Sunday, July 17, 2005

Instrument Stage Check #2 - continued

I was expecting this to be a very challenging flight. My instructor had grilled me on all the different things I would be expected to demonstrated. VOR holds and approaches, DME holds, ILS approaches, etc., etc. As it turned out, this was not too difficult at all.

As we climbed out, I turned to the assigned heading and was handed off to approach control. I didn't complete the climb checklist at exactly 1000 feet, but I was busy completing my turn to 270 and switching the radio. I completed it at about 1300 feet...just before the ACI was going to ask me if I was going to do it. Jax Approach asked us what we would like at Cecil. We asked for vectors for the ILS 36R and we were told to climb to 3000 feet and eventually told to turn to 200.

As we motored along, I began my approach briefing. Current plates - I had two sets somehow. Must have picked up the ACI's last week while we were doing the oral interview. I gave him the other set and we briefed the approach. HI to magnetic compass, check. Tune and ID NAVs. Can't ID the ILS from this angle. That will have to wait. Tuned the Gainesville VOR which is used for the missed approach and put that on standby. Tuned the CRG VOR to the 252 radial which is shown on the plate as being past the runway.

Set the course on the OBS - 005 degrees for the 36R. Entry? We are getting vectored. Altitudes...1800 feet at the fix. DH is 275. Time? 3:28 at 90 kts. Missed approach - ATC has instructed me to turn to 270 and climb to 2000.

As we fly along, I'm getting vectors. I tune the other radio to the ATIS and get the current weather and altimeter at CECIL - 30.16...just a bit higher than Craig. I'm now told to descend to 2000 and turn to 270. That would be a good base leg for the 36R. Prelanding checklist. Lights on, fuel pump on. Fuel on proper tank - about time to switch anyway. Doublecheck the HI.

Now I'm told to turn to 330 and cleared for the ILS36R approach. I identified the ILS on the NAV and now I can see the glideslope and the localizer are alive. The localizer is moving closer to the center now...I start a slow turn to the right when I have about two dots deviation. Now there's I'm on the localizer and my course is 005. The needle starts to drift back to the left, so I adjust course back to the left. I'm now handed off to the tower and I make my call. Oops, I'm letting the needle get too far. Turn left ... about 10 degrees should do it. Ok. Now the glideslope is centered and I pull the throttle to 1700 RPMs and nose down for a 500 fpm descent and 90 knots. The tower clears me for the option and asks what my intentions will be. She also announces traffic on a left base for 36L...sure hope the ACI is watching since I've got the hood on. Opps again...starting to drift. Although no wind is reported, it seems that I am drifting to the right of course pretty consistently. I turn to 360 and the needle recenters. Descending on the slope now while I turn to 002. This will keep the localizer needle centered.

1,275 feet MSL, I call out 1000 feet to go. Still on the localizer, I now extend one notch of flaps. Pushing the nose down to maintain the descent, I adjust the trim to keep the nose down. Now 500 feet AGL. I put out another notch of flaps and I almost lose the glideslope.

Tim now says we have the runway environment in sight and asks what can I do? I tell him I can descend to 100' above the TD, 175' MSL. Good answer. Do it. At 175' he tells me to go visual. There's the runway...perfect. I ask him if he wants me to land or do a low approach. Ok, low approach it is. I add power to full. Wait for speed to come up and remove the flaps step by step. Now at 79 knots, I pull nose up and start the climb. But now, I see the twin engine Seminole ATC called out before our approach. He's climbing out ahead and to the left. Looks like he's turning he's turning right. Ok. Now's a good time to turn left for the Missed approach. Tower returns me to approach control and we are told to climb to 3000.

After a few minutes, ATC asks us what we would like to do. We ask for a hold at the BEABE intersection - 150 radial from CRG at 5 DME. ATC turns us to 180 and instructs us to climb to 4000. He then asks if we would like to go direct to the CRG VOR or if we'd like vectors to BEABE. Vectors would be nice.

So, off we go towards BEABE. That approach went nicely. I made one mistake but I don't think the ACI caught it. Although I entered the 3:28 in my timer, I neglected to start the timer at the FAF. As we flew along, we jabbered about cars, women, flying. Lots of stuff. I pulled out the plate for the VOR32 approach at Craig and tuned the NAVs and radios. I got the ATIS - still 30.13. I tuned the OBS to 330 and 150 on the two VORs. I id's both radios. The DME was tuned, but it never IDed properly although it seemed to be receiving properly.

I noticed that the published hold at BEABE was for non-standard turns. From our position, we would have to make a parallel (pain in the ass) entry. We talked about that, but it became apparent to me that we were being brought in from the south...great. We can do a direct entry. Outstanding! ATC turned me to 300 at about 10 DME and I intercepted the 330 radial. This entry was perfect. I rolled wings level exactly as the needle centered. Ok. So which way do I turn? I was cleared to hold at BEABE at 4000' and asked to report established, but the controller did not say "As Published". This means I was supposed to make standard turns (to the right). We determined this just as I reached 5.0 dme. So, standard rate turn to the right. Timer cleared. Throttle oK, No twist. no talk yet. Wings level at 150 heading. Start the timer. Boy, that minute goes fast! Now right turn to 330. Oh man! this is a good one! I roll wings level just as the needle centers again. Now restart the timer. At 47 seconds, I hit 5 DME, so I will be adding 13 seconds to the next outbound leg.

We are ready to depart the hold and follow the VOR32 approach. Unfortunately, we now have three planes in our vicinity and we cannot descend from 3000'. ATC advises us to complete one more lap. Since I know we are being held up for traffic, I decide to pull the throttle and slow down to about 80 knots. We are told we can begin our descent as we cross the BEABE intersection. Since we are at 3000' and the airport is only 5 miles away, this means I'll need to lose altitude pretty quickly. Nose down. 1200 fpm descent. At 1000' we are only about 1.5 miles away. I pull the throttle to idle, drop full flaps and execute a forward slip down to the PAPI glideslope. Now I adjust the throttle to maintain a 70knot approach speed. When it is clear that I'll make the runway, I pull power to idle and we flare...still floats a bit longer than I like, but we still manage to touchdown gently on the aiming marks. I retract the flaps and apply the brakes. We make the first turn at A5.

Taxi back and tiedown were uneventful.

1.5 hours on a beautiful day. With 1.3 under the hood. Another great day of flying!

Instrument Stage Check #2 - I PASSED!!!

Twice, I have had to postpone my stagecheck for one reason or another. Before leaving for vacation, I had scheduled the event, but a tropical storm came close enough that there was way too much wind and far too many thunderstorms to make the stage check safe. Yes, even instrument flights have to be canceled due to weather every once in a while.

Last weekend, I had to reschedule with a different instructor because the Chief Instructor had some family business to attend to. Again, we had a problem with weather--this time it was a full fledged hurricane - Hurricane Dennis. Although Dennis passed well to the west of us, the squall lines of thunderstorms that fed the storm passed directly overhead and we had some significant weather. Nevertheless, I went to the airport and spent some time with the Assistant Chief Instructor completing the oral portion of my stage check. We decided that the weather would be challenging but would be acceptable, but by the time we were ready to go, we did not have enough time left in the session before the ACI's next student. Consequently, I had to reschedule for the following weekend - yesterday.

I'm not a morning person, but for this, I let the sun awaken me at 6:30 am (ON A SATURDAY!). I had completed my flight prep the night before and had filed an instrument flight plan for a round robin from CRG passing over VQQ, Cecil field, a former Naval Air Station.
I got to the airport about 7:30 and found two other folks waiting for the doors to open. Apparently, they didn't know that for early flights, the school leaves the flight bags in the fuel office at the adjoining FBO. I figured I could get my preflight done before the instructor arrived.

Checking with the fuel guys, I found that my bag was not there, so I conducted my preflight using the checklist that has been burned into my memory. Everything was working fine, but I still wanted to add a quart of oil. The engine had about 6 1/4 quarts according to the dipstick, but at 7:45 am, I was already dripping sweat, so having something closer to 8 quarts in the engine would aid cooling. I figured the engine could use all the help it could get.

Walking in through the hanger, I discovered that the ACI had just arrived and he let me in to the office. After a quick check of my files, we returned to the airplane and began our preparations for the flight.

I got situated with kneeboards on each leg--I know, overkill, right? I don't think so. The left board is a velcro board and I can stick my portable GPS and my Sporty's E6B on that side. This puts a nice programmable timer/flight computer at my fingertips. On the left leg, I have my scratchpad where I can write clearances and instructions, etc. It also holds charts and has a clipboard where I can stick my approach plates.

I briefed the instructor telling him to "keep his hands and feet inside the ride at all times and use his seatbelt." I also stated that in the event of a major emergency, we would use positive control handoff and I would ask him to save us as he was the more experienced pilot.

I then fired up the engine, made a few adjustments to the throttle and mixture, then activated the avionics panel. Tuning the ATIS, we got information Mike - no wind almost and 30.13" Hg. The skies were nice and clear with no adverse weather forecast until after 2pm. I then tuned and identified the ILS at CRG and the VOR. I conducted a VOR check tuning both NAVs to the CRG VOR on 114.5. All ok. I then tuned clearance delivery and announced that 512MA was ready to copy. I was given clearance as filed told to climb to 2000' and expect 4000 in 10 minutes. I was also told to contact JAX Approach on 118.0 after takeoff and squawk 5533. After receiving confirmation that my readback was correct, I tuned 118.0 as the standby frequency on one radio and tuned the ground control freq, 121.8 on the other. We could hear the clearance delivery controller giving another pilot a hard time, so that meant the same controller was running the clearance delivery and the ground control frequencies.

It seems a little odd to me that Craig Airport needs both a clearance delivery frequency and a ground control frequency since it is the same controller who usually handles both frequencies. This airport got a clearance radio a few months before the superbowl came to Jacksonville, and I'd bet that has something to do with it. I really don't think we need it. Maybe the guys who work the radios think differently.

Anyway, I made a courtesy call to the ground controller and then told him I was at Sky Harbor with Mike, and requested taxi for departure. He cleared me to taxi to 23 and off I went.

I asked the ACI if he wanted to check the brakes and he said no. So I continued my taxi on towards the runup area between the intersection of 23 and 32. As the windsock was totally limp, I didn't have to worry too much about which direction I was facing, so I pointed the tail to the grassy area that runs parallel to 23, locked the brakes and began my runup.

Following my checklist carefully, I made sure to touch every item. After I checked the magnetos, Tim asked, "what are we looking for on the magneto check?" I answered, "A drop of no more than 150 on a side and a difference of no more than 75 rpm on the tach." He said that was the answer he always gets and he doesn't know why. The corect answer is a drop of no more than 175 with a difference of no more than 50. He even pulled out the POH to show me. Ok, chalk one up for the instructor.

I had my radios tuned and was about to start, when I caught myself. I told Tim, that I neglected to mention that the turn coordinator and heading indicator were registering properly on the taxi. I also took the time to tune 118.0 on the standby frequency after the tower.

So then I pulled up towards the holdshort - Tim said I could use the Foxtrot intersection--but I usually use Charlie which is at the end of the runway since I was not specifically told to go to 23 at Foxtrot. Nevertheless, I called the tower and announced 512MA was ready to go 23 at Foxtrot. I stopped well short of the hold short, and the tower asked me to pull all the way up - there was a KingAir trying to squeeze in behind me. Aha! should have used Charlie!

The tower asked me to hold short while he pulled my clearance and after a few seconds, he cleared me for takeoff, climb to 2000 and turn to 270. Lights, camera, action and showtime--Landing lights, transponder, throttle and mark time on my watch. Off we went.

I called airspeed alive as we rolled and pulled the nose up at 55. We left the ground shortly after that and I pushed the nose down to keep us in ground effect until the airspeed reached our climbout speed of 79 knots. Then it was about 15 degrees nose up and we were off.

...the rest follows in the next post...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

And the Progression Continues

I could have sworn that I had posted something since April...maybe not. My training has been progressing nicely. I had hoped to have my second Instrument Stage Check completed before I went on vacation, but the tropical storm put a damper on that idea. I rescheduled for this weekend, but now the chief instructor is not available and I don't really want to fly at 7am.

I had a beautiful flight on the 4th of July. Since three weeks had passed since my last flight, I wanted to practice some instrument maneuvers in anticipation of my stage check. I planned to depart CRG and follow the 115 radial out to 10 DME, then make a DME arc back to the 180 radial then proceed to the 180 Radial at 13 DME and hold south. Since this is summertime in Florida, we can count on lots of billowy clouds, so while I had planned to climb to 3000 feet and execute these maneuvers at that altitude, the clouds prevented that. (I was flying VFR as I had no instructor with me).

My preflight turned up the usual missing screws, but I was very suprised to find only 5 quarts of oil in the engine. The plane had been operated for 1 hour on the 3rd and 1 hour on the 2nd. This means one of two things. A. The aircraft is burning oil at an alarming rate. Assuming that a proper pre-flight check showed the minimum 6 quarts of oil before the flight on the third, the plane burned 1 quart of oil in only one hour! B. The previous renter did not conduct a proper pre-flight inspection and operated the aircraft with a lower than required oil level. Both of these are unnaceptable situations. I added two quarts of oil to bring the level up to 7 quarts. On these very hot days, having plenty of oil is a good way to ensure that the engine runs at the proper temperature.

By the time I had completed my preflight and got everything situated inside the airplane, I was dripping with sweat. The engine started after four or five blades, which is great. I received clearance to taxi to 23 and and the runup went without any problems.

Since there were only about 25 gallons of fuel on board and no passengers, the plane climbed very quickly and I turned out to intercept the 115 radial. The clouds in the area forced me to level off at 1500' and I headed out to 10 DME. The clouds must be afraid of the ocean because as I crossed the coastline and headed out to sea, the clouds all but disappeared. Once I found a large enough gap, I began climbing again. Reaching 10 DME, I turned 90 degrees to the right and adjusted the VOR for the 125 radial. By the time I reached the 155 radial, I had climbed to 6500 feet and I leveled off while maintaining the 10 DME arc. The wind was from the southeast and this pushed me a little inside the 10DME. I adjusted my path to regain 10 miles. Just before reaching the 180 radial, I began a left turn and intercepted the radial on a southbound heading. At 13 DME, I executed a right turn to 360 and started my timer. After 60 seconds, another right turn to 180, but the VOR showed I was left of course (due to the winds from the SE). I adjusted my course to reintercept the radial and found that my time was about 10 seconds long as I reached 13 DME. After three laps of adjustment, I was nailing the radial with no problem. My GPS later confirmed that I had some pretty consistent racetracks.

On the final intercept, I made a steep turn to the left to 090 and headed out towards the beach. Over the beach, I executed a clearing turn, then seeing no traffic, I began a spiral dive to lose altitute. Pulling power to idle and banking to 45 degrees, I started a series of turns with a slight nose down attitude that gave me about a 1500 fpm rate of descent and 105 knots airspeed. I could have descended faster using flaps, but this was fine. I periodically blipped the throttle to clear the plugs and eventually rolled out on a northerly heading at 1000'. Then I slowly progressed up the coast looking for sharks in the water and traffic in the air.

Intercepting the 140 radial from CRG, I turned to 320 and tuned the ATIS. No change really. I contacted the tower and requested touch-n-go. I was told to enter a left base for 23 and report 2 miles. There were four other planes approaching the airport and I figured I would be about 3rd in line. Since I was cruising slowly--only about 90 knots, I had plenty of time to set up.

The tower contacted me just before I got to reporting range and told me to look for a Cessna on final. It took me some time to spot him--what a long final! I announced the tally-ho and was told I was number 2 to land. As the Cessna reached short final, I was cleared to land and told to go direct to the numbers. I banked the plane to the left and lined up with the runway just as I crossed the fence. With full flaps deployed and the touchdown area reachable, I pulled power to idle. The speed bled off quickly and I prepared to flare just before the numbers. I flared a bit late and I got just a slight bit of porpoising since the nose wheel touched first. Good thing I had let so much speed dissipate. By maintaining backpressure on the yoke, the porpoising was suppressed and my rollout was smooth. I retracted the flaps, hit the power and took off again. I made a conscious effort to hold the plane in ground effect until the climbout speed of 79 knots was reached and then I pulled the nose up.

The next two landings were quite smooth. As I was abeam the numbers, another plane announced he was on the left downwind. I could see that he was exactly opposite me. The tower waited to respond to him, so I decided to make my base turn a bit early. She had told me to make a short approach while I was climbing out anyway. This landing was as smooth as silk and so was my third and final landing of the day.

I love flying! 1.1 hours of beautiful VFR.