IFR Training – Breakthrough

Training flights 13 and 14 took place Wednesday April 28th and Saturday May 1st. Initially my plane was supposed to go into the shop April 26th for the GFC500 Autopilot to be installed, but the shop was backed up and wouldn’t get to it until the following Monday, so I…

IFR-20210501-KFUL-KPOC-KFUL
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
25 May 2021
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Training flights 13 and 14 took place Wednesday April 28th and Saturday May 1st. Initially my plane was supposed to go into the shop April 26th for the GFC500 Autopilot to be installed, but the shop was backed up and wouldn’t get to it until the following Monday, so I kept the plane and planned two more IFR training flights. I’m looking forward to the autopilot after over 500 hours of hand-flying my plane.

What was the breakthrough you ask? Stick around and I will explain at the end (or just scroll down and skip ahead if you like reading the ending before the beginning).

Flight 13 – April 28th

Once the autopilot is installed we will do more filing and flying IFR to other airports, but for these two flights it would be approaches to multiple airports, high workload environment to stretch myself. This evening we would depart Fullerton (KFUL) under flight following and fly the RNAV RWY 25 approach into Hawthorne (KHHR), followed by the RNAV RWY 29R approach into Torrance (KTOA) and then the VOR-A approach back into Fullerton (KFUL) for a full stop landing. We briefed the plan, the approach plates, and climbed in the plane.

After the run-up and checklists were completed we picked up flight following from Ground and taxied to runway 24. As with the past few flights as soon as we were climbing out and the gear was up I gave him control of the plane while I put the foggles on, about 200′ AGL. Fullerton Tower handed us off to SoCal Departure and we were given vectors to intercept the final approach course. Once established on the final approach we were handed off to Hawthorne Tower.

Flying directly into the setting sun I had to constantly put my right hand up in front of my face when not making adjustments to the throttle just to be able to see the instruments. Despite having sunglasses on under the foggles the glare generated by the sun on the foggles made it hard for me to see any of the instruments. The winds were coming right down the runway, 250° at 20 knots gusting 29 knots which bounced us around, but the approach went very well with a score of 94/100 on Cloudahoy. At the DA (Decision Altitude) I tilted my head back, there was the runway in front of us, and then I put my head back down and went back on the instruments as I pushed the throttle in and raised the gear.

The tower handed us back to SoCal and I asked for the RNAV RWY 29R practice approach into KTOA. ATC vectored us out and brought us in on the final approach between (IF) DRIFY which is an Initial Fix and (FAF) ZILBA the Final Approach Fix. The winds at KTOA on the ground were similar to KHHR, 270° at 12 knots gusting 20 knots, however as we were coming down final the winds between 2,000 and 1,000′ AGL were showing as 270° at 29 knots and required a fair amount of crab angle to stay on centerline. The approach was not as good as the previous one at KHHR but was still scored a respectable 88 by Cloudahoy.

At the DA I again tilted my head back and was happy to see the runway right in front of us before going back on the instruments, pushing the throttle in, pulling the gear up and going missed. The tower gave us a right turn and sent us back to SoCal where I requested the VOR-A back into KFUL and a full stop landing. It was a good flight and for the most part went well. Twice I didn’t roll out of a turn in time and blew through my assigned heading. Both times I was stabilized in the turn and then began to adjust a setting on the GPS, before I knew it I had gone past the heading. The take away on this flight was that when in a turn I need to finish the turn, roll out on my heading, and then make the changes to the GPS.

Flight 14 – May 1st

I scheduled another Saturday morning flight hoping we would get some actual instrument conditions. Unfortunately we are still at the beginning of the “May Gray” in Southern California and while later in the month it will typically take until mid-day for the marine layer to burn off by the time we were getting ready for our 9am flight the sky was almost clear with just a few thin clouds here and there. We decided that we would go fly some new approaches and went through a plan to depart KFUL, fly the GPS-A approach to Brackett (KPOC) followed by the RNAV RWY 26L approach to Brackett and then the RNAV RWY 24 approach back into Fullerton.

Again, right after raising the gear on departure I gave control of the plane to my CFII and put the foggles on before taking the plane back and turning to 120° and contacting SoCal Departure. Once we were handed off to the next controller I made my request for the GPS-A practice approach at Brackett. I also in the same call said “and after that the RNAV 26L practice approach.” My thought was that it would be the same controller so I would give him a heads up on our intentions, but it just served to confuse the two of us in the plane.

We were east of the final approach but still about 9 miles out and expecting a turn to the northwest to intercept, instead ATC gave us a right turn to a southeast heading. Receiving an instruction opposite of what I was expecting I asked him to repeat it, and he repeated the same thing. I asked my CFII if I confused him with the RNAV and he made a radio call clarifying that we wanted the GPS-A practice approach. After a moment ATC gave us the left turn to intercept the approach course and we proceeded inbound. Upon review my CFII thinks that he was trying to vector us around to give us a better angle to intercept the approach course further out.

After going missed we were handed back to SoCal and vectored to the east to intercept the RNAV 26L approach. The only thing I got dinged for in the Cloudahoy debriefing was my speed below 500′ AGL, but with the DA at 300′ AGL and going missed my speed was higher than the approach wanted below the 500′ AGL mark. After going missed we went back to fly the RNAV RWY 24 approach back into Fullerton (KFUL) which was a little sloppier than the other approaches.

Breakthrough

I know, I haven’t said what my breakthrough was. Maybe you read the whole post, or maybe you’re someone who skips to the last chapter of the book to find out what happens and you have already scrolled down to this paragraph. The three rules for flying are Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, in that order. The most important thing is to keep the plane flying. It doesn’t do you much good to know where you are or talk on the radio if you aren’t maintaining control of the plane. As I have mentioned in previous articles that flying will push you to your mental limit. You will hit cognitive overload when you just can’t add anything else to your “mental plate.” The amazing thing about the mind however, is that the more you do something the less brain power it takes and then you can add additional tasks.

IFR training placed me back into the learning state. I hit that cognitive overload frequently in flight. I had to use most of my brain power to just fly the plane solely with reference to instruments, relying upon my CFII to assist with both the navigate and communicate aspects. Then, I improved to where I was able to do the aviate, navigate, and some of the communicate. On these past two flights the only time my CFII jumped in and helped on the radio was the confusion on the GPS-A approach to KPOC. In fact, during Flight 13 on April 28th he didn’t help with the radios at all which is a major break through.

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