IMC Training Day #4

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Another day’s holiday, nice warm weather and I’m off to the airfield for another couple of IMC sessions, again with Roger as instructor.

NDB Holds

On the ground, we talked through the NDB Hold. It’s not normally required during the exam, although if ATC require you to do one because they need you to stay out of the way, then you would be expected to do it. But I think the vast majority of exams this doesn’t happen. Hopefully, when the time comes, I’ll be fortunate on the day.

These look really simple on paper. You just have a 30 second rate 1 turn at each end and steer a set course for a minute in between. On the inbound leg, you can just follow the ADF pointer towards the NDB itself. Simples? Well not really, because in the real world you have wind blowing you off course, which needs to be accounted for.

Using the predicted wind aloft at 5000 feet (the hold at Lyneham is normally done at FL45 = 4,500 feet on 1013 pressure setting), you can then increase or decrease the time taken for inbound and outbound legs. You then also calculate the drift angle and apply 3 x during the outbound leg. Fortunately,we could think about this down on the ground beforehand so work out the actual courses to steer without the workload of flying the plane at the same time.

We tried this out in the air for real, after flying around for about 20 minutes on different courses, climbing and descending on full panel.

It’s quite difficult to get your head around all of what’s going on – even with the drift correction there were still errors – but it’s starting to make sense, and I should be able to follow this up on the PC simulator before the next lesson.

We then did an NDB approach to 06, which involved flying outbound from the NDB on a defined course, descending and then after 8 miles turning (rate 1 turn) back to 035. Although there is a DME at Lyneham, many NDB approaches don’t have that luxury, so we timed the 8 miles based on groundspeed adding the winddrift to our airspeed – it worked out at around 4 minutes. This included a cruise descent from FL45 down to 2600 feet QFE, and then turned back towards the runway on a course of 035. This isn’t the same as the runway alignment (063), which meant that as we descended down the glidepath and I took off the foggles, it was off to the right (at about 1 o ‘clock). Slowed down, flaps down and landed long – there was quite a stiff crosswind and we sank suddenly and rapidly during the last 100 feet or so, causing me to add a bit of power and compensate with left wing down. I wasn’t entirely happy with the landing, but Roger said my recovery was OK and I had done the right things.

Partial Panel Recovery and NDB Approach

The second session of the day, we’d hoped to do another SRA or PAR but the tower was too busy (or undermanned) to provide that. So off we went and this time took off into some low cloud at about 1500 feet. Climbing to FL40, we then repeated some of the maneuvers, with Roger covering up the AI/DI for partial panel too. We did two or three partial panels recoveries, where Roger put the plane into a dive or stall and let me take over and recover. Power off (or on), roll and pitch up (or pitch down and roll out) depending on what the instruments – this was quite dramatic stuff, but I think I handled reasonably well.

Returning for the NDB approach, Roger had me handle the radio calls. First, it was fairly straightforward to head directly to the NDB – you just follow the pointer, but I did offset to account for the wind. You are supposed to arrive at the beacon within 30 degrees either side of the (opposite) outbound leg, so that meant somewhere between 005 and 065. We turned east until the beacon was on our starboard wingtip, then turned and headed directly for it. I think we passed just slightly to the north rather than directly overhead, but it was close. I reported overhead beacon and requested approval to start the NDB procedure, which was granted.

We followed this down as earlier in the day. My descent was a bit too quick on the inbound leg – we could tell from the DME (often NDBs don’t have this, which makes it even more difficult). We didn’t diverge from the safe track (5 degrees either side) compared to the earlier attempt, but were too low at about 6 miles out. I maintained height and then commenced descent again nearer 4 miles to go. Foggles off and we could see the airfield offset. Reported airfield in sight and was given clearance to land – we asked to make a low level circuit and land, which would be not uncommon in this type of situation.

Aligned along the runway centreline I was now too high to make a landing anyway, so we turned slowly at 500 feet (the advertised circling height is not below 410 QFE) and I configured the aircraft for landing. We returned to the washbay having completed another hour of the training.

Making good progress

Overall, I’ve now run through all the aspects of the syllabus in 9 hours. I now need to practice and perfect this in at least a further 6 hours (a minimum of 15 hours of instruction is required for the IMC rating) to be ready to sit the practical test itself. I’ll probably require some 5 or so more sorties to finish this off.

Instructors are very busy at the Lyneham club at the moment. I’ll probably have to switch to another one to complete the rest of the training, but spoke to one today who was prepared to take me on. Hope I can get some dates in the diary next with a view to completing this while we can still use the facilities there – the club are likely to have to move in a couple of months or so, which explains why so many members are trying hard to finish things off while they can.

Total IMC training hours to date: 9:00 (minimum 15 required)
Total IMC instrument time to date: 7:10 (minimum 10 required)

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