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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