IMC Training Day 1

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A wonderful warm and sunny day and a holiday too. Ideal for being out in the garden, or in the park or at the beach. Me, I’m stuck inside a hot and bumpy aircraft wearing a lampshade so I can’t see out. Must be mad.

Lesson 1

Today was the start of my intensive IMC course at Lyneham. Turned up at 8:30 (me, keen, never…) for a 9am start, and found Mike (the instructor) had also arrived early and was ready to go. After a quick briefing on the basics of flying by instruments, we booked out and took off. Shortly after takeoff, I put the “foggles” on – they fitted over my glasses quite well and did shade out the external view.

We tried straight and level first, then climbing and descending turns. I think I got the hang of it reasonably well. Keeping within the limits for both direction and height does take some concentration – I thought it was my direction keeping that was worse, but Mike suggested my height keeping was the one needing more attention. I kept within the +/- 100ft, but didn’t correct that quickly enough. We’d asked when booking out if we could do a PAR (Precision Approach), where the controller talks you down and you just follow directions. This facility isn’t widely available, and uncommon outside military airports, so is a real benefit to be able to use. Understandably, because of the holidays, they were shortstaffed and unable to offer that service.

So when calling to return, we were told wind was calm and we were offered any of the four runways. Spoilt for choice. Approaching from the North,  Mike chose 18 and “talked me down” by giving me directions similar to a controller. As we turned final, he took control while I removed the foggles and I continued the approach and landing.

Lesson 2

After a break, where Mike took up another (new PPL) student, we set off again. Another pilot was taking his IMC renewal, so had taken the foggles. I tried the hood instead, which did seem more like wearing a lampshade – definitely prefer the foggles myself. The briefing this time was for “unusual attitudes” – mainly identifying and recovering from stalls (due to pointing up too much, dropping airspeed…). It is much the same as during the PPL course, except you have to work out what’s happening entirely from the instruments. Mike demonstrated two or three situations and their recovery. The difference to remember being that if entering a stall, you need to pitch down first then roll (power, pitch, roll), whereas in the incipient spiral dive you need to level the wings first, then pitch up.

On our return to the field, we flew “the procedure” – i.e. the instrument approach for the ILS. This involved steering straight for the NDB – we would have taken into account the crosswind if any – at a specified height. The ADF on the dashboard pointed directly at it and all I had to do was steer the course indicated. As we passed overhead, it went dancing around and we steered 088 at 2600 feet. Normally, we would have continued until the DME showed 6 miles and turned back towards the runway  to intercept the ILS at 2100 feet. However, with gliding at Redlands not far away, Mike elected to turn early. As we reached the runway approach line, the ILS localiser moved towards the centre and we radioed that ILS was acquired. The glideslope showed us too low (as it should) and slowly came down toward the centreline while we maintained height.

Mike then told me to configure the aircraft for a cruise descent at 500 feet/min and I followed the crosshairs of the ILS instrument. As we descended below 1000 feet, Mike took over the controls while I removed the hood and then circled round for a landing on 18. Since most airfields only have one ILS, it’s common to need to do this – use it for the approach and then circle visually to whichever runway favours the wind. You can even use an ILS to descend out of clouds to resume VFR to another (nearby) destination.

Not too bad for a first day and pleased to have got started.

I checked that I’ll need to have passed the theory exam before I can take the practical test (that’s the club rule), but I can sit this pretty much anytime – will try to get this done early next week – I’ve been reading it up, but need to run through the practice test papers (the so- called confuser) first.

I’m back on Monday for another couple of sessions…

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