10:25 PM

Wrung Out

I am really glad tonight I don't have a CFI-I who yells. That's because I certainly gave him reasons to today as I completed the single most grueling day of flying I have ever flown. As I go about earning my instrument rating, there has always been three words I had to get past:

Long. Cross. Country.

And today was the day to get past them. It was a full day of ups and downs, quite literally, with plenty of good and bad, depending on who you ask. Here is a capsule recap:

Pre-flight planning: It was back to pencil and paper for me here, as if I was stuck back in Aviation 101 again. How many minutes to this check point, and the next, with what wind correction. And how do I find that illusive VOR changeover point with a full panel of steam gauges and decades-old technology that does not include an IFR-certified GPS? I burned a lot of midnight oil this week noodling all this out, and then watched it all go down the toilet when I forgot to start the timer. Urrrgh moment #1.

ILS into historic Boeing Field (Seattle, WA): This might have been the best part of the day, despite a finnicky localizer and an even wonkier glideslope. But we made BFI without landing on Interstate 5 or taxiway Alpha, which looks exactly like runway 31R from the outer marker. On departure, my eyes drifted to the many MANY Boeing jets in for refurbishing at Boeing just off my nose eleven o'clock low, so much so that I really had to concentrate on the job at hand...fly the airplane.

LOC approach into Aurora, Oregon: The laundry list of weird things that happened inbound to this approach is endless, including ATC giving me winds at 200 when they were in fact 020...or were they 360 as the one-minute WX said? And what WAS that minimum altitude...2,600, 2,000 or 2,200...I heard them all in the span of a few moments as I chased the centerline all the way to hell and back. The approach was the worst I have flown, but I cannot pin this crappy arrival on anyone or anything...I was PIC, I was man-handling the yoke, it was my mistakes that sent me to the woodshed on this one. Urrrgh moment #2.

Departure at Aurora: No tower here, so an IFR departure means talking to (a) Portland clearance delivery, (b) Portland Approach, (c) Aurora unicom, and finally (d) back to Portland Approach. Bottom line was I had to give the assist to the teacher on this one as I might not have figured it all out without him. Jumped the airway and was southbound to Eugene to finish this day...or so I thought.

Surprise VOR-A at Corvallis, Oregon: I know why my CFI-I surprised me with this unplanned approach, because he somehow knew that after a day of sweating, I still needed to be able to pull new charts out of the bag and land. After a brief period of wanting to jump out of Katy without a parachute, Jim calmed me down and walked me through the steps slowly, allowing me to think this one through and get her down at CVO.
Back at the hangar at EUG, I was glad 27W flew to perfection. The plane is flawless, it just flies great...I wish I could say the same about its owner. Did we accomplish a lot...yes, I now have that all-important long IFR XC in the log book. Did I make progress...yes, I suppose. Do I possess the skill level needed to pass the instrument check ride?

Yes. No. Maybe. Who knows. Not a chance. Absolutely.

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