Learning to fly

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representative instrument approach plate for that airport.

Sept 9, 2001, 3pm
Warm blue skies with a lot of puffy clouds all around and a small bit of humidity.
I've decided to start instrument training for a number of reasons. A few of my cross county flights this past summer were cancelled or turned back due to weather and marginal visibility, and I feel it's best if I continue learning and stay sharp, and so become safer. Additionally, it will give me a goal, a reason to fly and keep me focused. To date, I have just under 150 hours of PIC time and 36 hours of PIC cross-country time, which means I won't have to be concerned with most of the flight requirements for the rating. I'm close enough that the normal course of training will easily take care of the remainder.

So Karen and I climbed into the Arrow once again today to begin. I strapped on the hood but left it flipped up for taxi, takeoff and while we were in the pattern. After takeoff, I flipped the gear lever up... but only the nose gear light went out. I cycled the gear once with the same result. Then again, same thing. Then about midfield just as we decided it would be best to land, the lights all went out and Randall radioed that we were clean, so we continued on and kept it in mind for later.

Then I pushed the hood down and we banked toward the practice area for standard rate, 2 minute timed turns. Left and right. 15 degrees of bank didn't quite do the job, so I increased it to 20 which worked nearly exactly.

After we broke off from the turns, we moved on to practice descent and climb rates. Pretty much like flying the pattern really. Not a lot of power changes, just trim adjustments after setting up in cruise.Then we were all over the place as she tried explain the workings of the VOR with relation to the approach plates and procedure turns. Five T's: Turn, Time, Twist, Throttle, Talk. Turn to heading, start the timer, twist the VOR to the new radial, throttle if climbing or more likely, descending, then talk to the tower or traffic with a position report. Overwhelming to say the least. It was all I could do to fly the plane. I held altitudes and headings pretty well for not having had a hood on since primary training, but there was no way for me to be able to use the radio and say what I needed to. I just didn't have the 3-D situational picture in my head of where I was going and what I needed to say, so I just followed instructions and tried to absorb what I could.

We did an approach over Cartersville and I held it pretty good, but a lot of what I did was lost on me. I was trying to keep all of the instruments where they should be, but my minimum altitude on the approach was busted by about 100'. Then she vectored me back into the pattern at Cherokee and let me lift up the hood to land normally. All three green lights came on without a blip, so we were pretty confident the gear wouldn't be a problem and continued in. Not a bad landing after a month out of the cockpit if I say so myself.

Sept 16, 2001, 1pm
Warm breezy day with a touch of haze and scattered clouds. It's 5 days after the World Trade Center tragedy and VFR flights are still prohibited. But IFR is allowed with a few restrictions like instruction, so after a bit of ground school with Dave, we filed an IFR flight plan to Chattanooga. This gave me a cross-country flight under the hood and a chance to do a couple of ILS approaches too.

A little bit is starting to sink in from the flying lessons and my studying at work, although handling the radio, keeping altitude and heading is still a bit much for me. But now I see that the way to stay ahead of the plane is by finding the 'slow' times when the workload is less, then tune radios and prepare what I can for the next phase of the flight. I think today was a help since I was able to visualize where I was in relation to the airport most of the time. That made the VORs seem more relevant to what I was trying to accomplish.
It was also good to hear what the actual IFR radio work would be like from start to finish, and that gets the ball rolling in my head. Call up FSS and file, on the ground, open the plan, get the clearance and instructions, and then fly it.

A little less exact work on the glideslope and localizer than the VOR approach from the first lesson, but I still did OK I guess. I need to hold it steadier and concentrate on not making dramatic corrections in both dimensions. But I held it close enough during both approaches that I wasn't too far off when the foggles came up at decision height and on the second time, when we landed easily and taxiied back for the return flight. No foggles on the flight back, but we flew it by the numbers anyway of course, since we were on an IFR flight plan and everyone is pretty jumpy.

Sept 23, 2001, 3pm
It was a warm, muggy afternoon with a lot of haze and a threat of showers to come. Dave and I flew again today, and I think I did OK except on the first approach to Rome. I was kinda shaky on turns to headings and when I was established on my heading, I was off on the altitude. But the second approach wasn't too bad and I even had a fleeting moment where I felt somewhat in control. Somehow Dave sensed that feeling coming from me and asked if I saw how much slower things were happening this time. I've found that at the final stage of the localizer approach, I need to use the rudder to make the small inputs to keep lined up instead of aileron.

After a couple of ILS approaches, we headed towards Cartersville for the VOR approach. Cartersville uses a Rome VOR radial perpendicular to the runway for it's approach and it steps down at prearranged distances from the VOR to guide you past the enormous factory chimneys and directly across the runway to enter the pattern, instead of straight-in like an ILS. If the airport isn't visible at the specified minimum altitude, it's around again for another try or head to another airport. One shot at that and we turned for 47A where I did a fairly decent landing. A little long, but smooth at least.

Sept 29, 2001, 5pm
A cool and breezy day with clouds scattered all over the sky. Wayne was the instructor for the day and we decided to do a short cross-country to Toccoa for the VOR approach there and a sidestep on the way back to try the VOR approach into Habersham. The Arrow was down for repairs to the gear so we flew N64191. It's only the second time I've flown 191, and the first time in 6 months since I've flown a 172, so this was going to be a refamiliarization flight in more ways than one.

We took off and headed to NELLO intersection east of Pickens, climbing to 5500', then turned towards Toccoa, homing in on the Foothills VOR. Since it was a while getting there, we talked about the approach and I tried to visualize it to streamline the procedure when it was time. A little shaky and we had to lose altitude quickly to make it into the pattern at the right height, but everything went OK. Then around the pattern to do a T&G on 20 and head towards Habersham. I understood the approach into Habersham, but the teardrop entry didn't make sense to me until after the flight and the post flight debrief. After the approach at Habersham, it was back to 47A where we had to do a go-around because I was high and fast (forgot to push in carb heat too), but the next try was real smooth.

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