IFR Progress Report: Yikes!
Most of my loyal readers know that I am in the midst of earning my instrument ticket so I can plow THROUGH clouds instead of tap dancing around them in VFR conditions. And if this winter in Oregon is any sort of look into the future, holding an IFR ticket up here is about the only way you can actually FLY your plane all year.
With 23.7 hours in the book, major chunks of this very complex training are starting to sink in. Sometimes I feel like an Old Dog trying to learn new tricks, and other times I feel like a seasoned Line Pilot slipping a -47 into SFO at minimums. One minute it is wildly satisfying, the next I am so completely screwed up, it is really handy to have a high-time CFI-I in the right seat to bail me out:
Today, I flew my first official IFR cross country, stuck underneath the Viban view-limiting device. It was a clear and a million blue sky day, but I would not see that gleaming sun, because in my simulated world, it was crud and a 1,000. On a VFR day, my southbound assignment of EUG to Roseburg would have been a sweet :36 minutes of scenic bliss. But under the "hood" it was all about the numbers, it was all business. Fly the damned radial, try not to wander, and be prepared for an "E-ticket" approach at RBG.Of all the XC airports my CFI-I Jim Hunt could have picked, he choose the VOR-A into RBG because it is about as tricky as they come. I had flown this one on my X-Plane simulator a few times, and after several tries and a little help from my CFI, I figured out how to make this one happen:
I flew over the VOR at five grand just fine, and initiated a textbook procedure turn to set up the approach. Inbound, I dropped to 3,800' until over the VOR, and then slid on down to the circling minimums of 2,600' with intentions of finding an airport out there amongst the simulated soup. Only problem: There is only 3NM between the VOR and the threshold, so any speed carried over the VOR means you are still up in the deck at the missed approach point. No airport in sight means a missed approach, and with terrain on all sides of RBG, you had BETTER fly that procedure perfectly. It is insane how hard this approach is, but with Jim's coaching to slow down, I dropped two notches of flaps at the VOR, and when the Viban's came off at 2,600' – simulating coming out of the clouds – there was Roseburg Airport just under Katy's nose. After a wide circling left turn, I dropped the girl into RBG like a pro. Sweet.But while that approach was invented by Satan himself, what was coming next made the VOR-A at RBG seem like child's play:
After grabbing our clearance back to EUG and climbing high enough to let Seattle Center find my blip, I was cruising north under the hood, fat, dumb and happy. What happened next was not really a surprise since I know CFI's must do this at some point...we went partial panel. Jim covered the attitude indicator and horizontal situation indicator, and I had to use what was left to get my butt back to EUG. Oh, and did I mention we were doing a new (to me) approach, the VOR DME into 34L? This was just plain nuts. But, it was also very important training.As I went about forgetting which way the stupid compass lags or leads, I wondered what ape designed such a crazy instrument. But I also had my VFR GPS tracking to EUG VOR, and with the turn-and-bank hinting to me what level might actually be, I somehow kept Eugene off the nose and the wings out of the Douglas Firs below.
All in all, a good day. Each trip out, I feel a touch more confident about one day doing this stuff for real up in the clouds, shooting real approaches into real airports in real IMC. When I can do that each time and keep the shiny side down while keeping ATC happy, I will know all this training will have paid off.