1.5 Hrs Sim Time

Extended my instrument currency this morning for another few months with an hour and a half ‘mucking about’ in the sim with my CFI. The club is sharing a Frasca 42 with the Anglo American flight school at KSEE so I got to see a different airport than usual. Rather than blaze through the usual route I wanted something a bit different today, loosen up some cobwebs:

  • VOR approach to KSDM usual take off from KMYF, vectors to the approach down to Brown Field. The sim has an HSI so I got my second look at those, I like ’em.
  • DME arc off PGY VOR haven’t done a DME arc since the checkride but, other than forgetting to turn 90 degrees when I reached 6.5 miles, it went very well. Bob had set up a 17kt wind from the west so there was some work to do in keeping close to the 6 mile radius.
  • Holds at RYADH intersection exited the DME arc on a straight shot to the fix. I got there so fast that I hadn’t yet looked at my entry procedure. Fortunately its an obvious parallel entry so I turned in the outbound direction and reminded myself how I needed to turn back in. The HSI seemed to make this much easier than usual. The holds went great excepting a little timer issues thanks to the westerly wind pushing me further out on the outbound leg each time.
  • LOC approach to KSEE partial panel Bob moved me to a position close to the approach and then failed the attitude indicator and DG. A few compass turns (always takes me a moment to remember to fly in the ‘opposite’ direction) and then vectors to the approach. I was doing a pretty lousy job and then it got a lot worse – you really need two navs to identify the timing point for the missed approach but the HSI was inop due to the partial panel so I only had one. This meant I had to keep flip flopping the nav frequency to check my position and in doing so my speed went up, my altitude went crazy and so on. I did manage to do a reasonable track of the localizer but I went past the airport before the timer went off.
  • LOC approach to KSEE back around for another go but full panel, much better this time, timer went off almost exactly over the field. I wasn’t able to maintain 90 kts but adjusted the time based on the ‘average’ 110kts I was actually doing.
  • ILS approach to KMYF partial panel a climbing turn out of KSEE and my panel failed again. I got established on the localizer but was having a lot of trouble losing altitude. 1100 rpm and 100 knots and I was still only getting 400fpm. So I was high most of the way down the slope, weaving in and out chasing the needle. Popped out of the clouds with the runway a little off to the left but thanks to some odd graphics on the screen I actually landed on a taxiway.

All in all a good workout and dusting off of some rusty skills. Now to get some flying in the real thing… time to find a safety pilot for the Archer….

Commercial Written Update

Still taking daily practice tests and got my first 90+ score today which was most excellent! If I can get a few more over 90 then I will schedule the real thing. Right now my likely score is anywhere between 80 and 95 depending on the mix of questions. For instance, the following subjects just will not get square in my head:

  1. anything to do with an RMI
  2. anything to do with postive/negative static/dynamic stability
  3. the jet stream and where it is and what its doing

and those aren’t the only ones. A score in the mid-80s would be nothing to be ashamed of but I’ll give it another week or two of training to see if I can’t nudge that up.

Checkride stories are always good to read and, although brief, Mike’s description of his Commercial checkride is no exception. Go check it out.

COM Night Cross-Country MYFCMA

Last night saw the completion of all my COM rating pre-requisites (except the written test) with a night dual flight to Camarillo, a little north north west of LA.

It started off worryingly by finding that the DG had been sqawked inop a couple of days ago but my instructor had flown it earlier in the day and said it was fine. Everything else in the Archer looked good so we strapped ourselves in and got underway. This was my first time flying this particular Archer but it felt just like the other one I have flown. One cool thing about this Archer is that it has an HSI and I had never flown with one of those before.

After making our turn towards Oceanside I gave up fighting the electric trim which just did not seem to be working and used the manual wheel between the seats. Its a little too far back for my taste, especially with a passenger in the right seat; good job we are friends is all I can say. I hadn’t used the autopilot before but figured I’d make this trip as easy as possible, switched it on, coupled it to the heading bug on the HSI and let it do all the work. The air was quite smooth and once trimmed the plane pretty much kept to my desired altitude.

We had asked for the Shoreline Route through the LAX Class Bravo which can be hard to get but the alternative was the Hollywood Route at a further 2000 feet up. At Seal Beach VOR we were cleared through the Bravo via the shoreline route but were quickly given direct LAX, an outbound heading and a descent. Halfway to LAX we were given direct Santa Monica and a further descent. I hadn’t been prepared to use SMO and had to look it up on the chart – head down on a chart 4500 feet above LAX is not something I enjoy. Once past the Class B I headed direct to Camarillo VOR and landed straight-in 26.

On the ground we asked the tower for the Hawthorne Radio frequency to close our flight plan and the guy said he would close it for us. As we taxied back to the runway he asked if we’d like him to open our return flight plan once off the ground – what a great controller! We did a brief runup at the runup area and I used the opportunity to retrieve three pens that had rolled on to the floor during the flight. Then we were off again, left downwind departure back towards Van Nuys VOR for the Shoreline route back south.

When Pt Mugu approach handed us to the first SoCal controller the frequency was crazy busy, it seemed like forever before I could get on the frequency. Our route had us heading east until we picked up the 323 radial from LAX but we couldn’t do that until we had a clearance. I waited and waited and waited…. then we got a quick turn to the south east, and then another. My instructor was watching his GPS anxiously as we headed for the Class B above the floor at that location. Every time the controller started with “Cherokee …” but with some other tail number he’d fidget nervously. We slowed to 90 knots to give us more time and got ready to descend. About 2 miles from the boundary we were turned back to the north east. After a little while the controller apologized for all the turns and said that if we still knew where we were what did we want to do. I said we’d like the Shoreline Route and he gave us a turn and a direct LAX, own navigation thereafter.

The sight of all the planes lined up for LAX was quite a sight, lots of twinkling stars in the sky to the east. After LAX we were cleared all the way to Montgomery Field own navigation and any altitude. The headwinds had been stronger than forecast so once we were past Oceanside VOR we descended fast to try to make up some time. The tower had already closed so I had the odd pleasure of making position calls on the tower frequency. I had tuned the HSI to the ILS as I was curious to see it in operation but a little too much looking at it from downwind to base left me quite high on final. We landed long on the runway and had to use the last taxiway but it was never in doubt (at least in my mind!). We taxied back to parking, put the plane to bed and arranged a sim session for next month in the club’s Frasca. I’ll renew my holds currency and I want to do some DME arcs, partial panel etc.

Commercial Pilot Pre-Reqs

Messing with some $$$ figures this weekend, the possibility of completing my Commercial came up so I thought I would check on what I still need to do (other than the not insignificant task of being up to PTS standards!).

  • 250 hours of flight time… done
  • 10 hours of instrument training… done
  • 10 hours of complex training… done
  • day VFR dual flight… done
  • night VFR dual flight… to do
  • solo day VFR flight… done
  • 5 hours solo night VFR… done (9.1 hrs)
  • 10 night takeoffs and landings at a controlled field… done (19)
  • written exam… done, but expired

If I can get my CFI to do the night flight in the next few weeks, I might schedule a weekend course with Sheble Aviation in the summer and try to do it that way. I know a few people who have done many ratings with them and I hear nothing but good things about them.

On a final note, you may have noticed a change in how the blog looks. I’ve added some personal images to the header and will be changing the sidebar over this week. I really hated that dreary grey I had before.

Currency, Glorious Currency!

Took a 172 to French Valley this afternoon. The hope had been to do some daytime touch and goes, have something to eat, then some night time stop and goes, and back home. But I underestimated the arrival of darkness and was after sunset before I was halfway there. I was too high on final and, is my habit when I am out of practice, landed too flat, not real pretty. Taxied to transient and enjoyed a very tasty hamburger in the restaurant. To my delight the place was getting fairly busy by the time I left. My hunger sated, back into the plane and once around the pattern, this time still high on final but it worked out ok. Next time around I was high again and this time I went around rather than fight it. Made a much slower pattern and greased it in nicely. I patted myself on the back as I taxied back and decided it was time to go home. I tuned Ramona into the GPS and followed the needle, got a Class D transition, over the reservoir, Gillespie Field and home. All in all a nice little flight.

For the first time since I don’t know when I am current in all three areas – PIC, Night and IFR (ssh, don’t ask me about my complex and high-performance currency). Now to keep them all up without lapsing.

Not Quite Instrument Current

Tonight I met Serge at the airport for his turn to suffer my simulated instrument flying. He seems to enjoy it though, go figure. I needed 4 approaches and, as said earlier, I planned to do two ILS approaches back at MYF. SoCal asked my intentions immeadiately on contact and I gave them my request. It took a while for them to get back to me so I wondered if I had confused them but it turned out he was working out what he could do, and that turned out to be the usual IFR to Brown and then practice VFR for the rest.

This is probably the last time I will do this circuit, it is just so fast and there is so little time to prepare for the next approach. It must be tough for the controllers too. Tonight I was given a 90 degree intercept onto the localiser at SEE, for the ILS at MYF it was a 45 degree one. In future I will fly IFR more often, but on short cross countries so I will get more time in between approaches.

When we got back to MYF the controller had forgotten my request and I was cleared to land so I didn’t get my 4th approach. Its possible to file MYF – MYF for a very short flight, I’ll try to do that next week.

“Looking for Traffic”

Went to the airport this afternoon to watch, and listen to, the pattern. I find it very instructive to hear the different radio calls and responses, I hear things I like and try to use in the future, and sometimes I hear things that I make a note not to say in the future.

But one phrase started to bother me – looking for traffic. All too often it seemed to be an automatic response with no real conviction that the pilot really cared. Now that is no doubt a little harsh but on about 3 or 4 occasions a pilot on final was to be told traffic holding in position, departing before arrival. The response – looking for traffic. I don’t know how you can’t have that traffic in sight, its right where you’re looking right now.

BFR and PIC Again – 1.9 Hrs

My flying club requires an annual flight review for insurance purposes so I do a flight review every year, this year it coincides with the FAA-required BFR. It has been a while since I flew and was not real sure how well it would go. Last time I had taken a break the flying went well, and today it went better than it ever has. Go figure.

It was a clear sunny day, with mostly calm winds, just perfect for flying. We did a whole bunch of the usual maneuvers, ending up with landing practice at Ramona. My landings were mostly greasers but the approaches were far from perfect so we are going to go up again next week to work on getting those stabilised (I bet my landings will then go awry!). Since the review went so well, I got signed off today and we’ll take the 172RG next week to get my complex skills repolished.

All in all, a very good morning and I am enthused about flying again.

Instrument Current Again

With the new job starting soon I wanted to get my instrument currency back and scheduled some simulator time with my favourite CFI. It didn’t go too well on the simulator last time as the controls were very sensitive but this time I got the light touch just right most of the time. We set the clouds to a solid overcast so that each approach would end up going missed.

We started by taking off from MYF, vectors to the VOR approach at SDM, missed approach. Once on the missed, we zapped over to SEE and did vectors to the LOC approach there followed by a missed again. From there we shifted to OKB and did some holds in the published turn, the VOR approach once again to the missed. After that, I was positioned for vectors to the ILS at CRQ, this time I did break out for a landing but did the missed anyway with vectors back to a landing at MYF.

For those of you counting thats only 5 approaches, we didn’t fit the 6th one in. However, when I updated my online logbook it said I was now current until the end of May; I had overlooked 3 approaches at the end of the last year so 5 was just perfect. Its good to be ifr current again.