IMC Training Day #16: Exam prep and ILS approach

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The plan for today was to finish it all off. I’d booked a lesson with EB first, followed by a slot after lunchbreak with an examiner to conduct the IMC skills test.

To say I was apprehensive at this stage would be putting it mildly. The weather forecast indicated winds of 15 gusting 25 from the south west – a crosswind for the normal runway which would be outside aircraft demonstrated limits – together with rain showers. The school still thought it worthwhile my driving up, so when I got there we discussed the options. My instructor strongly hinted that today didn’t have suitable conditions to take the exam itself and suggested we just had the lesson instead. I wasn’t keen to take just the lesson and not the exam – preferring to postpone both to another day (although that might be some weeks away). I was concerned that anything I learned today might be forgotten by the time of a test some weeks later. After chatting to my instructor and the examiner who was onsite conducting a renewal for someone else, it was decided that a lesson today would be feasible with a good chance I could take the test the following afternoon. The weather outlook was much better for the following day.

ILS approach to 19

Although I had done a lot of IMC training at Oxford, I hadn’t done the full ILS procedure itself. Since the IMC test requires the use of a different approach from that signed off during training, this is the one we planned to use. I’d also heard of oneIMC student pilot who completed the ILS approach successfully during his test and was about to land (thinking he’d passed) when the examiner called for a missed approach (something that could quite easily happen in real life) and that really put him under pressure.

So the plan for today was to climb out and return back to the overhead NDB for the complete ILS approach procedure, followed by a missed approach. We’d then repeat the approach visually followed by a low level circuit to land.

This is pretty much what we did. There were a few things that EB picked me up on. I have been using the ADF to keep track of when the ILS localizer is about to come in –I find it provides a backup to let you know if you have somehow completely missed it or are way offtrack – but EB preferred me to focus entirely on the localizer itself and be ready to turn as soon as it shows any glimmer of picking up the signal. I called “base turn complete, localizer established”, and EB pointed out that these were two different statements referring to the two different types of approach – you should say “base turn complete” for an NDB approach or “localizer established” for the ILS but never both. I commented that I was sure the ATC approach controller had asked me to report base turn complete which is why I said it but EB hadn’t heard that earlier. He noted that once you say you are established you are required to keep the needle within a half scale deflection during the entire descent or it’s a mandatory test failure.

We flew it down to decision height and it was great to lift the hood and see the runway laid out below me. There was a fairly brisk crosswind (and gusty too), so I let EB land the plane with me following through on the controls. The gusts at around 150 feet weren’t repeated lower down, so it was a fairly straightforward landing in the end. Immediately taking off again, we flew back north and came in visually for a low level approach. EB made me clean up the flaps – I would have preferred to keep them down when flying so low and slow – as we made a tight oval circuit and came in to land and complete the sortie.

I was still feeling a bit apprehensive and the strong gusty crosswind wasn’t doing my confidence any good. I was told to go home, take it easy and get some rest – no point in trying to study any more – and come back refreshed for the test the following afternoon.

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