IMC Training Day #12: More Revision

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Another IMC training day in Oxford

Following on from an earlier session at Pilot Flight Training in Oxford, I spent all day there and had a couple of training flights to continue brushing up my IMC skills and prepare for a retest. It was fairly clear that my instructor wanted to go through the syllabus and ensure I was up to scratch on everything. Today, we’d cover holds in the first session and partial panel in the second.

Unlike training from Lyneham where an instrument approach was included in almost every lesson, we wouldn’t be doing any instrument approaches yet. The reason given was the expense – at Lyneham they were effectively free, whereas at Oxford a standard charge of 18 pounds applies.

Having got up early and driven to Oxford for a 9am start, my instructor EB was there and ready to give me a ground briefing at 8:45 when I arrived.


EB had previously introduced me to the idea of using the VOR dial as an aid to calculate what type of hold entry is needed depending on the heading. Rotate the dial to the course and look at where the outbound hold heading fits. This is 180 degrees out from what the RANT tutor explains – they base it on the inbound hold heading instead (so I got a bit confused). No problem which you use as long as you are consistent.

We took up the hold over the Westcott NDB at 2300 feet and did a few of each of the three types of entry – direct, parallel and offset. EB also asked me to fix our position, which I did using the Compton VOR and DME. Much of this was done under the foggles, but later I took them off.

Returning to the field, EB pointed out some landmarks and explained the various villages and areas to avoid for noise abatement.

Partial Panel – with a turn indicator

After lunch, I had a second session which concentrated on Partial Panel operation. The aircraft only had a turn indicator rather than a turn co-ordinator, which I had been used to from before. This certainly made it more difficult. Recovery from the stall and spiral dives was practiced, which I thought went pretty well. The trick with the turn co-ordinator is to see it switch across to the other direction, rather than just being neutral, before it settles down. It was harder to detect the stall sometimes – the aircraft didn’t have an audible stall warner – but I was able to recover under control.

Different technique on approach

During the approach back to Oxford, I got a little tongue tied with the radio. I think that’s partly because there was an instructor to ask, and partly the slightly different arrangements at Oxford itself. It has separate frequencies for tower and approach, but sometimes combines them. They like getting most of the request in the initial call (completely the opposite from Kemble). QNH is used during the approach and landing – everywhere else I’ve always used QFE instead. I know that this is common in the US, but find it difficult to adjust to getting the right height on the turn to final – I was a bit high both times today. Using the PAPI lights helped a lot.

The 140HP cherokee is a little lighter than the 160HP warriors I’m used to.  I thought the landings were harder  than I would have liked, but I had slowly brought back the yoke during the roundout and there wasn’t a bounce. The trick is to keep a bit more power on during the flare. The school technique here is to approach at 80, final at 70 with 2 stages of flap (rather than 3 stages at 65).

Next steps

EB was happy with both aspects we covered today. I had hoped to do at least one instrument approach, but that was not to be. I’ll need another two sessions before resitting the IMC skills test – the first (tomorrow) will include the NDB approach to 19 (possibly including a hold). The second, next month, will include some consolidation/revisi. Then we’ll see what stage I’m at.

I have been very pleased with the standard of instruction at Pilot Flight Training. They have rightly put me through my paces and ensured I have covered and absorbed the course material. The school was pretty busy today, with both trial lessons and students, and seems to be thriving. Apart from some light aircraft visiting, a few executive jets and one commercial flight, they had the airfield pretty much to themselves.

PS: A medical checkup this week too

Earlier in the week I had visited the AME and had my annual medical, so am signed off for another year. I also took the audio test, just to check I would be OK to take a full Instrument Rating – not something I plan to do in the short term but nice to know there’s no medical restriction. Here in the UK, an audio test is required, whereas in the US there is no extra check. The recent introduction of a simplified IR in France brings some hope that a similar rating might be introduced at some point here in the UK. Here’s hoping, and perhaps my (extensive) IMC training hours will count towards it. At present, they don’t count towards the current UK IR but do if used as part of the FAA IR (which is another reason why so many UK private pilots choose to go down that route).

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