Yesterday afternoon I took my mom on her long-awaited first flight, and it was definitely an adventure. I picked her up from her house and drove her to the airport. When we arrived I checked out the airplane, then commenced the most heavily-photographed preflight inspection to date. By 3:30 the preflight was complete, I started up the engine, and taxied to the runup area. Runway 30-12 was closed at Hillsboro Airport, so the tower gave us runway 2 even though the wind was from the northwest.

We took it nice and slow, cruising at about 100 knots at 4,500 feet along the south bank of the Columbia River. There were a lot of ships making their way up and down the river, and my mom spotted a cannery on the Washington side. She was very familiar with the geography so she was able to tell me the names of islands, bridges and mountains in the area.

Our destination was Rosburg, Washington where my mom grew up and where my Grandpa and Uncle currently reside. Rosburg is a tiny rural community between Gray’s River and Deep River. I used Google Earth before the flight to get familiar with the surrounding terrain, and also calculated a radial (025) from the Astoria VOR that would intersect my Grandpa’s house. It actually was very easy to find; we spotted the two rivers, followed them inland, and pretty much immediately identified my grandpa’s yellow house. We descended to 800 feet and flew a couple of circles, and spotted him out in his driveway with his wife and her family waving up at us! We spent some time exploring the surrounding rivers and valleys, as my mom identified houses of friends and relatives. It was amazing to be able to experience this familiar area from a different perspective.

But then things got interesting. My mom had her window open so she could get better pictures. We were in a right bank at about 90 knots when my mom started to close the window, and without any notice the entire window wobbled off its hinges and flew off! It was totally gone. My first thought was that it could have hit the tail, so we both took a good hard look at the horizontal stabilizer and elevator, and there didn’t appear to be any damage. Fortunately we were over the woods so its very unlikely it caused any damage to anything on the ground. So, my mom was without a window on her side. I had to spend some time convincing her that she wasn’t going to get sucked out, and other than being a little chilly there wasn’t any consequence to having a missing window. I’m still investigating what could have caused this incident, and what kind of maintenance should be performed to prevent it, since opening the window in flight is a very common practice. I cranked up the cabin heat and we continued the flight.

We flew west to the Washington coast, over the towns of Chinook, and Ilwaco. We spotted long beach and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, then turned back towards Astoria. It was 34 degrees F at 5,500 feet, which was pretty cold for my mom without a window on her side, so we descended to warmer air at 3,500 feet and followed the Columbia river back to Scappoose. The wind at Hillsboro airport had strengthened to 11 knots, still from the Northwest, and the tower gave us runway 2 for landing. On final I entered a sideslip to compensate for the 9 knot crosswind component, and we touched down on Runway 2 at about 20 minutes before a beautiful sunset lit up the clouds to the west. After the flight my Grandpa called my mom to get the story and to share his excitement of seeing us circle his house. Mom said she had a great time and was ready to go again!

Night Currency Regained

October 8th, 2008

In order to carry passengers, FAA regulations require pilots to perform 3 takeoffs and landings in the last 90 days, and if passengers are to be carried at night (defined in this case to be the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise) those takeoffs and landings must be made at night, and the landings must be to a full stop. Well unfortunately it’s been over 90 days for me, so tonight I took 63843 up around the pattern to satisfy this requirement. It’s been increasingly difficult to schedule aircraft rentals from Hillsboro Aviation because there has been a high volume of flight training in the last few months. Their business model is definitely a flight school, not a rental agency, and tonight this was made abundantly clear to me. A recent change in Hillsboro Aviation’s policy requires EVERY flight to be signed off by a fixed-wing flight instructor (CFI), even renters with current pilot certificates who are just going up in the pattern. Unfortunately all of the flight instructors had gone home for the evening! I waited in the dispatch office for a solid hour before deciding to pack it in, but as I was heading back to my car I spotted a CFI and had him sign me out. I hopped in the airplane, started it up, and got my clearances from the tower.

It felt really good to get back up in the air, even if it was just in the traffic pattern, and the landings all went well. Taxiways A4 and A5 were closed, and the controller was having the other airplanes turn around on the runway and exit on A6. I decided that for the last landing I’d try to stop by A6 so I wouldn’t have to circle around, and I’d have an excuse to practice short-field landing technique. The controller had me extend the downwind leg clear out to Beaverton so another airplane could do the turn-around maneuver on the runway, giving me a few extra moments to take in the city lights. I approached at a higher than normal angle of attack for a short-field landing, kept in some extra power until I was over my desired touch down point, cut the power and planted it firmly on the runway, hit the brakes, and was stopped before A6!

I’m going to look in to some rental options other than Hillsboro Aviation. They’re just not set up for renters, their airplane availability is next to impossible to work with, and their rental rates are well above average. It would be nice to be able to start up lessons for the Instrument Rating again. Having some more options can’t hurt.

Last night Dave and I rented 386ME and flew to Tacoma Narrows Airport for dinner. The Oregon Air Show is this weekend at Hillsboro Airport, so there were some pretty cool airplanes parked there in preparation for the event. Right next to the Hillsboro Aviation ramp were two F/A 18 Hornets, and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Jump Team’s C-31 and a Red Bull MiG-17 occupied the Runway 30 runup area. For this flight I did not set a course in the GPS, instead navigating exclusively by pilotage and VOR. It was exceptionally hazy, and we opted to climb to cruise at 8,500 feet so we could look at blue skies instead of murky gray. The haze was so thick that in the distance it almost looked like an overcast layer! But directly beneath us we had adequate visual ground references to navigate by pilotage to Olympia, following I-5 and identifying rivers and cities along the way.

When we reached Olympia we decided to tool around the south end of Puget Sound for a while before landing at Tacoma. Although it was exceptionally hazy, Dave still managed to get some pretty cool pictures. It was actually very easy to keep track of our position by comparing the shapes of the inlets and islands with the depictions on the sectional chart. After a few minutes of sightseeing we landed at Tacoma Narrows airport and taxied up to the “Narrows Landing” restaurant. Dave ordered a salad and I had a cheeseburger; we were actually both very impressed with the food, and left the restaurant satisfied. The sun had set and the tower had closed by the time we got back into the airplane, so I announced our intentions over the CTAF frequency as we departed to the south.

On the return flight we used radio navigation, selecting and intercepting radials from the Olympia VOR and the Newberg VOR. I also played around a bit with the Autopilot’s ability to automatically intercept and track courses defined by VOR radials. As we approached Longview we witnessed occasional but massive eruptions of lightning from a distant thunderstorm over the Cascades. Sometimes the lightning resulted in localized, explosive flashes, and other times it appeared as chain reactions that lit up lines of clouds for several miles. As we approached Hillsboro we spotted an object on the airport that is rarely visible from the air: THE ROTATING BEACON! Hillsboro is surrounded by city lights, making the rotating beacon next to impossible to locate from the air, but this time we actually located the airport by first spotting the beacon’s green and white flashes. With Hillsboro Airport in sight I closed the flight plan and touched down smoothly on runway 30 after a slightly high approach. Dave and I geeked out on the computer for a while back at my apartment, checked out the photos from the flight, and called it an evening.

See the rest of Dave’s pictures here

Yesterday Tammy and Fred went with me in a Cessna 172 P around the summit of Mt. St. Helens, and then for dinner at the Flight Deck Restaurant at Salem’s Airport. It was a tremendously hot day by Portland’s standards: 37° C (98° F), with a Density Altitude of 2800 feet at the time of departure, so we used up quite a bit of runway on takeoffs and landings, and our climb performance was exceedingly pathetic.

Tammy sat in the back, left seat so she could get some pictures out the left side of the airplane, since the plan was to circle the summit counterclockwise, and Fred sat in the right seat. We departed to the north from Hillsboro Airport and began a very, very slow climb to the south face of Mt. St. Helens. During the climb we encountered some fairly close traffic off to our left that suddenly turned in our direction, but passed safely under us. We reached the south face of Mt. St. Helens at about the same time we reached our cruising altitude of 9,500 feet. It was a pleasant 65 degrees at altitude, and we were in no hurry to get back to the hot surface temperatures. We circled the summit of the volcano, and Tammy took some amazing photos from the back seat. When we came around to the north face where the crater and lava dome are visible, we could see steam rising from several locations, and we noticed that the mountain’s snow was tainted a dirty brown color, presumably from volcanic ash.

Once we had completely circled the mountain, I had Fred set up a radial for us to intercept and track to the Newberg VOR, and once we were established I had him take the controls and fly us over the top of Hillsboro’s airspace and south to Salem. It had been a while since he’d tracked a VOR radial, so it was good practice for him. Fred earned his Private Pilot certificate at about the same time I did last year. We began our descent to Salem when we were about 20 miles to the north, and it became increasingly warmer as we descended. Fred made the call to Salem tower, and I took the controls to enter the traffic pattern and land on Runway 31. We taxied right up to the restaurant and had some tasty beef for dinner. I had a Bleu Cheese Burger, Tammy had a Cheeseburger, and Fred had steak.

We departed Salem Airport just before 8PM. On the return flight we navigated exclusively by pilotage to Haag Lake, west of Hillsboro. We followed a road with accompanying railroad tracks north to the town of Amity, then over McMinville, Carlton, and then to the lake. The combination of the setting sun and thick haze created some incredible atmospheric effects over the Oregon Coastal range. When we arrived at Haag Lake we were in no hurry to land, so we circled it a few times and let Tammy take some pictures as we took in the scenery. It really was a perfect flight, and a wonderful way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon.

Today Tammy and I set out for an evening cross country flight with the intention of having dinner at Wings Bar & Grille at the Eugene Airport. However, very little went according to plan. The first sign of difficulty appeared in the flight planning phase; as I was preparing to file electronically through my flight planning software, the power went out in my apartment complex! Without access to electricity, I was forced to plan it all the old-fashioned way: with a paper sectional chart, paper navigation log, plotter and an E6B. Then I called a Flight Service briefer, obtained a standard weather briefing, and filed my flight plan to Eugene in 386ME. Actually it was pretty fun having to do without the modern tools for a change.

During my preflight inspection of 386ME I noticed the right strobe-light was out. Maintenance had gone home for the day, and since I knew I’d be back after dark I decided to get a different airplane: 478ER. After calling Flight Service again to switch my flight plan over to the new airplane and completing another inspection, we were off to Eugene!

We started out by heading East to Clackamas and Estacada and spent a while exploring the beautiful area along the Clackamas River. Tammy asked if there was anything I needed to practice, to which I replied “stalls”. She was ok with a power-off stall, so I slowed the airplane down, dropped the flaps, and spent a couple minutes maneuvering in slow flight with the stall horn squealing. “Ready?” I asked her, and after acquiring her approval I reduced power to idle, pulled back on the control wheel, and held it there as the airplane slowed below the white-arc on the airspeed indicator, the stall harn blaring. The airplane stalled abruptly, and I quickly added power, reduced 10 degrees of flaps, and returned the airplane to a clean configuration, no problem. I asked her if she was up for another, but her stomach didn’t care too much for the first one, so we climbed to 6,500 feet and intercepted the victory airway V448 and followed it to the southeast towards Eugene.

There was quite a lot of haze in the valley, and there was a cirrostratus layer at 25,000 feet that obscured the sun, so we weren’t treated to any cool atmospheric effects or a sunset… it was blah weather for aerial photography, but Tammy still captured some neat photos, I think.

Eugene is in Class-D airspace, but it works like a Class-C or Class-B airport, right down to Approach Control, assigned transponder codes, two Tower frequencies, and a complex taxiway system (check out the airport diagram!). Fortunately I had the airport diagram handy, and was able to follow Ground Control’s taxi instructions on the map. I requested taxi clearance to the north GA parking ramp, and we hopped out of the airplane. To our dismay, there was no way to get to the main terminal building where Wings Bar & Grille was located from the north GA parking ramp. All of the gates were locked, the FBO was closed for the day, and nobody seemed to be around. So, we got back into the airplane and requested clearance to taxi to the south GA ramp, where there is a Flightcraft FBO. There was a lineman at the ramp who guided us to our parking spot using hand signals—Tammy thought it was hilarious that they use the hand signals for little airplanes—she was under the impression that the procedure was reserved for the airliners. Nope! And after all that, we were too late; Wings Bar & Grille was closing in 2 minutes. I chatted for a bit with the lineman, and we decided instead to grab dinner at the familiar Chinese Restaurant in Albany. Once again Ground Control gave me a taxi clearance to Runway 34L, and we departed straight out to the north. Well, at least I got some good practice following complex taxi instructions at an unfamiliar airport, but we were getting pretty hungry.

Tammy was surprised by how quickly we made the 31 nautical mile flight to Albany… the hefty tailwind from the southwest didn’t hurt. I manuvered the airplane for a left base entry for runway 34, announcing my position over the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) as appropriate. I was high on short final which resulted in excess airspeed as we crossed the threshold, which in turn resulted in quite a lot of floating as the airplane entered ground effect. But the touchdown was fine. We taxied right up to the restaurant and met another pilot from Hillsboro Aviation in the parking lot. “I thought you were going to Eugene!” he exclaimed. I explained our plight, wished him luck on his upcoming Multiengine checkride, and headed in to the restaurant for a Kung Pow Shrimp binge. I called Flight Service and Hillsboro Aviation to inform them of our diversion to Albany.

After dinner we departed once again to the North, followed the 160 radial to the Newberg VOR, and arrived in Hillsboro minutes after the tower controller had gone home for the evening. I coordinated with another pilot in the pattern over the CTAF frequency as we performed 2 stop-and-goes, followed by a full stop.

That was quite the adventure! Had it all gone according to plan it probably would have been a fairly routine flight, but as it turned out it made for good experience and will certainly be memorable. We probably would have been able to keep our original dinner plans had we not switched airplanes at the last moment, dallied so long over southeast Portland, done the stall, and taxied to the wrong GA ramp in Eugene, but no harm done (other than perhaps annoying Eugene’s ground controller!). We’ll try it again soon!

Yesterday I rented 386ME and flew to Yakima, Washington to visit my dad for Father’s Day. I’ve been planning the flight to Yakima since I first started my flight training, and yesterday I finally had the perfect opportunity. Growing up, my sister and I visited my dad in Yakima every other weekend, so I’ve made the journey from Portland to Yakima literally hundreds of times by car. By land it takes about 3.5 hours; in a Cessna 172 it takes under 1.5 hours. For the first time in my life it was practical to leave for Yakima in the afternoon, spend plenty of time with my dad, and return later that evening.

I flew solo on this flight with my point-and-shoot camera, so the quality of the pictures is not up to the normal quality standard because I was primarily focused on …well… flying the airplane. I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of Yakima itself since I was busy with the approach and landing, but I think a few of the Gorge pictures turned out okay. The flight itself was a great deal of fun—immediately after departure I requested a frequency change to Portland Approach and received “clearance” through the Class C airspace. The controller had me fly the standard path over PDX, then over the city of Vancouver and on east through the gorge. I cruised at 7,500 feet, and kept in contact with Air Traffic Control with their “Flight Following” service for the entire flight. With Flight Following, ATC keeps track of your position on their radar scopes and they will alert you of any other traffic that may be a factor. After passing by the Klickitat VOR near The Dalles I turned northeast and intercepted the V497 airway to Satus Pass, north of Goldendale.

Over Satus Pass, Seattle Center issued traffic alerts for me and two other aircraft the vicinity. ATC was able to verify that we were all at different altitudes, and the controller kept a close eye on all three of us as our courses intersected without incident. Flight Following definitely proved to be a valuable service on this flight. I followed highway 97 north over the arid, hilly terrain. It was a hot day, and as the sun warmed the ground it produced thermals which created some very uncomfortable and unpredictable turbulence that pummeled my poor little Cessna. As Yakima’s lower valley came into view I was instantly able to identify the familiar towns of Toppenish and Wapato. Union Gap, which separates the lower valley and the upper valley, was also clearly visible to the north. When I had the Yakima Airport in sight I informed Seattle Center and changed to Yakima Tower’s frequency. The tower controller instructed me to fly left base for runway 27, “report the gap”. After doing so I landed smoothly on runway 27 and taxied to GA parking, and found my dad waiting for me at the gate!

In Yakima we had some delicious seafood at a restaurant called Zesta Cucina and had some great conversation about everything from the foreign exchange market to aviation user fees. After dinner my dad drove me over to his house in his MR2, showed me some websites on his computer and gave me a container of protein powder to take home!! As 8pm rolled around we drove back to the airport and he watched from the gate as I inspected the airplane, taxied to runway 27, and departed to the south.

The flight home was amazing. The sun began to set as I reached my cruising altitude of 8,500 feet, and I could clearly identify Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier out my right window. I swung around the south of Mt. Adams essentially following the same course I flew to Yakima and snapped a few more pictures before it got too dark for the images to turn out. PDX was operating with only one runway for some reason, and over the frequency I could hear that the controller was busier than normal as he lined up the airliners for landing. I tried my best not to be a nuisance as I descended through Portland’s airspace with a course that took me directly over PDX and downtown Portland, then west to Hillsboro Airport via Highway 26.

I think my dad got a kick out of seeing me arrive and depart via airplane, and I’m sure I’ll be visiting more frequently since aviation makes Yakima so much more accessible.

(Access a few more pictures here)

Warm weather has returned to the pacific northwest! Earlier this week I booked a rental airplane, and last night Tammy and I escaped the heat to cooler temperatures aloft. The temperature normally drops at about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit per 1000 feet, so after a climb to 6,500 feet we enjoyed a cool 72 degree breeze while everyone at the surface was sweating in the 95 degree heat. We flew over the Oregon Coastal Range to the city of Tillamook, then meandered aimlessly around a familiar stretch of the Oregon coastline for well over an hour. Although there was low visibility at the surface, the sky above the haze was a vivid blue. We kept our windows open for the most the flight and enjoyed the warm, ocean air for as long as we could. A few minutes before sunset we turned back towards the Willamette Valley, and on the trip back over the Coastal Range we performed some 360’s so Tammy could get better pictures of the sunset from her side of the airplane. It really was a gorgeous sunset, and Tammy captured some impressive pictures of it.

FAA regulations state that in order to carry passengers during the period beginning one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise, you must perform 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop during the same period within the preceding 90 days. Unfortunately this night-recency requirement lapsed for me, and so I had to have Tammy out of the airplane by 9:38pm (an hour after sunset). We arrived back in Hillsboro before the deadline, and after Tammy disembarked I took off again and performed 4 landings while she waited in the car and listened to music. I’m a bad date, I know, but hopefully the gorgeous scenery we witnessed made up for her having to wait for me, and at least now I’m once again legal to take her up at night!

Here is the full flickr set from the flight, and here is another video.

Tonight Tammy and I rented N3555L, circled the summit of Mt. Hood at sunset, then made a few passes of downtown Portland before returning to the Hillsboro Airport. It was a rare break in the rainy weather we have become accustomed to in the winter and spring months, so it was also a busy General Aviation day in the Portland area. Accidents had shut down Troutdale Airport and runway 12-30 at Hillsboro. Fortunately the wind was from 020 magnetic, perfectly aligned with Runway 2, so the runway closure did not affect us.

After takeoff we heard the tower controller scold another pilot in the pattern who evidently was not responding to his traffic advisories. As we circled the traffic pattern and climbed out of Hillsboro’s Class D airspace we both scanned vigilantly for other traffic. Our course veered south to avoid Portland’s Class C airspace, and proceeded to the north face of Mt. Hood. As we gained altitude I increased the airplane’s angle of attack to maintain a reasonable rate of climb since Vy — the “best rate of climb” speed — decreases with altitude.

I leveled us off at 11,500 feet MSL and leaned the mixture. We made our way around the mountain’s east face, made a few turns to get better camera shots, and came around the south face of the mountain as the sun was beginning to set. We had been at 11,500 feet for probably 30 minutes when Tammy informed me she had a headache and felt light headed and very dizzy. I recognized these as the symptoms of Hypoxia and immediately descended 1000 feet to increase the available Oxygen. She recovered pretty quickly, although her headache lingered for a few minutes longer.

We returned to Portland directly into the sunset, making good use of the airplane’s see-through visors to keep the sun from etching spots into our eyes. 20 miles southeast of PDX I called Portland Approach on 118.1 and requested to fly along the east bank of the Willamette River below 2000 feet. The controller responded that there were 4 incoming aircraft on the Boxer 4 Arrival, and requested that I stay above 3000 feet until he could call my descent. I punched the code he gave me into the transponder and descended to 3000 feet as we entered Portland’s Class C airspace.

As we approached the Convention Center I was handed off to another controller who cleared me for an altitude of my discretion below 2000 feet, so I dropped us down to 1300 feet so Tammy could get some pictures of the Portland skyline. I remember thinking how incredibly cool it was to be able to look down and see Portland’s familiar bridges directly beneath us. After some searching I spotted my work’s office building in the maze of downtown’s high rises, and made quite a big deal of it to Tammy. I advised ATC of our intentions as we made three passes of downtown, flying directly over the east bank of the Willamette at 1300 feet MSL. I was definitely pleased with how willing ATC was able to accommodate my requests, and I thanked the controller for her patience as she terminated our radar service and we climbed to 2000 feet and followed Highway 26 to the Hillsboro Airport. When I called McMinville Radio to close my flight plan, the FSS specialist asked us how Mt. Hood was. I told him it was spectacular!

(Note: unfortunately the photographer encountered some technical difficulties on this flight, so I only made the jpeg images available at a reduced resolution. The images were taken at 1600 ISO so they have a lot of noise; all have a blotch in the same spot from a dirty lens or sensor; and most of the night photos are out of focus and blurry, mostly attributable to vibrations from the aircraft and it being dark and all)

I got off work early yesterday and headed out the airport with Dave, where we rented N54477 and flew a cross country flight to Corvallis and Independence, Oregon. It was hazy with layers of cirrus and cirrostratus clouds, clear skies to the south of Hillsboro, and lots of other airplanes and helicopters in the air with us. During our climb out through the haze the tower informed all on his frequency “caution all aircraft, numerous targets in the vicinity of Forest Grove.” We stayed east of Forest Grove and scanned vigilantly for traffic as we passed over the Newberg VOR and climbed to our cruising altitude of 5,500 feet MSL. We took it slow at first, flew a 360 between Newberg and McMinville, then increased our speed to 100 knots and tracked the 174 radial of the V495 Airway to Corvallis. There wasn’t really a sunset, but the snow-flecked coastal range mountains were certainly worthy of a few photos.

There was an airplane on the VOR/DME approach for runway 35 when we entered the pattern at KCVO. I crossed the airport at midfield, checked the windsock, and maneuvered for a 45-degree entry to left downwind for runway 35. As I turned onto the downwind leg an airplane arriving from the north reported he was entering a 45 on left downwind for runway 17. We announced and coordinated our positions over the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) as I landed first, cleared the runway, and he landed the opposite direction. The windsock was pretty limp, but it was slightly in favor of 35, which is why flew over the field and picked that direction. Nevertheless, yet another airplane entered the pattern for runway 17, so I taxied us to 17 behind a departing twin, took the runway and departed to the south, then climbed back out to the north. There was a very low aircraft that looked to be an ultralight flying beneath us out of a private field (Venell). I’d say it was a moderately busy day in the skies above Corvallis.

Next we climbed and then promptly descended into Independence State Airport (7S5) which is near Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon where my very good friend Lindsay attended college. No traffic was in the pattern, so we entered on the 45 for left downwind runway 34. I let the airplane stay high on final so we floated a bit and ended up doing a full stop and taxing around to the beginning of the runway instead of executing a touch-and-go, but it gave us a chance to admire the wealthy homes immediately adjacent to the taxiway. An airplane entered the pattern as we taxied up to the runway, so we communicated over the CTAF frequency as I took the runway and departed to the north. We encountered no other aircraft within our immediate proximity for the remainder of the trip, and we landed safely back in Hillsboro. Dave and I finished up the evening with tasty Thai food at “Thai Derm” (what a name) and watched some TV over at my place with Tammy. Not bad for a Thursday night!

(flickr set)

Fred’s Bust-off-the-Rust Flight

February 16th, 2008

Fred and I met at the Hillsboro Airport this evening for a flight that was originally planned as a cross country to Eugene. However, the actual weather today was consistently worse than forecast, and at the time of departure the skies were overcast at 2700 feet, so we decided to scrap the cross country and instead make it a local flight. Fred did the majority of the flying since he hadn’t flown an airplane for a few months.

We departed to the North from Runway 30 and entered the traffic pattern for Runway 33 at Scappoose Industrial Airpark (SPB) where the skies were clear. Once we were established on the downwind leg I took the controls for a couple of touch-and-goes. After the second takeoff we departed the pattern and initiated a climb to the west just as the sun was setting over the coastal range. During the sunset the atmospheric haze turned the horizon into a deep orange color, but unfortunately I left the camera battery at home so I was unable to take a picture of it. We dodged a few puffs of clouds as we continued to climb and turn slowly to the south. We climbed to 7,500 feet and observed the overcast cloud layer over all of Hillsboro and West Portland. The AWOS at Aurora was reporting clear skies, so we proceeded to fly VFR over the top of the overcast cloud layer towards Mulino. It took us about 10 minutes to cross the overcast layer, and we initiated our descent as we approached Aurora. It was already hazy and it was growing dark by the time we reached the traffic pattern at Mulino Airport, so as a result it took us a long while to spot the airport. When we were about 8 miles out the white and green rotating beacon made itself visible, and Fred controlled the airplane as we entered the traffic pattern and landed on Runway 32.

With the airplane tied down in the transient parking lot, we got out for a few minutes to stretch our legs and use the restroom at the FBO. Back in the airplane, Fred took the left seat and we departed to the northwest for the short hop back to Hillsboro. The tower instructed us to report three miles out on a straight in for 30, and as we approached the airport a Lear Jet was cleared to land in the opposite direction. The controller knew what he was doing though—he knew the jet was considerably faster than our little Cessna, and he cleared us to land when we were on short final and when the Lear was clear of the runway. Fred landed smoothly on Runway 30 and taxied the airplane to Hillsboro Aviation. As we were packing our gear up Fred exclaimed that it was a good “bust off the rust” flight for him. Indeed, and it was a great deal of fun; I think it gave Fred the confidence to do more regular flying in the upcoming weeks and months.

Yesterday Tammy and I made the cross country flight that we’ve been planning for several weeks: we flew down the Columbia River Gorge past Biggs Junction, landed to a full stop in The Dalles, then returned to Hillsboro after sunset. The weather forecast looked promising in the days and hours before the flight, but when morning came the valley was covered in fog. We waited at the airport as the weather developed into low scattered clouds over Hillsboro. I commented that if I had my instrument rating we could have departed with an IFR clearance to VFR conditions on top, and we probably would have made it out of there by 12:30. As 1:30 rolled round the weather reports for everything east of us were clear, but Hillsboro was reporting 8 miles of visibility in mist with scattered clouds at 700 feet. When it appeared we had a pretty good sized hole in the clouds, we hopped in the airplane and climbed above the scattered layer. I picked up a transponder code from Portland Approach and flew ATC’s assigned vectors through the Class C airspace, then resumed my own navigation near the mouth of the gorge.

We observed Lenticular cloud formations over Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, which can form when a mountain wave pushes moist and stable air up causing the water vapor to condense, then pushes the air back down which causes the water to evaporate, resulting in the familiar lense-shaped cloud over the crest of the wave. We passed over the towns of Hood River, The Dalles, and Biggs. East of Biggs we spotted a wind turbine in the distance, then realized that the entire horizon was filled with them. As we descended, Tammy took pictures of the turbines, and I monitored the emergency frequency (121.5) in case the military chose to inquire as to why a Cessna 172 was circling around the U.S. electrical power infrastructure. Next we found the recreation of Stonehenge across the river from Biggs, so we descended lower and snapped some pictures while circling the monument. After we had our fill of Stonehenge I started us towards The Dalles.

There was a Beechcraft Bonanza in the traffic pattern at The Dalles, so I coordinated our movements with the other pilot on the CTAF frequency, landed, and taxied to the transient parking lot. There was a little cafe on the airport, so we decided to check it out. Inside we met the Bonanza pilot, a 300-hour pilot from Hawaii, and consumed hamburgers, chips, and diet cokes while we talked with him and his wife. The sun was starting to set, so we paid our bill and got back into the airplane. On our climb out from The Dalles we were presented with an amazing sunset, so in order to get some good pictures out of Tammy’s window we flew a couple of 360’s during the climb.

The visibility in Hillsboro was 6 miles in mist with the temperature at the dewpoint, so during the return flight I was considering alternate airports in case Hillsboro fogged in. As we approached the mouth of the gorge, east Portland and Troutdale were clear of fog, but the mist on the other side of the West Hills looked pretty thick, and patches of fog had already started to develop to the south. ATC gave us vectors as we descended through Portland’s airspace on a direct course to Hillsboro. Hillsboro Tower instructed me to enter a right base leg, then to follow another airplane on downwind. I spotted the traffic right away, but I was having a difficult time finding the airport in the mist. As I turned to position myself behind the other airplane, the airport suddenly came into view, and it became evident I had shot through the base leg. I informed the tower and we circled onto right downwind, then turned to base when we were abeam our traffic. There was no fog on the runway when we landed, but as we taxied back to our parking spot we passed through a couple of small patches. We were fortunate the events turned out as they did; had we arrived much later, we would probably have diverted to Troutdale and taken the light rail to Hillsboro. But it was still a great flight, and Tammy captured some of her most beautiful images so far.

Here is our course from Yesterday’s flight:
Our course for the flight

Today was packed with excitement—a tornado touched down inside of Vancouver, and at Pearson Field an instructor from Hillsboro encountered a flock of birds, 6 of which struck his plane, smashed through the windshield and covered him with dead goose. It was dark, cold, rainy, cloudy, windy, and turbulent for my 13th IFR lesson, but despite all of these bad omens I went flying.

SPB LOC/DME RWY 15 Profile

We departed via the SCAPO Four departure to the north, and after requesting the full procedure for the Localizer/DME Runway 15 approach in Scappoose, ATC vectored us to EXRAY interesection 11 miles out on the Localizer. I performed a course reversal using the holding pattern at EXRAY, entering with a Teardrop pattern, then intercepting the localizer inbound. There are 5 step-down fixes (including the FAF) on the LOC/DME RWY 15 approach in Scappoose, so I was busy with the throttle. The approach was pretty much perfect—there were no real noticeable deviations from the expected altitudes or course centerline. At 0.9 DME I executed the missed approach, switched back to Portland Approach’s frequency, and followed their vectors back towards Hillsboro.

The return flight was turbulent enough to compel us to report the conditions as moderate turbulence to ATC. After intercepting the localizer for the ILS at Hillsboro, the turbulence continued. My airspeed was fast on the ILS, and I had a very difficult time keeping the glide-slope needle centered. In hindsight my power corrections were too dramatic, so I ended up chasing the glide-slope pretty much all the way to the decision altitude (DA). That was probably my worst ILS approach so far; definitely not good enough for the check-ride! I floated and floated down runway 12 as I bled off our excess airspeed, then landed ok. A pretty uneventful flight, but good practice nonetheless. I have 17.2 hours of simulated instrument time and 4.5 hours of actual instrument time, which means that at the moment I’m a little over half-way through the 40 hour time requirement. Still a long way to go!

The go/no-go decision for tonight’s flight was a little harder to make than usual. The freezing level was right at 4,000 feet, 15% chance of SLD (super-cooled large droplets) with trace icing, light rain showers, and low scattered and broken clouds. The conditions were fine at 3,000 feet where we would be spending most of our time, so we cautiously made a “go” decision, keeping a vigilant eye out for any signs of structural icing. We filed two IFR flight plans: one that would take us to McMinville for a full stop after shooting the localizer approach at Aurora, then a second plan that we’d open from the ground in McMinville to take us back to Hillsboro.

UAO LOC RWY 17 Approach

I was a bit rusty on the Localizer approach into Aurora; I overshot the localizer course and descended a couple hundred feet below our assigned altitude. It’s a hard approach because it comes so quickly after departure from Hillsboro, which doesn’t give you much time to brief it and get the frequencies identified (they can’t be identified from the ground). Once I was established on the localizer it proceeded smoothly. I executed the missed approach, contacted ATC, and they vectored us towards McMinville.

The ASOS at McMinville was reporting gusting winds up to 19 knots, but they were only a couple of degrees off the runway heading. I intercepted the localizer and glide slope, then followed the needles down the bumpy approach. When Tyler had me pull off the hood, the runway was nowhere to be found! Then it hit me: Pilot controlled lighting! I clicked the microphone 7 times, and the runway lights and approach light system lit up brilliantly directly in front of us. Pilot controlled lighting always makes me feel incredibly powerful for some reason. There was a lot of turbulence on short final, so I guarded the throttle in case we needed to go around, but the landing turned out to be very gentle with no side loading. That was my 300th landing!

McMinville Radio Frequencies

On the ground we called Portland Clearance Delivery to pick up our IFR clearance for the flight home…. but nobody answered. Then we called Portland Departure on 126.0, but they couldn’t hear me. For some reason they heard Tyler’s transmission though, and gave us our clearance. When I tried to read it back they still couldn’t hear me, so Tyler tried to read back the clearance, but now they couldn’t hear him!! So we switched to McMinville Radio on 122.45 and had the Flight Service Station relay the request. He sounded pretty annoyed to be bothered with handling our situation, but our taxes are paying for the FSS operators to be annoyed by pilots, so he begrudgingly relayed our clearance from ATC.

Weather Minimums for the HIO VOR/DME-C Approach

After takeoff I followed the textual departure procedure from McMinville, contacted ATC, crossed the Newberg VOR, and flew the VOR/DME-C approach to Hillsboro Airport. I pulled off the hood, and Tyler had me fly a circling approach to land this time. We crossed over the runway and entered a right downwind for 30, flying a low-low traffic pattern at 500′ AGL!! It felt really weird to be flying such a familiar pattern at half the altitude I’m accustomed to. I circled around to the threshold and set it down on 30, then taxied back to Hillsboro Aviation. It definitely wasn’t my best flight, but the landings were good, the three approaches went well, and the communication problems in McMinville served as a good learning experience.

Today was cloudy, gusty and turbulent flying weather as a cold front passed over the Willamette Valley, which made it an excellent opportunity to practice some approaches under less than ideal conditions. Immediately after takeoff it was clear that this would be a challenging flight due to the amount of turbulence we were flying through. The plan was to shoot three approaches, but we were running short on time so we amended the plans and just made it two.

First was the VOR/DME-C approach into Hillsboro. ATC cleared us direct to the Newberg VOR and then for the approach, so I flew the procedure turn as published, reported after crossing the VOR inbound and descended per the approach profile. When we reached the missed approach point Tyler had me look up so I could see the airport, and he pointed out how I would maneuver to fly a circling approach to land on runway 12. I executed the missed approach procedure and requested the GPS Runway 12 approach. For the next 20 minutes or so ATC gave us vectors and altitudes to fly to position us for the GPS approach. When we were straight and level and had a few minutes to spare, I lifted my hood a bit and took a peek out the window to witness a breathtaking sight; we had entered a hole in the weather where huge ragged clouds above and on all sides of us were being torn to shreds by the 50 knot winds aloft, and tops of the snow-covered hills protruded through the cloud layer beneath us.

As ATC vectored us over the foothills of the coastal range, the turbulence increased dramatically. I reduced power to 2100 RPM to keep us below maneuvering speed and reduce the risk of structural failure. The airspeed was next to impossible to keep constant, and I was continually fighting to keep the turn coordinator’s ball centered, but I managed to maintain our assigned heading and altitude pretty well. After being pummeled for several minutes, the turbulence suddenly stopped, and the air was calm until we intercepted the intermediate approach segment. The reported winds at Hillsboro were from the south with gusts up to 21 knots, so I kept an extra 6 knots of airspeed in during the final approach for an added margin of safety. With the runway in sight I put in a side slip to compensate for the crosswind and to keep the airplane aligned with the centerline, then smoothly landed on the upwind main wheel first. It was a satisfying ending to an intense flight.

It’s been pretty hard to make IFR flights in the last few weeks; the weather in the Northwest this time of year is almost always overcast with rain, and the freezing level has been too low to permit safe flight into instrument conditions. Tyler and I did IFR Lesson #9 in the Frasca Simulator over a month ago, and it’s been a month and a half since the last IFR lesson in the air! Tonight the freezing level was adequately high, and we were able to fly at last. There was rain and an 800 foot ceiling, so I got a lot of actual instrument flying time in tonight.

We took it pretty easy. We departed via the Farmington Four departure from Hillsboro, then ATC gave us vectors to the Localizer Runway 17 Approach at Aurora. After intercepting the localizer I changed to the CTAF frequency, made my position reports, descended and leveled off at the step down fixes, and maintained the localizer centerline–everything went very smooth. We broke out of the clouds before reaching the final approach fix, so Tyler had me put the hood on for the rest of it. At our Minimum Decision Altitude (MDA) of 580 feet MSL I pulled off the hood and the runway was right in front of us, although at the missed approach point (MAP) we seemed very high to make a normal descent to landing. I executed the missed approach procedure, informed Portland Approach, and they vectored us to the final approach course for the ILS Runway 12 at Hillsboro. I started my turn to intercept the localizer a little late and blew past the final approach course, but we never reached a full-scale needle deflection so we didn’t have to go missed. The Approach Lighting System (ALS) became visible at about 1200 feet, and with 10 degrees of laps I landed a little flat but very gently on Runway 12.

It was great to finally get back into the air with my instructor. I’ve got a lot of lessons scheduled so hopefully I can make some significant progress in the next few days. Tonight I completed lesson 16 in the Cessna Pilot Center curriculum out of a total of 24 lessons. I also need to start hitting the books a little harder in preparation for the knowledge test.

Early last week the national weather service began predicting a break in the weather on Saturday, so I booked an airplane for a 6 hour block and planned a cross country flight to the coast and Albany for dinner. Yesterday Dave and I made the long awaited flight, with Dave capturing some really amazing images with his digital SLR. We got off to a bit of a late start due to an inoperative left position light, but at around 2:15 we were cleared for takeoff. Our first checkpoint was the town of Vernonia; although the town was hit hard by the recent storm, we didn’t really see any signs of the damage from the air. We continued over the coastal range, around the south side of Saddle Mountain, and intercepted the coast at the town of Seaside. Since it was a nice clear day we got a great view of Astoria and the bridge to the north. We descended and turned south along Cannon Beach. In a previous flight I had mistaken a rock formation off the coast of Pacific City for Haystack Rock, but this time we got pictures of the real Haystack Rock! It was a perfect day for flying and the coastal terrain was really spectacular.

As we passed by Tillamook Bay, the GPS stopped reporting our current position and the map went blank. I tried rebooting the device a couple of times, but nothing seemed to work. So for the remainder of the flight we used old fashioned navigation techniques! We navigated by pilotage down the coast to Siletz, then turned to the east on our planned heading. As we crossed the coastal mountains I tuned and identified the Newport and Corvallis VORs and plotted our position on the sectional chart. The winds aloft were stronger than forecast, so we had been blown to the south of our course, requiring a different heading than planned. As we entered the Willamette Valley, Albany was directly in front of us, and Corvallis was to our right, so the course correction seemed to work out just fine.

We entered the traffic pattern at Albany airport on the 45 for runway 34’s left downwind leg, landed, and taxied to the Chinese restaurant on the south end of the airport. The only tie downs were ratty old disintegrating ropes, but they worked. We enjoyed some tasty Chinese food, and shortly after sunset we hopped back into the airplane and took off to the North. We followed the Newberg VOR’s 163 radial north, and compared the shape of the city lights to the sectional chart to confirm our location as we progressed to the North. I called Hillsboro Tower as we crossed the Newberg VOR, and entered a left base for runway 30. This was really an incredible flight; we saw some amazing sights, and there was an element of challenge introduced by the GPS failure.

(See the whole flickr set here)

Aurora State Runway 17 Localizer Approach

This evening was cloudy, rainy, and even more windy than last night, which made for a challenging IFR lesson. I filed an IFR flight plan for the Canby Seven departure, the runway 17 Localizer Approach at Aurora State, and the runway 12 GPS Approach at Hillsboro. We departed from runway 20 and turned left for a heading of 090. Immediately thereafter ATC vectored us around traffic, had us climb to 4,000, then descend back down to 3,000, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity to brief the approach in advance. ATC vectored us to intercept the runway 12 localizer at Aurora and we began the approach. We encountered genuine moderate turbulence during the descent, so it became a great challenge to maintain the localizer course with any degree of precision, and maintaining an exact altitude was nearly impossible. The turbulence made the approach pretty intense. Unfortunately I dipped a couple hundred feet below the minimum altitude along the approach, but we were in visual conditions by that point so my instructor let me make the mistake. I managed to keep us mostly on the localizer course until we reached the missed approach point, at which point I executed the missed approach procedure, informed ATC, and climbed to GLARA intersection. Before we reached the intersection ATC had us climb to 4,000 and vectored us back to the west into position for the GPS approach at Hillsboro.

Hillsboro Runway 12 GPS Approach

The GPS approach went well for the most part, although we had some problems activating the approach on the GPS, so the result was that a full scale deflection of the course deviation indicator represented 1 nautical mile, instead of the standard 0.3 miles during an approach. The air wasn’t nearly as rough as it was at Aurora, so I was able to keep us on course pretty well. When Tyler had me look up at the missed approach point the runway was right in front of us, although we were a bit high on final. I took off the hood, dropped the flaps, put in a side-slip for crosswind correction, flared a bit high above the runway, added a touch of power, and set it down. My homework assignment is to figure out what we did wrong when setting up the GPS to activate the approach. Unfortunately Bendix/King doesn’t have a software emulator for the KLN 94, but they do have the manual in PDF format, so I’ll be sure to get more familiar with the device in the upcoming weeks. Tonight’s lesson was short (1.3 hours) but definitely the most intense lesson we’ve done so far, mostly due to the 45 knot winds and incessant turbulence. Next week we just have one lesson due to Thanksgiving. I also need to put in some cross country time in order to get the required 50 hours, so perhaps I can talk Fred, Dave or Tammy into a joining me for a flight to a distant airport next weekend if the weather permits.

I scheduled a lesson on Monday and arrived at the airport early to preflight the airplane. Tyler and I strapped ourselves into N3555L and I attempted to prime the engine. Normally with the Auxiliary Fuel Pump on and the mixture at full rich, the fuel flow will indicate a positive value after a couple of seconds. But this time the needle didn’t move. I tried starting the engine, but the starter didn’t engage, so the flight was a no-go. We squawked the airplane and headed to the simulator instead for Lesson #6. The simulator took some getting used to at first, since it didn’t really feel very much like the real thing. We did a simulated flight from McMinville to PDX along the V287 airway, finishing up with the ILS Runway 28R approach. It was good practice for tonight’s flight.

Tonight I again arrived at the airport early so I could preflight the airplane and study the weather before Tyler arrived. The Winds Aloft forecast was for strong winds from the southwest between 34 and 46 knots at the altitudes we’d be flying. I filed an IFR flight plan over duats when Tyler arrived, and we headed out to the airplane. I requested the Canby Seven departure to CANBY intersection, and ATC cleared me as filed. But when we were awaiting our takeoff clearance they changed it to the Farmington Four departure. I’m getting good at the Farmington Four, but I’d like to try a different route away from the airport sometime! There were plenty of clouds out tonight, so I finally got some actual instrument flying time in, although it was patchy so I still kept the hood on the entire time.

During our climb we requested a DME Arc around the Newberg VOR, and ATC gave us an 10 mile arc from the 330 radial to the 270 radial. Basically this technique just requires that you intercept and track an arc at a certain distance from a VOR using distance measuring equipment. Tyler had me use the “twist 10 turn 10” technique, so after crossing each 10 degree radial I’d advance the omni-bearing selector 10 degrees ahead of my current radial and turn 10 degrees to maintain 10 miles from the VOR. In practice I didn’t really turn 10 degrees, I just turned however much was necessary to correct for a 40 knot wind! Since I’ve been practicing DME arcs in Microsoft Flight Simulator I didn’t have much difficulty—we were always withing 0.2 miles of the 10 DME arc. Before I knew it we were on the 270 radial.

Tyler had me request a hold from ATC: hold west on the 270 radial 5 DME from the Newberg VOR, left turns. This turned out to be incredibly difficult with the enormous crosswind from the southwest. We ended up flying a sort of weird teardrop shaped holding pattern, with a 20 degree correction on the inbound leg and a 60 degree correction on the outbound leg! After a few laps, I requested direct to DAFFI intersection and then the Runway 12 ILS approach at Hillsboro. Usually we would have ATC vector us to the localizer course, but we wanted to fly the teeny DME arc from DAFFI to DUCKA in order to practice my newly acquired skill!

The ILS (Instrument Landing System) is pretty amazing. It provides horizontal guidance through a Localizer, which sits at the opposite end of the runway and transmits a “fly left” and a “fly right” signal; when the radio receives both signals equally, the course deviation indicator on the instrument panel is centered so you know you’re lined up with the runway. The ILS also provides vertical guidance through a glide slope transmitter, which transmits “fly up” and “fly down” signals over a UHF frequency. When the glide slope indicator on the instrument panel is centered, you know you’re on glide path. When you have vertical guidance it is referred to as a precision approach, and it certainly lived up to that name tonight. So after ATC cleared me for the approach, I intercepted and tracked the localizer for runway 12, then intercepted the glide slope at our final approach fix, making small heading and power corrections during our 90 knot descent. I descended to our decision altitude of 400 feet (200 feet above the ground), then Tyler had me pull off the hood. The runway was right in front of us, and we were perfectly set up for a straight in landing on runway 12! It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Tonight I filed and flew my first IFR flight plan! Even though we were in visual conditions the entire flight, it still felt great check the “IFR” box on the flight plan form. We stayed close to the airport because the temperature-dewpoint spread was 1 degree C, but the forecast didn’t call for fog until much later in the evening. Weather forecasts are often wrong, so my instructor kept a close eye out for signs of fog development while I kept my eyes on the instrument panel.

I copied my first IFR clearance from ground control using the CRAFT mneumonic: Clearance Limit, Route, Altitude, Frequency, Transponder Code. ATC cleared me to HIO via the Farmington Four Departure then As Filed, climb 4000, contact Portland Departure on 126.0, squawk 4672. I read it back to the controller, and he responded “readback is correct, taxi to runway 30”.

After takeoff we climbed out via the Farmington Four departure and I made the call to Portland Departure, reporting my current and assigned altitude. Since we requested to hold at the Newberg VOR, ATC gave me instructions: “Hold South on the 183 Radial As Published, Maintain 4000, Expect Further Clearance 0500, Time Now 0431”. I performed a teardrop entry to enter the holding pattern from the north, and we flew about 5 or 6 circuits around the Newberg VOR. It was difficult to know when exactly to start the time on the outbound leg because when we were abeam the VOR the OFF flag stayed on for about 8 seconds, and then very slowly turned to a TO indication when we were south of the VOR, so it took a few rounds to get the inbound leg to come out exactly to one minute.

Next was holding at a DME fix. Tyler called ATC and had me hold west at 5 DME on the 270 radial from UBG. My scan lapsed for a brief moment while I drew out the holding pattern on a piece of paper, but I recovered pretty quickly. I intercepted the 270 radial and tracked it outbound until the GPS reported 5 DME, executed a parallel entry to get established on the inbound leg, and flew a couple of circuits. There was a wind from the north, so some crosswind correction was necessary, but the legs came out to exactly 1 minute both ways. We did a couple of circuits and requested a new holding pattern, this time around the CANBY intersection.

I tuned and identified the Battleground VOR and set the OBS to the 175 radial while tracking the 085 radial from Newberg. Both CDI needles centered, so I started my turn, this time to the left. No problems there, so we decided to wrap things up. I requested the VOR/DME-C approach into Hillsboro, and ATC responded “cleared for the VOR/DME-charlie approach”. That felt great! The approach went pretty well, although I dipped below my minimum altitude a couple of times (no no). At 700 feet I pulled off the hood and circled for left base for runway 30. I flared a bit high on the landing, but a touch of power made it a gentle enough touchdown. Just as we landed we could see patches of light fog developing around the area. I think I’ve got the hang of holding down pretty well—my instructor said I must have eaten my Wheaties, but I told him it was from using Microsoft Flight Simulator all weekend. This was really an incredibly enjoyable flight—the next lesson is scheduled for Thursday.

We flew tonight’s lesson in N65259, an older Cessna 172P with an Automatic Direction Finder radio (ADF) and a ridiculously constricting shoulder harness. We started the flight with the Farmington Four departure to the Newberg VOR, at which point Tyler had me enter a holding pattern “as published”. The holding pattern is a race-track shaped course with an inbound leg ending at some fix—the Newberg VOR in our case. The goal is to adjust the time flown on the outbound leg (flying away from the fix) so that the inbound leg is one minute long. The first few laps definitely weren’t pretty, but I got the hang of it after 3 or 4 circuits and was able to get my inbound leg pretty close to a minute, although it usually came out more than a minute. Since the VOR is on the Newberg Ridge, there was some turbulence as I got closer to the VOR, especially on the south side while on the inbound leg, so it was pretty tough to keep my altitude level at 4,500. Although we were just flying in an oval for half an hour, it was a challenge and a great deal of fun.

Next we did a couple of power on stalls. My heading drifted over to the left about 20 degrees on the first one, but the second try was perfect. Then Tyler had me tune 356 kHz into the ADF and identify the morse code signal from the Banks NDB (Non-Directional Beacon). When using the ADF you must continuously monitor the NDB’s morse code identifier to ensure that the signal is reliable, since the instrument has no means of indicating an unreliable signal. With the incessant beeping of the morse code turned down low in my headset, I intercepted and tracked a bearing inbound to the NDB, flew the reciprocal bearing outbound, then intercepted the 229 radial on the Battleground VOR and flew back toward the NDB. It was pretty mentally taxing to switch back and forth between the ADF and VOR; they’re very different readouts and I’m definitely not as familiar with the ADF.

We walked through the Hillsboro NDB-B approach, and then flew it as published: after intercepting the NDB we descended to 3600 and tracked the 302 bearing outbound for one minute, flew a procedure turn, descended to 3200, tracked the 122 bearing inbound to the NDB (now the Final Approach Fix), and descended to 900 feet, our Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA). When Tyler had me pull off the hood the airport was directly in front of us, and I circled and landed smoothly on runway 30.

I definitely could sense that I needed more work on intecepting NDB courses, so I’ll put in some practice in Microsoft Flight Simulator X over the weekend. But the approach itself went well, and Tyler mentioned that the NDB approach is one of the hardest types, so that was nice to hear. Still, I can tell I’ve got a lot to learn. I’m also anxious to fly in actual IMC weather; seeing as how this is the Pacific Northwest, so I don’t think I’ll have to wait too long.

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