach over top the runway. Around this time, Chief tells me he wants me to use the autopilot to fly the missed. This should be easy, but I struggled to get it set up correctly. For some reason, I couldn’t get the climb rate and altitude correctly set. I eventually told Chief that I would get back to that, but needed first to FLY THE PLANE. I killed the autopilot and focused on making sure I was on the missed approach and called ATC back and let them know, and ask for the ILS 32 into OKV. They say okay, but give us vectors that take us well to the west of OKV (I’m proud of myself here for maintaining enough situational awareness to know this! Remember—I’m used to ALWAYS having the moving map in front of me. It’s great practice for it to go away). I finally got us set up on the autopilot using the heading function. After 5-10 minutes ATC finally gave us vectors back to the ILS. At this point, Chief asked me to fly the ILS without autopilot and without GPS. I obviously knew how to kill the autopilot (and was relieved to do so! I prefer to hand fly!)… but my brain couldn’t work out what he meant by without GPS, other than that I should switch to the LOC needles on the CDI softkey (I needed to do this anyway). Of course, about halfway down, I realized that he probably meant that I should remove the approach from the flight plan and use the VOR fixes combined with the LOC information. By that point, I was well into the approach, and decided to just continue and not try to clear the approach and load the VORs at that point. He busted me on this during the debrief, but didn’t say anything about it then.

After going missed from the approach (early because of landing traffic on the opposite end of the runway), we again were vectored way to the west by ATC. This time, we were sent a good 30 miles to the west of OKV. I was allowed at this point to get my MFD back, and I also redeemed my earlier lapse by going ahead and getting JYO weather and setting up for and briefing the last approach. When ATC finally got back to us, I was able to secure approval for maneuvering over the MRB VOR—4500’ plus or minus 500’ in a 5 mile radius for 5 minutes. Chief took the controls and put me in a couple of pretty stiff unusual attitude, and then asked me to recover for each. No sweat, though the red arrows on the G1000 screen tend to distract me rather than help! Then I did steep turns in each direction. Once we were finished, I told ATC we were done with our maneuvers and asked for the GPS 17 back into JYO. They told us to start the MRB transition for it, and eventually cleared us for the approach. Of course—I had to do this one partial panel. I did okay on this—my altitude and position were fine, though my airspeed fluctuated a lot. Coming into JYO, there were a lot of planes in the pattern, so I was grateful that a couple of instructors who were on downwind offered to extend and let me land straight in. I think they knew I was flying with the Chief. I pulled off a pretty decent landing (not my best, but good enough that the Chief commented that it was good). Then I proceeded to taxi way too fast to our parking spot (Chief busted me on this as well—I didn’t even notice at the time, though I know I often taxi too fast.). We pushed the plane back, tied it down, and Chief took my picture for the wall in the office (they post pictures of new pilots, ratings, first solos, etc.)

All in all, it went pretty well. I knew I had made a few mistakes—worst was the failure to recognize what I need to do to fly the approach without GPS, and my inability to properly program the autopilot… both of which I attribute to nerves. A few things I thought were funny… Chief commented on my calmness (hah!) and my niceness to ATC. He said he bet that I never got yelled at by ATC because I was so nice in the way I asked everything. It made me pretty self conscious about my radio calls for the next few flights! I do try to say ‘good day’ when I transition away from each controller—and I try to say things clearly and concisely—but not too concisely. It should still be English that we’re speaking! In any case, it was great to have this flight over with! I had never flown before with Chief, so I think I was more nervous about this flight than the checkride!

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