I had flights scheduled for Wednesday and Friday evenings but In conversations with my CFII we scrubbed both of them for weather. That may sound strange, cancelling Instrument Flight Rules training because of weather, but let me explain. Wednesday there were storms off and on throughout the day. There was a convective outlook which means that there is a potential for thunderstorms. The outlook was initially set to end at 1pm which would be fine for a flight that would begin at 6pm, however the outlook was extended to later in the evening. The ceilings at the time of the flight had increased to 4-5,000′, however there was an Airmet Zulu (potential for icing) beginning at 3,000′. The combination of the possibility of icing along with convective activity made postponing the training flight the prudent decision.
The next flight was planned for Friday but again there were storms throughout the day. There were some thunderstorms during the day popping up and blowing through the region, but the forecast had them trailing off in the afternoon. Late in the afternoon there was a storm that popped up about 10 miles to the east of the airport and another to the north that stalled out over the mountains. I met my CFII and we took a look at the weather and considered the options. To the south and west the skies were clear which would have provided the option to go and shoot approaches at either Long Beach or Torrance. The variable was the storm to the east which was currently moving towards the south-southwest. The concern was that if it shifted and came towards the airport it would make it difficult or impossible to get back into KFUL until it passed. He had an opening in his schedule for Saturday morning from 10am-12pm with better weather so we postponed again.
Saturday morning the convective activity was gone, replaced by a thin marine layer that had burned off prior to our 10am flight. The original plan was to fly the approach into San Bernardino but the ceilings hadn’t lifted enough to allow the approach to be flown under VFR conditions so we changed the plan. He wanted us to fly an approach with a hold after the missed so instead of San Bernardino we would fly the approach into Hawthorne.
I had pre-flighted the plane before he got there so after we briefed the flight and approach I pulled the plane out of the hangar, we climbed in, and I started it up. With the runup complete and the pre-takeoff checklist done I called up Ground for flight following to Hawthorne. We taxied to the west end of the field and lined up number two behind a Cessna at the hold short line for Runway 06. It was a busy morning with a number of planes on approach to land. After two arrivals the Tower got the Cessna out and after one more arrival we had our takeoff clearance and we were rolling down runway 06 and lifting off.
KFUL Tower handed us off to SoCal, I gave my CFII control of the plane while I put the foggles on, then I took the plane back and called up SoCal, requesting to fly the RNAV GPS approach to runway 25 at Hawthorne (KHHR). SoCal gave me a heading to fly to intercept the final approach course into Hawthorne. As I get more time flying on instruments the radio work is coming along and while not doing what I would classify as “well” on the radios I was “getting the job done.”
I did better on the approach, getting the gear down and the plane configured before the Final Approach Point (FAF) which led to a much more stable approach. The sink rate was good, but I did miss a crossing altitude, dropping 85′ below where I should have been prior to crossing the FAF. We had been handed off to the Hawthorne Tower and I had told him we wanted to fly the full missed approach with the hold. He had advised us to inform him when we began our climb out so when we reached the DA (Decision Altitude) I pushed the throttle in and called up the Tower, “Hawthorne Tower, Mooney 78878, going missed.” With a positive rate of climb established I raised the gear and right after that the tower handed us back off to SoCal Approach. I did better holding the runway heading as we climbed out but I did drop below the DA of 576′ MSL, (513′ AGL) getting down to 504′ MSL (441′ AGL) before I had arrested the descent. I should have started my leveling off sooner to keep from descending through the DA.
Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878,just went missed at Hawthorne, would like to fly the hold at LIMBO.”
SoCal: “Mooney 78878, cleared through the Bravo at or below 3,000. Stay within 3 nautical miles of LIMBO, advise when leaving the hold.”
Me: “Cleared through the Bravo at or below 3,000. Hold within 3 miles of LIMBO.”
I missed reading back the instruction to advise when leaving the hold but he didn’t ask for it again. In the efforts to fly the missed approach procedure while listening and talking on the radio I thought ATC had said to advise when arriving at the hold so I asked my CFII what he had said. He said they wanted us to let them know when we were done in the hold.
We arrived at the hold, made a teardrop entry and then the turn back inbound. After the inbound leg we started back on the outbound leg. The instructions were to stay within 3 miles, but the GPS had a 4 nautical mile hold setup. We were about to start the turn back to the inbound leg when ATC called up.
SoCal: “Mooney 78878, I thought I instructed to stay within 3 miles of LIMBO.”
At this point busy flying the hold I just pointed to my CFII for him to answer the radio.
CFII: “Sorry about that, turning inbound now.”
SoCal: “Mooney 78878, remain clear of the Bravo.”
CFII: “We’ll stay clear of the Bravo, 878.”
The hold actually was outside of the Bravo airspace, inside the 5,000-10,000′ shelf. However, it sits right on the edge of the Bravo and having not remained within 3 miles as instructed he was not clearing us back into his airspace. We advised him we were leaving the hold and departing back to Fullerton. We were on a heading eastbound and handed back off to the next sector.
Rather than fly the RNAV GPS Approach to runway 24 back into KFUL he asked me to pull up the chart for the VOR-A approach. It is not listed as a GPS approach, but it is in the GPS navigator so we would fly it for practice but not as an actual instrument approach. While trying to maintain the assigned heading from ATC I pulled up the approach plate on my tablet and we briefed it. I did my best to fly it but I missed getting my gear out at the FAF (Seal Beach Vortac) and we ended up high when KFUL Tower told us to begin circling to the south to enter a left downwind for runway 24. My CFII took the plane and told me to take the foggles off. With everything going on, trying to fly an approach I hadn’t briefed before under simulated IFR I had lost track of how close were were to the airport and when I pulled the foggles off was surprised to see just where we were, a little over a mile south of the airport. I entered the pattern and we came around for a nice landing.
It was a good training flight. I missed a couple of altitudes on the approaches and hit the task saturation point a couple of times but there were still small steps forward. I’m looking forward to the next flight where we are going to file and fly an IFR flight plan.