IFR Lesson #1

October 22nd, 2007

Tonight was my first lesson for the Instrument Rating! I met my instructor, Tyler, in the pilot’s lounge at Hillsboro Aviation shortly after 6pm, and after filling out a couple of forms we headed up stairs for some ground instruction. He taught me GRABCARD, which is a mneumonic for remembering the additional equipment required for IFR flight: Generator/Alternator, Radios, Altimeter, Ball (Inclinometer), Clock, Attitude Indicator, Rate-of-Turn Indicator, and Directional Gyro (Heading Indicator). I asked him a few nit-picky questions about various regulations, then headed out to the ramp to pre-flight 3555L, my favorite 172SP. Shortly after departing to the west he had me put on the “hood”, which is very much like the “Blast Shield” that Luke Skywalker wears over his head when Ben Kenobi is teaching him to use the Light Saber; it’s technically called a view limiting device, and its purpose is to keep you from seeing out the window, forcing you to fly solely by reference to instruments.

Tyler started out by directing me to climb and fly straight and level for a few minutes. I was clearly rusty, not having flown under the hood since March. But after a couple minutes I had things sorted out, got the trim set correctly, and was able to maintain straight and level without much difficulty. He had me experiment with various descent airspeeds and power setting combinations so I could get more familiar with the performance characteristics of the airplane, and he progressively increased the difficulty of the instructions, having me perform climbing and descending standard rate turns to various altitudes and headings. Then he covered up the Heading Indicator with a piece of paper and had me perform some turns by reference to the Magnetic Compass, which is considerably more difficult because it bobbles around significantly, and has some noticeable (but predictable) errors due to a phenomenon called magnetic dip.

Finally he had me intercept and track assigned radials from the Newberg VOR. I had a tendency to overshoot the courses quite a bit when intercepting because I don’t yet have a good feel for how much to lead the turn to center the needle, but I’ll get it. Things became a lot more difficult as he further increased my workload; he had me tracking radials while making power changes to descend and talking to Air Traffic Control to obtain a landing clearance. I pulled off the hood after 1.1 hours and entered a left base for runway 30, then landed smoothly. He passed me through the first 3 lessons, and planned on us going through lessons 4 and 5 on Wednesday, leaving me with the warning that some lessons down the line will take 2 or 3 sessions to get through. I kept him for about 45 more minutes and he shared some stories of his experiences flying for an air taxi company in Alaska, and showed me some of the differences between the government IFR charts and the Jeppesen charts. He seems to be a very experienced and friendly instructor—I think this is going to be a lot of fun!

2 Responses to “IFR Lesson #1”

  1. Phil

    I’m anxious to hear how your “Magneto training” goes. He flies and spins circles and dives around your craft, directing sharp metallic shrapnel at the cockpit as you fly, and of course rapidly rotates your plane in every possible direction with his powers. I’ve heard this disrupts some of the instruments a bit, and you have to know a little extra math to figure out the disruptions.

  2. Marc

    Fortunately, Magneto is pretty obvious on the radar, so ATC will generally give you vectors around him.

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