Learning to fly

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representative instrument approach plate for that airport.

August 14, 2003, 7 PM
Very warm humid day but no thunderstorms or even the threat. Andy and I got the plane all set to do the ILS Rwy 27 at McCullum although the ATIS said they were using runway 9. We hoped to just get in the approaches and call them off early without interfering with landing traffic from the opposite direction. That's what happened. We headed south and climbed to 3500 where it took a couple of tries to get Approach to answer us.

Then they vectored us dead south and a few minutes later turned us to an intercept course for the localizer. At the outer marker, he released us and I started to fall apart and became tongue-tied. I got about half of my spiel out and Andy finished it. That also distracted me and I forgot the timer and overshot the glideslope intercept. Once I got it back, I did OK, but the planes headed for us and taking off from 9 were taking their toll on my mental attention. My situational awareness was deteriorating fast. I had no clue what to do other than fly the localizer/glideslope and watch for my DH, but then we had to abort before that and head out for another try.

Rejoining Atlanta Approach on the radio, I'm not sure what to tell them so I say too much. He came back with a bit of annoyance in his voice at having to deal with someone who can't talk. But he vectored us around a bit more and although my radio work didn't get much better, at least I flew the approach more like it was designed. Again we broke off early and swung around to do the GPS Rwy 4 at Cherokee. I did OK with the flying again, but busted my altitude on the DH. Just not far enough ahead of the plane. I've discovered I need to put the GPS in my scan. Habit has left it out in favor of just the basic six.

So we did the missed approach back to the hold to try again. This time was much better all around, although my radio calls were still a bit halting. I was reasonably ahead of the plane and didn't bust anything. So we 'broke out' and I lined up for a full stop landing. Got a little slow at one point, but recognized it and was correcting at the same time that Andy mentioned it. A smooth touchdown at least.

August 21, 2003, 7 PM
Warm, humid and very hazy. We took off from runway 4 enroute to Charlie Brown Field (FTY) to do the ILS approach. The time it takes to get down there is enough time to get everything set up and rehearse a bit, which was part of the reason we chose that approach. I handled much more of the communications with ATC this time and was able to anticipate what they would say which made my readbacks easier and made the stress level lower. The approach is fairly simple with only one step down after the FAF.

ATC vectored us south and into the localizer and I only took a little too long on the tower call up because I couldn't decide if I should actually call them Charlie Brown or Fulton County. We did the approach and I held everything fairly close, but Andy didn't care for the way it was getting so hazy. He called off our second attempt and asked for vectors back to the GPS into 47A.

Andy took the controls at one point on the way back to check for trim and we discovered I was probably putting a bit of unconscious pressure on the left rudder, increasing my workload. Need to watch for that. I lifted the hood while he drove and it looked like we should have been IFR if you had asked me. The approach into 47A went fairly smooth, but it was getting so dark that I couldn't read the approach plate all that well and it made me wander a bit more than I like. It seems that once one thing gets off just a bit at the start like that, it has a cascading effect on me and it's hard to get caught up again. But for the most part, I felt that today I was at least even with the plane, if not ahead of it.

September 4, 2003, 7 PM
Warm with scattered clouds and not much haze. It's starting to get a bit darker earlier now and the lessons are extending farther into the night. I need to get a decent flashlight to read the charts. We shot the ILS into Rome where I busted altitude slightly at DH, and then it was back around to the hold. There we set up for the VOR approach at Cedartown.

My scan is improving but still needs work of course. When I press the button to talk I lose a bit of control by gripping the yoke too tight, sending us off course. I guess a secret of IFR flying is to touch the plane as little as possible to avoid overcontrolling. But at least I didn't have too much trouble with the radio today, just what to say, not actually saying it. Time and practice will settle that into my brain I guess. Once you have learned what to expect from the controller at any given point in the approach, the communications become much easier and your responses will follow. After Cedartown, it was over to Cartersville for the localizer approach. This one went kinda quick and I started getting tired and behind the plane. A lot of altitude to lose and a tailwind that was pushing my groundspeed up so much that our speed category on the plate should have been the next higher. But the needles were close enough and we broke it off for traffic over the airport. Then back to Cherokee direct and down to 22 where I needed help since it was so dark and I'm rusty as hell on night landings.

September 11, 2003, 7 PM
A great fall day with high scattered clouds and not much wind to speak of. We planned on doing the same airport dance as last week since they are all different approaches, in fairly quick succession and seem to be a good combination, without taking into account my babbling to ATC.

I was able to set all of the radios and VORs to where they should be wiith only one prompt when I overwrote the first VOR frequency by not flopping before setting the second. But it was an encouraging start to a good flight. Now that I'm back on the ground writing this, I can say that I'm finally starting to feel like a pilot again instead of a passenger. I was consistently with the plane today, if not ahead of it by a step, except at the transistion from the Rome VOR hold to the Cedartown procedure turn. It was too easy actually and only required was a small heading change over the VOR. I was thinking too much evidenced by the fact that I wanted to turn left instead of right. But I quickly got back in the game and caught up after the turn inbound.

My aircraft control wasn't too bad today either, with my only problems being too anxious in the turns. I'm starting to "get" this stuff and I'm getting a bit excited and trying to do it while it's fresh in my head. Need to slow down and relax a bit.
A long descent into Cedartown and then the missed back to 47A GPS approach since the plane needed to come down for the 100 hour and they wanted to start this evening. I did a pretty passable job on the GPS approach with almost no help at all and didn't bust any altitude or deviate hardly at all. Even my night landing wasn't too bad, although a bit left of centerline.

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