IFR Training – Filing and Flying IFR

Flights 7 and 8 took place the evenings of March 17th and 19th. It is time to take the next step and actually file an IFR plan, pick up the clearance, and fly it. The plan Wednesday evening was to file and fly to San Bernardino and land instead of…

Marine Layer over Long Beach
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
24 Mar 2021

Flights 7 and 8 took place the evenings of March 17th and 19th. It is time to take the next step and actually file an IFR plan, pick up the clearance, and fly it. The plan Wednesday evening was to file and fly to San Bernardino and land instead of flying the missed approach. After taxiing back we would depart VFR, pick up flight following in the air, and finish the flight with the RNAV GPS approach to runway 24 at Fullerton (KFUL).

After pre-flight on the plane and briefing the flight we started up, taxied out, and completed the run-up. My CFII went through the verbiage to use when calling up ground for an IFR clearance and then had me make the call.

Me: “Fullerton Ground, Mooney 78878 in the south-east runup with Quebec, ready to copy IFR.”
Ground: “Mooney 78878, did you want to depart now or in an hour and a half?”
I gave my CFII a confused look and answer Ground.
Me: “We are ready to depart now.”
Ground: “Ok, give me a minute, it has your departure at 19:40.”

While we’re waiting on him to amend the flight plan I told my CFII I’m not sure what happened, I know I had filed it for 18:30 local time. I had expected that by the time we met at 17:30, went over the plan, completed a run-up, etc… that it would be close to 18:30 and here it was 18:10. We were a little early, but not that early. Later when I got home I pulled up the plan and sure enough, it was filed for 18:30 but something must have been crossed up somewhere.

Ground: “Mooney 78878, cleared San Bernardino, on departure left turn heading 120, vectors for Seal Beach, Victor Eight, Paradise, Direct, maintain 2,000, expect 5,000 one zero minutes after departure, departure frequency one-two-five point three-five, squawk 4643.
Me: “Cleared San Bernardino, on departure left turn 120, vectors for Seal Beach, Victor Eight, Paradise, Direct, maintain 2,000, expect 5,000 one zero minutes after departure, frequency one-two-five point three-five, squawk 4643, 878.
Ground: “Mooney 78878, read back correct, confirm you have Quebec
Me: “Yes, we have Quebec
Ground: “Mooney 78878 taxi runway 24 via Alpha.”
Me: “Two-four via Alpha, 878.”

We made the short taxi and were held momentarily, then departed on runway 24, making a climbing left turn and contacted SoCal Approach. We were given vectors to intercept the airway and cleared to climb up to 5,000′. Once we intercepted Victor 8 I turned on course to Paradise (PDZ) and tried to level off at 5,000′. I say “tried” because this is the first flight using foggles while also at cruise power settings and I was having a heck of a time trying to get it trimmed out.

It was VFR conditions so when we were handed off to the next controller my CFII had me request the RNAV(GPS) Z RWY 6 approach to keep them from assigning us a visual approach. The whole point of this exercise is to fly the approach under simulated instrument conditions which wouldn’t work for a “visual approach.” Before we got to PDZ we were given vectors northbound to intercept the final approach course, and held at 5,000′.

The rest of the approach was a bit of a mess. The approach calls to cross the Initial Fix at or about 4,000′ and then descend, crossing the Final Approach Fix 5.9 miles later at or above 3,300′, but halfway between the two we were still stuck at 5,000′. We were finally given lower but also told to “Stay south of the Ontario runway centerlines.” Keep in mind I am trying to fly the approach under simulated instrument conditions, but he had traffic inbound from the east and because they had held us high for so long I think he was just trying to keep us out of the way. We were on an IFR flight plan, and we were on the approach, and I should have said “Unable” but I didn’t… “We’ll stay south of the centerlines” I said while trying to maintain the approach. I glanced down at my tablet to see where I was in relation to the runways at KONT but with the approach plate showing and not wanting to change it in the middle of everything I asked my CFII if he would pull that up on his iPad., instead he keyed the mic.

CFII: “Approach, Mooney 78878, I’m not sure I understand what you want us to do, we’re on the RNAV GPS approach into San Bernardino.”
SoCal: “Ah, Mooney 878, contact San Bernardino Tower on 119.45.”
CFII: “Going to Tower.”

Shortly after that I took the foggles off. We were still high, but San Bernardino has a 10,000′ long, 200′ wide runway so we had plenty of runway in front of us. We landed, asked for a taxi back, and stayed on the Tower frequency as instructed. We reviewed the plan for the return leg, I made the changes to the flight plan on the tablet and in the GPS in the panel. I set the trim for takeoff, set the flaps, talked through speeds on takeoff, where we needed to be off the ground by, but made a mistake. I did it from memory instead of referencing the checklist.

When on the ground I lean the mixture out like everyone else to keep from fouling the spark plugs. The end of my pre-takeoff checklist is to adjust mixture and turn the electric fuel pump on. When going through the checklist I verbalize, “Just before taking the runway I’ll turn on the pump and push the mixture in,” but I wasn’t using my checklist.

The tower cleared us to takeoff and make a right downwind departure, I advanced the throttle a little, we got lined up on the centerline and I pushed the throttle the rest of the way in. Oil pressure was good, airspeed was alive, and in short order we were off the ground. Just after raising the gear I saw that my EGT’s (Exhaust Gas Temperatures) were climbing up and up. I thought maybe I had forgotten to take the EDM900 out of Normalize mode but I tapped that button with no change, that was when my CFII said “Mixture.” I hadn’t gone through my checklist and verbalized that step and missed it. I pushed the mixture in, the EGT’s came back down into the normal range, and we turned downwind to depart.

The flight back was better and the approach back into KFUL wasn’t my best, but it wasn’t my worst either. The best thing about the flight was that for the first time it didn’t feel “strange” to be flying only on the instruments. I won’t say that I am comfortable with it yet, but there was a shift in my thinking and it was feeling more normal.

Friday evening after work I met my CFII for flight number 8. I was looking forward to this flight all day because there was a good chance we would get some actual instrument time. We would be flying to Palomar (KCRQ), shooting the RNAV(GPS) Y RWY 24 approach to a full stop landing. We would then make the return flight to KFUL and fly the VOR-A Practice Approach. The forecast for Palomar at our arrival was for overcast skies with a ceiling at 1,000′ and when we were going through the briefing the marine layer was hanging just off the departure end of runway 24. With the prospect of some actual IMC I put the camera under the wing, hoping to capture some footage going through the clouds and breaking out.

We had IFR plans filed for both the flight there and the return flight and after run-up and the pre-takeoff checklist I called up Ground to get our clearance.

Me: “Fullerton Ground, Mooney 78878 in the south-east runup with Hotel, ready to copy IFR.”
Ground: “Mooney 78878, cleared Palomar, on departure left turn heading 120, vectors to Seal Beach, Victor 64, Victor 363, DANAH, Victor 23, Oceanside, Direct, maintain 2,000, expect 5,000 one zero minutes after departure, departure frequency 125.35, squawk 4667.”
Me: “Cleared Palomar, left turn heading 120, vectors to Seal Beach, Victor 64, Victor 63, DANAH, Victor 23, Oceanside, Direct, maintain 2,000, expect 5,000 one zero minutes after departure, frequency 125.35, squawk 4667, 878.”
Ground: “Mooney 878, after Victor 64 it is Victor 363, then DANAH.”
Me: “Victor 64, then Victor 363, DANAH, 878.”
Ground: “Mooney 878, read back correct, are you ready to taxi?”
Me: “Affirmative.”
Ground: “Taxi runway 24 via Alpha.”
Me: “24 via Alpha, 878.”

I had written down the expected clearance but had written down V63 instead of V363. When he read the clearance I missed that difference and when I read it back I just read what I had written down.

We departed and received the handoff to SoCal Approach who assigned us 6,000′ initially but after a bit had us go back down to 5,000′ for the rest of the flight. Unlike Wednesday’s flight I got it trimmed out and wasn’t chasing the altitude, that felt good. About halfway there I got the weather from the ATIS and it was reporting clear skies. I could tell the sun that was low in the sky was coming through the window but until I picked up the ATIS I didn’t know that we were out of luck on actual IMC.

I asked ATC for the approach and he started vectoring us around. When we turned final the sun was right in our face, and even with the foggles on I had to hold my right hand up in front of my face so I could read the instruments. The approach was good and stable, my CFII took the controls so I could take off the foggles and put my sunglasses back on. I squinted out into the setting sun and thought I saw the runway.

“Is that it right out there?” I asked pointing out the windshield. When he replied it was I asked, “Is that the taxiway next to it, I can’t tell with the glare off whatever that is.”

There was something catching the sun just right so that it was like the sun was shining up from the ground and just beyond that were what looked like two long, straight black strips side by side. Realizing where I was looking he said, “No, the runway is right over there.”

I was looking at the 12-1 o’clock position and the runway was at 11-12 o’clock. Looking back at the video I had been looking at the roofs of a couple of long buildings. I adjusted my heading by about five degrees, got lined up on the runway, and we came in for a nice landing.

Out there in that sun are the buildings I thought was the runway and the actual runway

We taxied back to the run-up area and I went through the full checklist (not making the same mistake as Wednesday night in San Bernardino) and we picked up our IFR clearance back to KFUL.

The flight back was uneventful and I was able again to get it trimmed out and maintain my assigned altitude. We wanted to fly the VOR-A practice approach into KFUL. The ATIS at KFUL said the Seal Beach VOR was out of service which was ok because one, the fixes are all in the GPS, and two, I can’t fly it as an actual IFR approach with the GPS anyway. We canceled IFR in the air and ATC cleared us for the practice approach.

Similar to our flight on Wednesday ATC held us high for some other traffic he had. We were at 6,000′ and not far from Seal Beach when he finally cleared us down to 4,700 and then 3,000. A few miles from Seal Beach we were just coming down through 4,000′ with another 1,400′ to go when ATC asked if we wanted a delay. I looked over to my CFII and he said “Take the delay.”

ATC vectored us out off shore and then brought us back around. After I got home and looked at the footage from the camera I would realize that although I didn’t get to see any of it as I was flying it was some of the most beautiful footage I have captured. The sun had just set and there was a thin marine layer hanging off shore. The lights from all of the container ships anchored off the coast were glowing up through the clouds and the ridges in the clouds looked like waves.

The VOR-A approach went better this time as I got my gear out on time at the Seal Beach VOR and began the descent. I took the foggles off as we approached the airport and then circled south of the airport to enter a left downwind pattern to runway 24.

As I was flying the VOR-A approach I did not feel comfortable and I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why. I called my dad on the way home to talk about the flight and as I talked to him I think I stumbled on the reason I don’t like that approach. With all of the other approaches I am lined up on a runway, but with the VOR approach into KFUL I am not lined up on a runway, I am just flying towards the airport. I suppose there is something comforting when flying an approach to know that when you take the foggles off you will be lined up to land instead of entering the pattern to come around and land.

The flights were great, and the flight to Palomar and back felt like it was coming together. The challenge now is not to get too confident and get knocked off the horse.

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