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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