Rusty IMC skills
My IMC skills were getting a bit rusty through lack of use, and I’d been discussing with a couple of other club pilots the possibility of an IMC practice session. The idea being mainly to focus on instrument approach procedures rather than anything else.
With a day in lieu owed to me after a period of intensive business travel, the opportunity came up to share a session with Bruce, who had fairly recently passed his IMC test. We met up at Kemble around 2pm and discussed the options of where best to go. We rang Brize, but with the impending Jubilee holiday coming up they were probably short staffed and unable to accommodate us. Filton was an option, but comparatively expensive; Gloucester don’t have an ILS approach (and the NDB onboard VICC isn’t reliable). So we opted for Coventry, despite the longer flight to get there compared to Filton.
I flew the outbound leg
A quick call to their ATC booked us in, and we dug out the approach plates. With calm winds, there was no need to calculate offset courses. An instructor authorised Bruce and reconfirmed I was OK to self-authorise. Bruce helped me preflight the aircraft, testing the fuel which was on tabs. I had opted to take the outbound leg, and after departure headed north east from Kemble to Northleach and Moreton in the Marsh before acquiring the Daventry VOR and tracking that inbound.
It was clear that the VOR 1 wasn’t working, but VOR 2 seemed OK (and it is also an ILS). The ADF also didn’t appear to be functioning correctly, but the DME (newly replaced after the recent service) was working really well.
The cloud level was relatively low, perhaps 2000 feet or so, but I remained VFR with a basic service from Brize. We saw one or two other aircraft around, otherwise fairly quiet.
Change of runway
At Daventry, we contacted Coventry expecting the ILS/DME procedure for runway 23. I was not clear enough in my radio response when asked what I wanted, and had to clarify that this was the VOR/DME procedure rather than radio vectors. We briefly changed frequencies to listen to the ATIS (which we should have done earlier), and didn’t switch the radio onto “both”. So when changing back to Coventry, we heard him trying to raise us.
We were told that the runway was now changed to 05 and to navigate onto the appropriate VOR radial as required at the start of that procedure. This was a bit of a surprise, and we quickly pulled out the 05 plate and turned onto the correct radial. I was pleased at being able to acquire that fairly quickly (we were still quite close to the beacon) and confirmed that to the controller. As we progressed through the various DME milestone markers, we were told to descend to the platform height. We then were told to descend down to 1500 feet to co-ordinate with traffic departing from Birmingham.
Overshooting the turn
The turn onto the localiser is quite a steep one, about 270 degrees, and I started this a little too late – slightly overshooting the localiser path and had to correct. But was pleased to do so and follow it all the way in. I let the height drop a couple of hundred feet before acquiring the glideslope – not good if we were in full IMC – but tracked that properly once in position. It was nice to see the crosshair needles correctly centralised as we drew closer. With the airfield clearly in sight, we were cleared to land. Rounding out a bit high, we touched down and I made the turn off to taxi to the fuel pumps.
Not much there
There’s not much at the main Coventry office – the Airbase museum I’d visited before is in a separate part of the airfield – but the security man who refuelled our aircraft told us we could walk outside and just across the road to a nearby pub. After paying for fuel (and being told the price was going down the following day – highly unusual), we paid our landing and approach fees (£22) and walked to the pub. Although highly tempted to buy a pint now that my flight was complete, instead we bought coffees and debriefed.
Bruce repeats the exercise and flies us home
Bruce then took over, departing and turning right at the NDB back towards Daventry VOR. It was clear at this point that the NDB receiver wasn’t working, so we relied on our GPS to tell us where to make the turn. About a mile away from the VOR, Bruce turned onto the outbound radial and repeated what I had done. He also overshot the ILS localiser initially but recovered nicely to make a clean approach. We overflew the runway at a few hundred feet and turned right, cleared for VFR back to Kemble.
We switched to Brize for a basic service at Banbury, but they were closed and the Zone controller didn’t want to offer that service to us. With the cloud now quite low, we were down to about 1000 feet above ground at times as we navigated carefully back to Kemble. There were a few dark clouds and some rain showers around. Bruce made the usual traffic calls and we landed on 08 and taxied back to parking.
The aircraft owner was there to meet us. He planned a long daytrip to Edinburgh the following day and so we were able to explain about the ADF and VOR 1 problems. It was raining when we put the covers back on, and my flight bag and contents got a little damp. All-in-all I was pleased that I haven’t completely forgotten everything about IMC flight. Just don’t ask me about NDB holds, which definitely need more practice.
Time this flight: 1:00
Total PIC time: 108:10
Total Time: 201:15