Tonight was my third lesson for the instrument rating; it is getting progressively more challenging. We started out by flying the same route as the last lesson: the Farmington Four departure. South of the Newberg VOR we practiced a couple of steep turns, then Tyler took the controls and told me to put my head down and close my eyes. He rotated the airplane about each axis until I had absolutely no idea how we were oriented, and then he said “okay, recover to level flight.” The instruments indicated we were in a steep dive with a 30 degree bank to the right, so I pulled the power to idle, leveled the wings, put the nose on the horizon, and returned to cruise flight. Next, Tyler covered up my Heading Indicator and Attitude Indicator with a piece of paper to simulate a vacuum system failure (this is known as flying “partial panel”), and we repeated the exercise. Without the attitude indicator you have to rely on the Airspeed Indicator and Altimeter to tell you if the airplane is climbing or descending, and the Turn Coordinator is used to determine if the airplane is in a bank. All went well with the unusual attitudes, so Tyler had me do a power-on stall in a 30 degree bank to the left, which went fine as well.

Strangely enough the hard part of the lesson turned out to be calculating how many seconds I would have to stay in a standard rate turn for a particular number of degrees; it took me an embarrassingly long time to divide 20 by 3. My brain didn’t seem to want to do math after being spun around for 30 minutes in steep turns and unusual attitudes; hopefully it’s an acquired skill. Next we worked on intercepting and tracking VOR radials from the Newberg VOR. Tyler had me identify the radial we were currently on, then had me intercept a couple radials that he assigned, and track them for a couple minutes inbound and outbound. I had a much better feel for where I was located geographically during this lesson.

The highlight of the flight was the approach: we flew the full VOR/DME-C Approach to Runway 30, following the approach plate exactly. First we intercepted the initial approach fix (IAP) from the north, which for this approach was the Newberg VOR. Then we flew south on the 166 radial for one minute and executed a procedure turn to reverse direction, descending down to 2700 feet after intercepting the 166 radial inbound on a heading of about 346 degrees. Once we crossed the Newberg VOR—this time the Intermediate Fix (IF)—I called Hillsboro tower and appended “practice VOR-DME charlie approach” to the request. The tower told us to report at 6 DME, which is the point where the distance measuring equipment indicates 6 nautical miles north of the Newberg VOR. At 3.4 DME I initiated a non-precision descent to 2000 feet, and leveled out. I called the control tower and reported at 6 DME (the Final Approach Fix, or FAF), then descended to our Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) of 700 feet, at which height we must be able to see the runway or else a missed approach must be executed. Tyler had me take off the hood, and there was the airport right where it was supposed to be! Navigating and positioning the airplane for landing without being able to see out the window was definitely a satisfying experience to say the least. There was a lot of work to do on the approach, but I think I did reasonably well. On Thursday we’re supposed to do some work with NDBs (Non-Directional Beacons), so I will be renting an airplane with an ADF. I’m hoping for bad weather so I’ll have an opportunity to fly in the clouds!

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