Saturday, November 26, 2005

VFR On Top

Today my friend Ken and his son Max were visiting from North Carolina, so I took them up for a flight around town. This was the third time I've taken Max up. I've let him take the controls in the past and today was no different.

The weather was not conducive for a sightseeing flight. The TAF called for broken cover at 1500, so I filed and IFR flight plan that would take us over St. Augustine and back to Craig. I had reserved one of the older Warriors since the Archers were both reserved. I did most of my instrument training in this plane, N512MA, so I'm quite familiar with its idiosyncracies, like the DME that doesn't work right and the NAV/COM#1 that always has alternator noise.

I called clearance delivery and was told that my clearance was "on request" and I should taxi to 5. Wind was 040 at 9 knots - almost right down the runway. Taxiing down Bravo, I saw two aircraft ahead of me and one coming in behind me. No rush, though.

As I started my runup, ATC announced that he had my clearance on the ground frequency and to respond when I was ready to copy. I stopped the runup and asked for the clearance. I would be cleared for 2000', expect 5000 in 10 minutes, approach on 124.9 and was given a squawk code.

Finishing the runup, I took position behind a Skyhawk from ATP that was waiting to depart and I called the tower, "Craig Tower, Warrior 512 Mike Alpha, ready to go at 5, Number two."

After the Skyhawk departed, the tower told me to position and hold, so I took my place on the runway and waited for my clearance. The clearance didn't take long and I was told to fly heading 100, cleared for takeoff. The plane began its takeoff roll and soon we were climbing into the cloudcover. At about 400', the tower advised me to turn to 080 and contact approach. That was a bit lower than I would have liked, but I could hear him dealing with lots of other traffic. I figured he was just looking out for my safety, so I complied and began my turn.

I wasn't much higher than 1000' when we entered the clouds. The tops were between 3000 and 4000 feet by my estimation. ATC called and wanted to know what my intentions were. I explained that we were just doing some sightseeing and I would appreciate vectors that would take us over St. Augustine (which is what I filed). The controller then asked if I would be canceling my IFR. I told him I would wait and see what it was like once we got above the clouds. He cleared me for 4000' and we broke out of the clouds just before reaching that altitude. Presently, he vectored me 090. We flew out over the ocean for a while. I could hear the controller dealing with quite a bit of traffic and figured I could always pick up a shorthand clearance to get us back down, therefore, I asked ATC to cancel my IFR.

Immediately, I began a climbing right turn back towards the shoreline. Once I rolled wings level, I let Max take over. For a kid who has never had flight lessons and who has only flown three times in a small plane, he does a remarkable job of controlling the aircraft. I had him level off at 5500 and make a turn to 170. We flew around making a few turns here and there. At one point, I explained the graduations on the attitude indicator and asked him to make a left turn, but to bank 30 degrees. We made a circle and rolled wings level. I had him feel how the nose wants to drop when making a turn and explained how to counteract this by pulling back on the yoke. He did a great job of maintaining altitude while turning.

Next, I had him do a steep turn using a 45 degree bank. Altitude control wavered a bit, but he never let it get ahead of him.

A check of my watch determined that it was time to come home. I tuned the ATIS and got information Delta. No change in the winds, but the ceiling was a little lower and the altimeter setting had dropped to 30.20 from 30.22. I then switched over to the Jax Approach frequency and it was clear that ATC was very busy. I called, "Jax Approach, Warrior 512Mike Alpha, with request." I got no response until my third call. I then announced, "Warrior 2 Mike Alpha, 3 miles East of St. Augustine, 5,500 feet, I'd like to get the ILS 32 into Craig." The controller asked if I wanted that VFR to which I responded negative. The controller assigned a squawk, advised me to remain VFR and ident. The controller then vectored me 010.

After a few minutes, the controller asked if I could descend to 5000' while remaining VFR. I told him I could and he said he would give my IFR clearance when I reached that altitude. While I descended, I tuned and identified the CRG ILS 32 frequency and briefed the approach. I also plugged in the time from the approach plate into my timer. Shortly after reaching 5000', the controller issued my clearance and had me descend to 3000. He also vectored me to 360 and asked me to contact approach on 124.9. I responded "Two Mike Alpha, 3000 and 360 and I'm already on 124.9." Around 4500 feet, we entered the clouds.

After just a few more minutes he advised me, "descend 2000 feet, remain at 2000 until established on the localizer, contact Craig tower 132.1". I read back the instruction and thanked the controller.

Contacting the tower, I announced, "Craig Tower, Warrior 512 Mike Alpha, 12 miles southeast on the ILS 32 with Delta to land." The tower cleared me for the appoach with circle southwest for right base for runway 5 instructions.

I did a decent job of intercepting and tracking the localizer and intercepted the glideslope about 6 miles out. When the glideslope was one dot above, I dropped the first notch of flaps and stabilized my speed at 90 knots and my descent at 500 fpm.

We broke out of the clouds at about 1200 feet, but the bases were uneven, so there was a danger of going back in. I flew the glideslope down to 700 feet and leveled off. I then began my left turn for the circling approach to 5. Turning base I could detect a bit of wind pushing me off course a bit, so I turned a bit to the right to compensate. I dropped the second notch of flaps and trimmed to compensate for the nose up tendency this would create. Turning final, I dropped the final notch and stabilized the approach right on the PAPI. With power set at 1700 rpm, maintaining the glideslope caused the speed to steadily drop from 85 knots down to 65 as I neared the runway. When it was clear that we would make the runway, I pulled power to idle and the plane increased its rate of descent. Just before touchdown, I pulled back on the yoke to flare the plane and our speed began to drop and the plane settled gently onto the runway.

Max and Ken both seemed to have a good time. We didn't get to see many sights due to the cloud cover, but the view from above the clouds was beautiful.

I logged 1.2 hours PIC and 0.5 actual instrument. Three days of flying in a row...I love it!

Friday, November 25, 2005

IFR Clearance From a Non-towered Airport

Even though today was a beautiful day for a VFR flight, I took the advice of the AIM and filed IFR. The A/FD did not list a clearance or approach frequency for X39 - Tampa North Aeropark. The KTPA entry lists several frequencies depending on which direction you were relative to the airport and I could have departed VFR and requested a clearance once airborne, but the AIM says to ask the local FSS for the procedure for your specific airport. Therefore, when I filed my flight plan, I asked the briefer for the recommended procedure for X39. He gave me the phone number for clearance delivery at St. Petersburg airport (PIE) and said they might just give me a frequency to call after departing VFR.

Bob and family picked us up at my mom's house in his Ford Expedition stretch limo. Mom had to work, so she couldn't drop us at the airport. I guess it must be nice having a limo company - no need to buy an SUV for the family...just use one of the limos.

The sun was shining bright on the tarmac as we drove out to the plane. It sure is nice being able to park the car right next to the airplane! I can only imagine what the folks who were standing out on the deck of the FBO might have thought about these people and their huge limo.

After pre-flighting, I walked into the FBO to see if I owed anything for the overnight stay. Amazingly, they said "no". I think if I saw some guy park a stretch limo in front of a nice new Archer III, I would have asked for twenty bucks just for good measure. Nice folks. I made a point of saying, "Just so you don't think I'm too ostentatious, that's my brother-in-law's limo. He owns a limo company." "Yeah, sure!" the lady from the FBO said.

After checking almost everything and saying our goodbyes, I called the number for clearance delivery. The controller who answered asked me if I wanted clearance now, or if I wanted to depart VFR and get it once airborne. I told her that I had never departed IFR from this airport, so whatever she recommended would be fine with me.

She put me on hold for a few minutes and then told me she had my clearance. Just like a normal clearance, she cleared me as filed to CRG, climb to 2000 expect 5000 in 10 and fly heading 090, squawk 3535 and contact departure on 119.9. She then added clearance void after 17 Zulu. It is now 16:54 zulu. Omigosh! I have 6 minutes to get in the plane, start, runup and depart. This is not exactly what I was expecting. Ok. Let's roll.

One last hug of the kids, goodbyes for Bob and Chrissy and we jumped in the plane. This is where a skyhawk has a tremendous advantage having two doors rather than the single door on the right side. I strapped myself in, helped Maureen with the door latches and grabbed the checklist. The engine started after just a few blades. I checked the guages and all systems were go. It took a minute for the Garming GNS430s to complete their selftest. As soon as they were ready, I checked the area and advanced the throttle to begin our taxi. For some reason, the plane wasn't moving too well. Hmmm. A little more gas. Aha! I had forgotten to remove the wheel chocks from the nose gear! Ok, full up elevator...more power...not too much and there! I'm over the small chocks and we're rolling. Announce my intentions on the CTAF. One plane announced her position 5 miles west and intended to enter the downwind for 32. Sitting at the end of the runway, I did a runup checking the mags, carb heat, alternator, controls, annunciators, etc. Okey doke, off we go. I made my radio call and noted the slight breeze from the left. Throttle to the firewall and we're moving. Climbing out through 500' the incoming plane announced her position and said she had the departing traffic in sight. I couldn't make out what her position was and I couldn't see her. At about 700', I announced that I was making my left crosswind turn and just as I started my bank, I spotted the incoming aircraft! She was already below pattern altitude and had entered the pattern straight into the downwind! Not only was she coming in lower than pattern altitude, but she was making an improper entry into the pattern. Good thing that I saw her, otherwise I would have turned directly into her path! I continued my climb and made my crosswind turn as soon as she passed. I was above and behind her on downwind and continued to climb. I announced that I would be departing the pattern to the east and switched my radio to the departure frequency.

I called departure saying, "Tampa departure, Archer 341 Papa Alpha, out of one thousand five hundred for two thousand departing Xray three niner." Approach responded, "Good afternoon Archer one papa alpha, squawk 3535 and ident" OOPS. Another thing I forgot - turn the transponder to ALT! LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION, SHOWTIME! Stupid!!!

Here's what I learned from this departure: If you are departing from a non-towered airport on an IFR flight plan, don't call for clearance until your engine is started and your are truly ready to depart. There's nothing to be gained by rushing through the runup. I probably didn't make the 17 zulu cutoff, but I may have. Considering that it would have taken me about three minutes to reach 1800 feet, and it probably took me more than that in the start and runup, I think Tampa Approach was probably being generous to me.

The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. I was eventually cleared direct to the Ocala VOR, and before I reach Ocala, I was cleared direct Craig. I got a few traffic alerts, but only saw one passing aircraft. It was such a nice smooth flight. It was so smooth, that I think Maureen fell asleep for a bit.

Earlier in the morning, we saw a story on TV about the book that Architectural Digest was releasing about celebrity homes. They showed photos of John Travolta's house at Greystone. We passed just east of Greystone, so I pointed out the house to my celebrity watching wife. I even side slipped the plane so she could have a better look. I didn't see his 707 on the ground, though.

As we began to cross the St. Johns River, ATC told me to fly 360 for sequencing. They had already descended me from my cruising altitude of 5000' down to 3000' and my course, if unchanged, would take me directly over NAS Jax. Before we reached NAS, though, the controller instructed me to turn to 060, descend to 2,100 and advise when Craig was in sight. I repeated the instructions and told the controller that Craig was already in sight. He handed me off to Craig tower with a "good day". The Craig tower controller advised me to enter a 2 mile left base for 32, but about the time I was about 3 miles out, she advised me to enter a right base for 5 and announce my entry. I told her I was making the base turn right now and she immediately cleared me to land.

On the ground, I requested taxi clearance and heard nothing. I saw a King Air taxiing to Sky Harbor on Alpha and Bravo 4 (I was on Bravo 4, but had no crossed Alpha). I then heard her clear Archer four niner zulu to the ramp. I didn't hear a response from the aircraft and I didn't see any other planes on taxiways, so I repeated my request. I suspect that the controller called the wrong sign - we used to have an Archer by that sign at Sterling. She quickly cleared me to the ramp.

Apart from the rushed start to the flight, it proceded smoothly. I've learned my lesson about rushing to meet a clearance limit. This flight only took 1.4 hours (compared to 1.7 for the outbound leg. It might have been less if the controller had not vectored me for traffic in the Jacksonville area. Unfortunately, I can't log any actual instrument time as I didn't even see a single cloud, much less fly through one!

Total 1.4 hours of lovely cross-country time!

The Instrument Advantage

Thanksgiving always seems to be an interesting time for me and my family. Two years ago, Maureen, my sister's now ex-husband and I waited on the tarmac for the fog to lift before flying to Tampa to spend the day with my other sister. I didn't tell anyone that I had just received word that a plane had crashed about an hour earlier while trying to land at Craig airport. That would have made both of them much too nervous - I had earned my private pilot certificate only six weeks earlier.

Last year, we flew to Tampa again, but this time, while there, my sister called to announce that she and her husband were divorcing after almost seven years. Everyone loved her husband and we thought they were such a fun couple, so this was quite a shock. It is now a year later and she has met a very nice gentleman who she will be marrying in February, so alls well that ends well.

This year, the excitement was much more enjoyable. This was my first opportunity to fly with my wife on an instrument flight plan. I'm glad that I'm done with training and can focus on flying places once again. I missed visiting my family over the past year, so now, I expect that I will be making more trips to West Palm, Tampa and Crystal River. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to convince Maureen that we should fly to Atlanta or Asheville or someplace like that.

Today, the winds aloft were forecast to be quite intense. At 3000' they were forecast 280 at 41 knots and at 6000, the speed dropped to 31 knots. The speed was forecast to diminish about 10 knots the closer we got to Tampa. Direction remained unchanged, so even though I was flying a nice, fast Archer III, the headwind component would make the flight take a bit longer than normal. I was a bit concerned about the landing, too. The surface winds in the area (no ATIS, AWOS or ASOS at X39- Tampa North) were forecast to be 240 at 14 with gusts to 22 knots. Tampa north has a single runway 14-32 and it is only 50 feet wide. This would give me about an 80 degree crosswind that was slightly below the demonstrated 17 knot capability of the Archer. I was ready for the challenge and had practiced cross-wind landings often. Nevertheless, I warned mom and Maureen that there was a possibility that I would have to abort and land at Tampa International.

The surface winds at Craig were about the same as the forecast for Tampa. There was also a windshear indication due to the 41 knot winds at 3000 with about a 40 or 50 degree direction shift. Well, no one said this was going to be easy.

The preflight showed no problems and all systems were go when I called for my clearance. Instead of clearing me as filed, I was cleared via radar vectors to OCF, then via Victor-581 to DADES then X39. I had filed CRG direct OCF DADES omitting the airway. I had already programmed the plan into the GPS...which was not as simple as I had expected. It is quite different from my GPS III Pilot handheld. For climbout, I was told to fly heading 280 and climb to 2000 and expect 4000 in 10. I had filed for 6000, but 4000 should be ok, I thought.

The climb performance of the Archer was much better than usual due to the cool morning temperatures. Even though the atmospheric pressure was lower than normal for our area, the cold air made for a better running engine. Usually, our pressure is somewhere around 30.14 in the mornings. Rarely have I seen a day where it drops to the standard 29.92. But today, that's about where it was. The plane was climbing at close to 900 fpm once I stabilized the climb. This was a very bumpy climbout, though. I had some swirling crosswind as I rolled down runway 23 and that made for an interesting trip down the runway. Maureen later said that she thought I was going to have to abort - but I don't think it was ever anywhere close to that.

On the climb, I was handed off to Jax approach who cleared me to climb to 5000 and upon passing 2100, "Cleared direct Ocala VOR". I plugged the direct-to into the GPS and made a left turn towards the VOR. It occured to me that 5000 is an altitude normally reserved for flights on headings in the eastern directions, but because I am in controlled airspace, any altitude is fine as long as it is fine with ATC. As I climbed, I was getting tossed about quite a bit and I was worried about Maureen's stomach. She didn't have a problem, though. I had prepared by putting two plastic garbage bags folded neatly in the side pouches of my flight bag for easy access in the event of a regurgitation. I never needed them, and that was quite a relief.

As we neared 5000', the ride smoothed out considerably. This was a beautiful day with just some cumulous puffies building ahead of us. The GPS showed a ground speed of about 98 knots, while the indicated airspeed was just under 120 knots. About 20 miles before I reached OCF, ATC cleared me direct to DADES. GPS is a wonderful thing! I made the adjustment to the GPS and altered the course about 10 degrees to the right.

Soon, we started to encounter the cumulous clouds that had bases around 4000 and in some cases, tops as high as 6000. If I had been flying VFR, I would have been forced to alter my course to avoid these suckers --1000 feet above, 500 feet below and 2000 feed side to side. I would have had to make some significant course alterations to avoid them. I was very pleased with myself when I heard a VFR pilot on flight following announce a course deviation to avoid some weather. No deviations for me, thank you very much.

I don't think Maureen was quite as pleased, though. The cumulous clouds were building and as we entered each one, we were bounced around a little bit. It wasn't anything by my standards, but I don't have a weak stomach like Maureen does. I thought of requesting a higher altitude to get over them, but thought that I 'd just have to come down through them and we wouldn't get much benefit from a few minutes less tossing.

Pretty soon we were in range of the airport and ATC advised me to descend. This put me into a one-thousand foot thick layer that I had been flying above and it was exciting for me to pass through the layer. This was not unlike diving into a pool of milk and trying to open your eyes while swimming to the bottom of the pool.

Under the cloud layer, we were getting bounced around a bit, but the GPS showed we only had about 10 minutes to go. I had the airport in sight, so I canceled my IFR plan. X39 has no instrument approaches and no tower...and today, no traffic. What they did have was quite a bit of wind.

I switched to the advisory frequency and announced my position, intentions and requested advisories. No one was home. Overflying the airport, I searched in vain for the windsock. Since I expected the wind to be 240 at some velocity, I planned to enter the left downwind for 32 after descending to pattern altitude. It was clear that there was no one in the pattern and I confirmed the wind direction by noting the ripples on a nearby lake.

I entered the downwind at midfield, announced and reduced the throttle to 1700 RPM. I extended the first notch of flaps as I passed the threshold. I turned my base earlier than usual so I would not have as much time to get blown off course. Now the second notch and time for the turn to final. There is no VASI, PAPI or any glide slope indicator of any sort. The descent was as stable as possible considering the crosswind and gusts. As I descended to about 200 feet agl, a gust hit the plane and the stall warning went off. I held the nose down and increased power a bit. I was coming in hot by about 10 to 15 knots to account for the gusts, so I was a bit surprised to hear the stall warning. Now I finally saw the windsock. Nothing unexpected there. The sock was pointing straight out from left to right almost directly across the runway. Slight headwind - strong crosswind.

The runway continued to rise to meet me at about 400 fpm. I had my touchdown point identified and had a pretty descent side slip established to account for the crosswind. I thought about stalls that occur due to cross-control and double checked my airspeed. Ok, no danger of a stall. Crossing the fence, I reduced power to idle, maintained my side slip and waited for the speed to drop. I had the plane lined up on the center line and set the left main down gently, then the right and the nose wheel shortly thereafter. This was a pretty smooth landing especially in view of the wind.

I made my U-turn on the runway (no taxiways here except the ones that lead to private homes.) Taxiing back down the runway, I was careful to keep full nose down elevator and turned the ailerons away from the wind. It wouldn't do to have the tail lifted in the wind. Nearing the parking area, I searched for anyone to show me where I should park - the only person there was my mom waving at us from the porch of the FBO. There aren't many actual tie-downs at X39. In the past, I've parked in the grass in front of the old dilapidated hangers. This time, though, it looks like they've torn down the old hangers and that parking area is no available. New hangers are being built on the other side of the runway, but no parking there, yet. I'm always happy to see new construction at an airport! I pulled in front of the FBO and parked the plane next to a Mooney that was sitting on the tarmac just out of the way of the taxi area in front of the FBO.

I started out writing this about the "Instrument Advantage" and I don't think I've explained myself. Although the weather today was excellent for VFR, if I had been on a VFR flight plan, I would have had to dodge quite a few clouds and may have had trouble remaining VFR when the time came to descend into Tampa North Aeropark. Because I was flying IFR, the clouds were a non-issue. There were no thunderstorms in the area to worry about and the freezing levels were far to the north of Florida or much higher than I could possibly fly, so there was no danger of being torn apart by convective activity or of being iced over. I didn't have to make any deviations and flew an almost direct path to my destination. This is what I mean by the instrument advantage.

The flight took a bit longer than normal due to the strong winds and the fact that I kept the speed relatively low due to the turbulence. 1.7 hours total and about .2 hours of actual instrument time. Another adventure for the logbook!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Single Pilot IFR

Now that I've completed my training and have my instrument rating, it's time to start flying places again. I've got a nice Archer III reserved for Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd take it up today to refamiliarize myself with the Garmin 430 GPS.

My instrument training was done in a Warrior II with no GPS...or at least no working GPS. Consequently, none of my training was on use of the GPS. I prepared myself with Garmin's free 430 simulator. Nevertheless, it still didn't seem to work the way I expected. Half the battle is learning how to control the cursor and select routes and approaches. I've mastered direct to, but I still need to understand how to activate an approach properly so that it cycles through the waypoints.

The weather today is overcast and windy - perfect for honing IFR skills. I planned a flight to X45 - Flagler which is just over 50 nm away from CRG. After checking the weather and reviewing approaches to X45, I filed a round-trip IFR flight to CRG with the ROYES intersection and X45 as waypoints.

ATC was very cooperative today and gave me exactly what I filed. I was cleared as filed, climb 2000, expect 5000 in 10 minutes. After holding for traffic, the tower cleared me for takeoff on runway 5, right turn to 100 and off I went. I was following a C172 that was remaining in the pattern, but he wasn't maintaining the runway centerline. I was gaining on him until I made my right turn to 100 as I passed 500'. The ceiling was reported at 1800, but I was in clouds before I reached 1200'.

ATC told me that I he would not be able to give me 5000 and direct ROYES because that would be in improper altitude (In controlled airspace, this shouldn't matter, but he's the boss). My original plan had me flying a heading of 178 which would have been proper for 5000, but after several minutes at 2000' heading eastward, my heading direct to ROYES was 186. I told the controller 4000' would be fine. This put me squarely in the clouds and that's what I wanted to practice - it wasn't the smoothest flight, but it was the best practice I could get.

I was then cleared to climb to 4000 and upon passing 3000 I was cleared direct ROYES. He then asked me what my intentions were and I responded that I would like the GPS6 at Flagler.

As I crossed 3000', I hit the Direct To button on the GPS and turned to follow the course. The wind was swirling and I spent most of the time in clouds bouncing up, down and side to side. Maintaining an even heading was a challenge and trimming out the plane was also difficult, but I eventually managed.

ATC handed me off to different controllers as I approached ROYES. Just before I reached ROYES, ATC handed me off again. I made the call after listening for clear air saying "Daytona Approach, Archer 341Papa-Alpha, Level at 4000, passing ROYES." The controller rogered and advised me to turn to 160 and descend to 2500. The controller asked me what my intentions were and I advised that I would like to do a touch and go. She then gave me 360, 1500' and the same frequency as my missed approach procedure.

I had already pulled out the plates for the GPS 6 approach and had briefed the approach to myself. A little while later, she gave me another heading and told me to descend to 2300. An just a little while later, she turned me to 090 and cleared me for the approach while advising me to maintain 2300 until established on the approach. I was west of JABKU by about 5 miles. I was in some thick clouds and it started to pour down rain. No problem . . . the plane was stable and I was maintaining speed and altitude. OAT was about 55 degrees, so no danger of icing.

The approach course is 060 and as I lined myself up for this course across JABKU, I descended to 1600. MDA for this approach was 540. JABKU is 4.7 miles from the airport and I started to descend from 1600 as I passed the waypoint. I broke out of the clouds at about 1400' and requested a frequency change. ATC advised that there were 4 planes in the pattern flying VFR...hmmm...sounds like some folks are not exacly staying 500' below the clouds if they are flying at pattern altitude.

I switched frequencies and listened for traffic...nothing. That was suprising since ATC said there were four planes in the pattern. I announced my position and asked if there were other aircraft in the pattern. One plane then announced he was positioning and holding...why he would hold is beyond me...probably training. I was about 2 miles out and still coming in at 90 knots. With the winds gusting to 26 knots, I was going to maintain my speed on approach. I then announced that I was on 2 mile final, straight in for 6, touch and go. There were three planes waiting to depart runway 6 and one of the pilots said something like "no, no, no...touch and goes aren't allowed at Flagler." Oops. I had pulled notams but didn't bother to check the AFD. I changed my intententions to taxi-back. I came in hot and floated for quite a while down the runway. I had to taxi off at the end. As soon as I taxied off, I announced that I was clear and the next guy had already taken the active runway.

I made a fast taxi back to runway 6 and by the time I reached the hold short, there was nobody left waiting. The plane that had departed during my approach was now on final, so I announced that I was holding short for landing traffic...not a required call, but it let the guy on final know I saw and heard him.

He cleared the runway and off I went. I turned crosswind at 500 feet, climbing through 1000, I announced I was departing to the north and continued my climb to 1500. I changed the frequency back to ATC and announced out of 1200 for 1500. ATC cleared me to 2000, expect 5000 in 10, cleared direct CRG. She also gave me a new squawk for the transponder.

Shortly ATC handed me off to JAX approach who advised me to fly heading 360. Again, I was in the clouds, but no rain this time. The controller advised me that the ILS32-circle to 5 was in use. He eventually advised me to descend to 2000. Later, he vectored me to intercept the localizer and then cleared me for the approach telling me to maintain 2000 until established. It seemed like forever before the glideslope came alive...but eventually it did. ATC also advised me to keep my speed up because there was traffic behind me. in hot again.

At about 11 miles out, I was told to countact Craig Tower. I had already pulled the ATIS, so I called up, "Craig Tower, Archer 341Papa-Alpha, 11 Miles, ILS32 Circle to 5 with Kilo, full stop".
The tower replied, "Roger Archer 1Papa Alpha, report circling southwest for runway 5.

I was still in the clouds when the localizer started to register. I was focusing on the needles and did a pretty good job of keeping them centered. I broke out of the clouds at around 1000 feet and there was the runway, right where it should be. Just a little later, I made the left turn to the southwest and called my position to the tower.

Again, I kept my speed up on the descent to account for the gusty winds. I bounced around quite a bit as I turned my base. I gave myself an extra 30 degrees to adjust for the wind and make a squared base leg. Turning final, I pulled the second notch of flaps, checked my speed and headed for the numbers. I was right on the glideslope and pulled power crossing the threshold. The plane floated a bit and my landing was not as smooth as I normally do, but nothing fell off.

I was cleared to taxi to the ramp and I parked and secured the plane.

Single pilot IFR is a challenge, but having done it, I feel much better about my flying skills. This flight was spent mostly in unstable clouds in a plane that I've only flown a few times. While it is similar to the Warrior II, the equipment is newer, there's more power and the plane weighs a bit more. This was an ugly day for GA flying, but I enjoyed every minute of it. 1.7 hours cross-country. 1.2 Actual Instrument. 2 Approaches. Gotta love it!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hoorah! I passed!!!

Saturday was the big day - the FAA instrument check ride. I studied very hard for the oral exam and was confident in my flying skills and procedural knowledge. Nevertheless, I was nervous. My private checkride was over two years ago, but that ride was a nightmare. I had met the DPE a few times before in the waiting room at Sterling, and he seemed like a nice guy, but you never know.

We started the oral around 8:45 after a little chit-chat. The night before I pulled the DPEs credentials from the FAA website and saw the different type ratings he had, so that gave me something to ask him about. I'm always interested in hearing flying stories from experienced pilots, and I was sure he had a few. Things started smoothly and after about 2 hours of questions and discussion, he said, "Let's fly".

We discussed the flight and what we would actually do. We were going to depart VFR, do some stick and rudder work under the hood and then try to get the required three approaches. Because there was a Blue Angels airshow nearby, a TFR was issued that would prevent us from using any of the approaches at my home base. We opted to fly to St. Augustine and ask for a shorthand clearance from ATC after our stick and rudder work was done.

There were cumulous clouds covering about half the sky from around 1500 to 5000 feet, and until we were flying under an IFR plan, we would have to dodge them. Winds were 070 at 10 knots and we were cleared to depart on runway 5 with a downwind leg departure due to the TFR. Everything was in order and the climbout was smooth. As we crossed back over Atlantic Blvd heading southwest, we were finally cleared to make our southbound turn. I donned my foggles and Bob started giving me vectors to dodge the clouds. He was playing the role of ATC and cleared me direct to SGJ (St. Augustine). I tuned the OBS on VOR 1 and followed the nearest radial directly towards the airport. He then told me to intercept the 315 radial and follow that in, so I adjusted the OBS and made a right turn to intercept. I had to maintain about 10 degrees of left correction due to the wind from the ENE. The DME was not working very well - it would only tune very specific stations and at times, it would change the freq by itself. He was not at all pleased with it.

Since I had a handheld GPS, I offered to remove it from the yoke and let Bob use it to better avoid the TFR and the other controlled airspace around us. He initially declined, but after a few minutes of unsuccessful fiddling with the DME, he said he would use it.

We were level at 7500 feet heading direct to the St. Augustine VOR when he threw me a curve. He wanted me to execute a DME arc to the west at 5 DME - we were about 7 DME at that time, so I didn't have much time to figure out what I should do. At 5.2 DME, I started a 90 turn to the right and then turned the OBS to 235. OOPS! I should have turned 90 degrees to the right, then turned the OBS to 305...10 degrees off my original radial. Since I was heading the right direction, I kept an eye on my DME and although the needle had not yet started to move, I began a turn to the left to prevent drifting too far out. I must have been very flustered to botch the OBS like this. I couldn't figure out what was going on, so I tuned the NAV2 to the same VOR and identified the radial that I was on. AHA! that what I did wrong! Fortunately, he didn't bust me. After I had followed the arc (sort of) for about 10 minutes, he cleared me direct to the SGJ VOR and told me to Hold North of SGJ on the 360 radial, Left Turns. Ok, think! How do I enter this? What will the pattern look like? Where is the wind? I drew the pattern out on my clipboard. I was hoping I had written this right...NO! wait a holding course is the 360 radial...I had written it upside down. Ok, now I've got it. I'm heading about 080 to the station, so that gives me somewhat of a direct entry. I must be getting close, the needle is moving way off and I can't seem to get it back, so I must be just off to the right of the station...THERE! There's the flip. Ok, I just passed the station. Now I'm going to turn to 360...Start my Timer, TIME, TURN THROTTLE, TWIST, TALK. Twist the OBS to my inbound course - 180 so I get a TO indication on my inbound. Call the imaginary ATC and tell him I'm in the hold at StAugustine at 7500. Keep an eye on the timer...there's 60 seconds, now turn left and intercept the 360 radial. Wow! T-T-T-T-T. Wings level and start my timer. The course is way over to the left. Winds are pretty stiff up here from the East. I turned to 150...great, the needle is starting to center. Ok, 7 degrees left correction seems to hold the course. A glance at my chart and I see that the SGJ VOR is also published with a CRG DME setting - and the CRG 114.5 is one of the few settings the DME will accept, so that should help me identify the location. There's 60 seconds on the inbound and look at that, there's the flip, too. The winds are pretty much from the side. Ok, now turn to 015 - rather than 360 - I needed 7 degrees of left correction on the inbound, so outbound, I'm doubling it to the opposite direction. Good. Wings level and start the time. One more lap around...last turn inbound...Wings level and look at that, I'm right on the course.

As I crossed the VOR for the last time, Bob told me to contact ATC and explain that I need one precision and two non-precision approaches and see what they could do for me. I made the call and also interjected that this was a check ride - maybe he'd have some sympathy for me. ATC gave me a squawk code, vectored me to 090 and told me to descend to 3000 feet. He also gave me a 360 heading, 2000 feet and the same frequency for my Missed Approach.

So then I executed a descending right turn to 090. As the descent stabilized, I grabbed my approach plate for the SGJ ILS 31 approach and briefed it with Bob. I also tuned the NAV to the ILS freq, tuned NAV2 to the OMN VOR, tuned the ATIS on COM1 (the noisy radio) and tuned the tower on the standby for COM2. Next, I turned the OBS to the approach course. As I leveled off at 3000, ATC vectored me to the right a bit. Now I verified the current plate, set the HI to the mag compass, Identified both NAVs, verified the course, called out the altitudes, noted that there were no times noted and restated the alternate missed approach plan that ATC gave me. AMICEATM, done!

I listened to the ATIS and adjusted the setting in the Kollsman window on the altimeter. I'm all set. All I have to do now is shoot the approach.

ATC gave me final vectors and cleared me for the ILS - remain at 2000 until established, contact the tower. I switched the frequency and announced "St. Augustine Tower, Warrior 512MA inbound on the ILS31 with Zulu". They responded, "2Mike-Alpha, report HAMGO". "Roger, report HAMGO, 2Mike Alpha". Just as I started to say, my DME is out, the DPE said, I'll tell you when you are at HAMGO. Handheld GPS to the rescue AGAIN!

Then as I looked at the chart, I realized I could ID HAMGO based on my altitude assuming I was on the glideslope! HAMGO is 1,600'. I had those needles lined up perfectly and we made a beautiful approach.

Bob was doing a great job of role playing. He's playing the part of a passenger who wants to go to a meeting in St. Augustine. He's asking me where to look for the runway and telling me I don't see it. As I reached the DH, I gave the throttle a nudge to full power and started my missed approach. He then announces, OH! there it is right below us. I told him, too late, we'll have to catch it on the next pass. I think he was testing me to see if I would abort the missed and I didn't take the bait.

I announced to St. Augustine that I was going missed and the told me to contact Approach. I turned to 360 and tried to call approach. No luck. Not until after we had passed through 1500 feet could approach hear me.

I requested the full approach for the VOR 13 at SGJ and was told that I was cleared for the VOR 13 approach at SGJ. Upon reaching 2000 feet, cleared direct to the SGJ VOR. "Contact approach after the procedure turn." About that time, Bob put some paper over my attitude indicator and my heading indicator. Lovely. I faked a call to ATC to announce "No Gyro", completed my turn towards the VOR and got out the plate for the VOR 13.

I briefed the approach as I had done for the ILS 31 and lined up on the correct radial outbound. Passing the IAF, I started my timer and at 60 seconds, I executed the procedure turn and announced the turn to ATC. I easily lined up on the inbound course and was cleared for the approach. ATC handed me off to the tower who told me to announce 5 miles. Since the DME was out, I asked Bob to tell me when I was 5 miles.

He was still doing the role play as we got closer. I managed to keep the CDI within 1 dot of the center and descended to MDA. I also pointed out to Bob that I could have descended to 1600 during my turn, but he said, that's fine--no need to. He called five miles and I contacted the tower and requested the option. The tower cleared me for the option and I was steady as she goes. Bob, in his role as a passenger said, "Where should I look for the runway?" I said it should be straight ahead of us and angling off to the right just a bit. He replied, "I think I see it right can look up." Yup, that was it. He said, let's do a touch and go. I love doing touch and goes so I did one. Straight down the middle but just a touch firmer than I usually do - not bad though. Bob took the paper off the instruments and off I went.

Up with the flaps, then to 500 feet and a left turn to 500. The tower called, "Execute climbout and contact approach." I called reply, so I waited until we got to 1500 feet and tried again. Finally, a response. I then requested vectors for the VOR31 at SGJ. Nothing too eventful happened during this. I pulled the plates, briefed the approach and followed the vectors that I needed.

As we headed eastward, I told Bob, "I probably shouldn't ask you this until you've signed my ticket, but I'd like to know your thoughts. Justin taught me to request my IFR clearance from Clearance Delivery by saying 'Craig Clearance Delivery, Warrior 512MA - ready to copy.', and I did this for about 6 months. However, a few weeks ago, the controller at Craig chewed my but by saying, 'there's a right way and a wrong way to request a clearance, and that ain't it!'" I explained that I had searched the AIM for instructions on clearance requests and couldn't find anything specific. Bob asked if I had the AIM, so I reached behind me and grabbed it. He couldn't find anything either. After he searched, he explained that the best way is to say "Warrior 512MA, ready to copy IFR to Orlando, or wherever I filed". That way, the controller doesn't have to look too hard to find the clearance. We then discussed the lack of professionalism shown by a few of the controllers in the Craig tower and how nice the folks at St. Augustine seem to be.

As we flew along, Bob told me I can tell the controller that we'd like to get vectors back to Craig when we complete this approach. We've done everything we need to and you've done an excellent job! What a relief!

The ground and the flight took longer than I had anticipated, but I really enjoyed the experience. The flight itself took 2.2 hours, we did three instrument approaches, one visual approach, landed twice, flew a DME arc, executed a hold and intercepted numerous radials. And it was fun!

Bob Link is an excellent examiner. If I had known he was retired FAA, I probably would have been much more nervous. He has a great style that put me at ease. He also has a nice sense of humor. We didn't cut any corners and he seems to expect that everything must be done properly, which is the way it should be. However, he was very professional about everything. The bottom line is that I really enjoyed flying with him.

So now I have the Airplane Single Engine Land - Instrument Pilot rating!!! I can't wait for our trip to Tampa for Thanksgiving!