IMC Training Day #14: More holds and practice approach

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After a summer holiday break, it was back for more IMC training at Oxford. After an early (6:30am) start, I had two separate slots booked for 9 and 1:30. I had a few problems with the car in the morning (faulty suspension meant I had to swap to our other vehicle) so despite originally setting off in good time was a few minutes late getting there. As it happened, the 10:30 slot by another student had been cancelled, so my first slot was extended. I ended up having a total of 3.5 hours of dual flight time between the two sessions.

It was good to be back in the air, and at first I didn’t think I’d forgotten too much.

Unofficial departure procedures

I’ve done a SID (Standard Instrument Departure) before. These are published procedures on the NATS website and elsewhere. In addition, Oxford has several “unofficial” departure procedures and I used one immediately after takeoff. I think it was the Daventry departure. This consisted of turning right after climbing out on 19, and intercepting an NDB radial turn left and track it outbound. The next step involves intercepting a Daventry VOR radial which is confimed with the DME range from the original NDB.

I think it would be quite likely that an examiner might use one of these departures to quickly determine if you can intercept and track an NDB, then VOR. My instructor, EB, wasn’t saying if this was the case – he claims not to know what the examiners do on the test – but I thought that I did this part reasonably well.

More Holds

We flew across to the Westcott NDB and used the RNAV to simulate a DME range from it. I didn’t quite recall exactly how to calculate what type of hold entry to use, and since EB had a slightly different method of calculating this, I’ve determined to adopt that instead. I’d had to be reminded of the calculations/rules for drift. My hold tracking wasn’t great, and I recall at least one entry that didn’t go well due to poor situational awareness.

The 100 procedure

In addition to instrument approaches for both runways at Oxford (of which the 01 can’t be used for practice purposes), there is a further 100 instrument approach which results into a low level maneouvre to land. We simulated this over the Westcott NDB.

I’d hoped that I would have done this well enough to be able to try it for real on the actual approach in the afternoon, but didn’t get it right.

I think one of the problems I’ve been having relates to using different techinques from the instructor for various things. Different textbooks, PC simulators and instructors all have slightly different methods. EB had said he would be happy to accomodate any other method I might be using successfully, but because I was hesitant, he reminded me of his preferred technique. I took the opportunity to write these down and will revise them thoroughly before the next session.

Return to base

On each flight from Oxford, we’ve tended to make a visual recovery to the field from about 10 miles out. EB has pointed out the various landmarks/VRPs, such as the satellite dishes and chimney to the north east (you fly between them when joining left base), and the danger area/airfield to the East. This time we were asked to orbit when 5 miles away for spacing, then proceed as normal. Other than that, few ATC delays today – the airport wasn’t busy at all, despite hosting a major event the following day.


Overall I do feel that some of the days training was less effective than it could have been, probably because I wasn’t absolutely clear on the ground beforehand. I can’t blame the instructor, who did provide a detailed pre-flight briefing and was very patient with me in the air.

He’s said there is nothing new to teach me, I just need some further practice to consolidate and perfect the techniques. I do feel I’m at a similar stage as the many PPL students stuck in the circuit prior to first solo, but am getting a little frustrated that I haven’t cracked it yet.

I think its time to spend more time on the RANT simulator until I am happy I can do this in my head on the ground before spending more expensive time in the air.

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