IFR Training – Fullerton to John Wayne and Back – With a touch of IMC

After 21 training flights and only spending a couple of minutes in actual IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) on flight 19, I had back to back flights in actual IMC. Where the first time my heart was racing, these flights felt much better. When I was done with flight 23 I…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
8 Sep 2021

After 21 training flights and only spending a couple of minutes in actual IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) on flight 19, I had back to back flights in actual IMC. Where the first time my heart was racing, these flights felt much better. When I was done with flight 23 I came to the conclusion that actually flying in the clouds is easier than flying with the foggles on, I even had my best scores on CloudAhoy to back it up.

Flight 22 – August 7th

As I was driving into the airport it was overcast and I was hoping that it would hold. I get there early to preflight the plane so that I am ready to go when my CFII arrives, but often between my arrival at the airport and the beginning of our lesson the clouds would break up. I booked a morning flight on Saturday in hopes that there would still be some clouds to work with and this time my hopes were not in vain. The ceilings at Fullerton (KFUL) were reported overcast at 1,300′ when my CFII got to the hangar so we planned to fly to John Wayne (KSNA) on an IFR flight plan.

The technology available today is amazing. I pulled up iFly GPS on my phone, filed an IFR flight plan from KFUL to KSNA, filed a return IFR flight plan, and pulled up weather briefings for both flights.

After the run-up I called up ground to pick up our clearance.

Ground: “Mooney 78878, you are cleared to the Orange County Airport, on departure left turn heading 120, vectors to Seal Beach, Direct, climb maintain 2,000, expect 3,000 one zero minutes after departure, frequency 125.35, squawk 4704.”

I gave the read back, got a “Mooney 878, readback correct, advise when ready to taxi” from Ground, and replied “We are ready.” By the time we had taxied to the end of 24 we were cleared to take off. I had asked my CFII if he wanted me to put the foggles on after taking off, I usually do at about 3-400′ AGL but with the clouds at 1,300′ he told me not to use them to again have the experience of going into and coming out of the clouds.

When the Tower had cleared us to take off he also said “If you can give a tops report to SoCal they will appreciate it.” We were handed off to SoCal Approach and I was on the instruments before going into the clouds. Before we had climbed out of the clouds we were handed off to the next controller.

The dull gray of the clouds slowly gave way to lighter and lighter grays until we broke out on top in a beautiful blue sky. As we broke out I glanced at the altimeter that was reading 2,100′ and keyed up the mic, “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878, tops at two thousand one hundred.”

“Thank you,” was the response from Approach.

Once on top I gave my CFII control of the plane while I grabbed the foggles off the back seat and put them on to be able to keep logging instrument time. The controller gave us some delay vectors before bringing us around to intercept the final. With the patchy clouds I kept the foggles on for the approach until we reached the minimums of 255′ which is 200′ AGL.

After landing we taxied to the run-up area to get configured for the flight back and to pick up our IFR clearance. I switched the radio over to Clearance Delivery while I was going through the checklist and heard “Mooney 78878, are you on frequency?”

“Affirmative, 878,” I replied.

Clearance: “Mooney 78878, what is your equipment?”
Me: “We are slant Golf.” (GPS Equipped, they must not have access to everything I filed on their screen because it is listed in the flight plan.)
Clearance: “Thank you, advise when ready to copy.”
Me: “We’re ready.”
Clearance: “Mooney 78878, you are cleared to the Fullerton airport, on departure right turn heading 220, vectors to Seal Beach, Direct. Climb maintain 2,000, expect 3,000 one zero minutes after departure, frequency 125.35, squawk 4644.”

I read back the clearance and was told, “Read back correct, advise Ground when ready to taxi.”

I finished up the checklist and had the plane configured for takeoff, then called up Ground and we were given taxi instructions. We taxied past the terminal with all the 737’s parked at it to the end of 20R where after a short hold we were cleared to depart. I always find it fun when you taxi past the “Big Iron” or see a big commercial jet holding short of a runway as you are landing like the Southwest 737 as we arrived at KSNA.

The overcast layer was still there but was thin and high so I put the foggles back on to be able to log the instrument time. I wasn’t sure I was even going to get any actual and didn’t realize we had until reviewing video later. SoCal gave us an initial heading of 310 and then a left turn to 270. “Looks like he is vectoring us to the VOR approach, you should let him know we need the RNAV,” my CFII said. The plane is GPS only, and even though that is what we filed and confirmed with Clearance Delivery something was apparently lost in translation.

Me: “SoCal Approach, Mooney 78878, we are GPS only and need the RNAV 24 into Fullerton.”
SoCal: “Mooney 78878, thank you, that changes everything. Make a right turn heading 040.”
Me: “Right turn, heading 040, 878.”

There were two more turns before we were given a final vector to intercept the final and cleared for the approach.

Back on the ground there was another 0.5 hours simulated with 0.1 actual IMC into the logbook, If I could only find some extended IMC to fly in… that would come in the very next flight.

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