IMC Training Day #13: Unlucky for some

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The plan for an NDB approach

Today the plan was to do an NDB approach. When sitting the IMC skills test, you can either do 2 different approaches in the exam itself, or have one previously signed off by an instructor. Although I had done a number of approaches at Lyneham, none had formally been signed off in this way. This would also be my first approach at Oxford, so would be a big step from the general handling I’d done here up to now.

The school called in the morning to ask me to turn up an hour early – they had booked a slot with ATC and this was the only time that was available. This was a bit of a rush, made worse by an accident on the motorway which delayed me, but when I arrived EB was still in the air with his previous trial lesson. I wrote down the ATIS and had the plate ready, but had not calculated the wind corrected headings using forecast spot winds aloft.

A delay at the hold

We headed out to the aircraft quickly to make our booked slot, and EB helped me run through the checks. When ready for departure, we called for our departure instructions and were told to standby. I was quite shocked at how slowly ATC were handling traffic, a number of light aircraft inbound and one exec jet leaving. It took 15 minutes before we got our clearance instructions and could then proceed to line up. This despite have a prior booking for a time set by ATC!

After takeoff, the foggles went on and we made a turn following the missed approach procedure while climbing, first up to 2500 then 3500 feet.

A few holds

We joined the hold directly above the airfield. The first one was too short, so that by the time I had turned back onto the inbound leg we were almost back to the beacon. EB reminded me of the 60/30 technique, where with 60 and then 30 degrees of the turn left to go, you check to see if you will be on the right track when you complete the turn. In both cases, there was overshoot (so I needed to turn further). On the third hold, we extended the outbound leg further which helped – perhaps the wind wasn’t quite as strong as forecast.

NDB/DME Approach

I then called beacon outbound and we commenced the procedure. For some reason, I didn’t immediately start the descent, which concerned EB. There’s relatively little time to get down from 3500 to 1800 feet, so important not to delay. Conducting the pre-landing checks, I checked the compass and the DI were aligned – EB pointed out that because we were descending, it might read incorrectly. I started the turn as the DME showed 6.5 and levelled off at 1800 feet. The rate 1 turn took us pretty much onto the correct approach radial and I tried to follow my precalculated track. This wasn’t well done and I drifted to be as much as 15 degrees out, although I recovered at one point and then lost it again. The workload is high during the procedure – flying the aircraft on instruments, descending and checking height while also tracking inbound and using the radio too.

An unofficial NDB approach

Taking the foggles off at our MDA of 900 feet, I could see the runway off to the left. We did a touch and go then repositioned to about 10 miles north of the field. Reporting inbound, we asked for and were granted a direct VFR approach, allowing a further shot at tracking the NDB inbound. Again, my tracking wasn’t up to scratch and EB said the +/- 5 degree tolerance wasn’t met.

It was pretty apparent that EB wouldn’t be able to sign off the approach today and I’ll need further training to get up to scratch. After yesterday’s success this came as a bit of a setback. I booked up another couple of lessons and just hope that today’s issues with ATC was an anomily.

The end of my IMC training is not yet in sight.

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