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. Lovely....fly 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!