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!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! The instrument rating is the hardest one, you should be very proud of your accomplishment. Nice write up, its good to know that the examiners are human.