Marqtholomew

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.

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.

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!

Tonight after work I met Tyler at the airport for my second IFR lesson. A cold front passed through today and I was certain tonight’s flight would be conducted in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), but by the time night fell the skies were clear. We had a good hour of ground instruction before the flight. Tyler explained the procedure for obtaining an IFR clearance, we reviewed who I should call for a clearance when I’m at a big airport (Clearance Delivery) or at a more remote airport (a Flight Service Station), and we covered where the radio frequencies are found in the US Terminal Procedures publication. We worked through the Departure Procedure charts for PDX and Hillsboro Airport, and touched on the topic of lost communication procedures. Finally, he explained the difference between a precision descent (500 FPM at 90 knots, 1700 RPM) and a non-precision descent (700-1000 FPM at 90 knots, 1400 RPM).

Once in the cockpit with the engine started Tyler gave me a mock clearance; I copied it and read it back to him. After takeoff Tyler again had me put on the hood so I couldn’t see out the window. We flew the “Farmington Four” departure to the Newberg VOR, which specifies to fly the runway heading to 500 feet, turn left to heading 120, and intercept the 346 radial to the VOR. When we were about 6 miles south of the town of Newberg we started some maneuvers.

First, steep turns on instruments, which are 360 turns in a 45 degree bank at a constant airspeed and altitude. My first steep turns weren’t the greatest… I climbed and descended more than 100 feet, and the airspeed was all over the place. Tyler taught me a trick: add 100 RPM of power after banking 30 degrees, then roll the trim wheel down twice as the wings reach 45 degrees. I’d always added power and nose-up trim for the maneuver, but never as precisely or systematically. With that technique in hand the steep turns were no problem.

Then, stalls on instruments. First we did a couple of power-off stalls to simulate a stall during an approach to landing. My power-off stalls were okay, although I needed to anticipate the need for more right rudder as I applied full power to recover, and I had a little trouble holding my heading at first. The power-on stalls, which simulate a stall after departure, were pretty smooth all things considered. I actually found power-on stalls a little easier using instruments compared to without because of the information provided by the turn coordinator and attitude indicator. In this type of stall the nose is higher than the horizon and you can’t see anything but sky out the front window, so without instruments you have to rely more on your peripheral vision to keep the wings level. The stalls went well, so we finished up by maneuvering in slow flight for a few minutes, then testing out the non-precision and precision descent power settings on the way back down to the surface. It was another great lesson; I can feel my scan improving and I’m getting more confident on instruments, although while under the hood I don’t yet have a good sense of where I am located geographically. Tyler passed me through lessons 4 and 5—our next session is scheduled for Monday.

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!

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