Up above the freezing level

It was a mild culture shock to be tied to the bus timetable once again as opposed to wandering up to the field on my own schedule, and I hadn’t checked in advance with the result that my booking required either a Considerably Early or Far Too Late bus to get me there on time for my lesson.

Considerably Early of course meant there was time for a sausage sarnie first and I tucked in while idly browsing Aeromarkt and GABuyer (a letter had arrived from the insurers a few days previous confirming the hull value so I was feeling fairly optimistic)

Sarnie was followed by coffee in the flying club and a peruse of the nice long list of planned flyouts for the year, before a wander up to the tower to catch up with the gossip there.

Eventually it was actually time to fly instead of loiter so after a brief recapping VOR tracking and the general handling stuff we’d done last time I trooped out to HotelUniform and got ready to go. We’d brought the foggles along in case but the cloud had been steadily thickening all day and we met the base at around 3000′

It was indeed properly different from foggledom…  A flat, shadowless world devoid of reflections on the glass of the instrument faces to give the game away as to which way was really down or corner-of-your-eye glimpses of the real horizon out around you.

I was soon concentrating with such ferocity on the panel that when Dave told me to look up, the ice streaking the screen came as a complete shock.  This despite having discussed it in the brief as part of a reminder to check the freezing levels on the met, and being advised to include a check on the outside air temp and a visual check of the wings into my normal FREDA checks.

And on the subject of FREDA checks, were they ever sloppy today!  Brain totally full.  I just about kept on top of the carb heat, but twice needed a prompt to realign the DI, and forget entirely about changing fuel tanks until we rejoined the circuit at the end.

On the whole my heading keeping was better than my altitude holding this trip (apart from a brief ‘excursion’ when I got thoroughly distracted by trying to set the OBS and only discovered I was approaching 40 of bank when Dave pointed it out!)

I’d halfheartedly and intermittently practise VOR tracking since doing the initial training which helped a touch in knowing what I was meant to be about, but my clumsy fingers and the sensitivity of the device had me twirling back and forth as the dratted needle swung energetically from one extreme to the other as I floundered trying to fix the radial we were on!

The DME didn’t seem to want to play as all, and as we were approaching the higher ground and still picking up ice, frost forming across the leading edge of the wings, Dave told Cardiff we were going west instead so if we did have to descend we could do so safely.

Inevitably my thoughts flicked to the accident.  Had TOMS been carrying ice when Mike went in?  Was that why he couldn’t climb away when he realised where he was?  It was certainly affecting the climb performance of HotelUniform (never sparkling!) as I slogged back up into it, having drifted out the bottom while not concentrating.

Dave patted my shoulder in reassurance, “Okay?  You’re flying it very nicely.”

Was my sudden tension obvious then?  Or maybe he’d had the same thought.   I relaxed again, remembering an old trick someone had once told me when I was learning in the first place — that it’s almost impossible for the rest of you to be tense if your thighs are relaxed – so actively concentrate on relaxing that group of muscles. (and yes it does sound like some sort of double entendre!)

We changed the VOR to Strumble and I wandered along that invisible line with mixed accuracy for a while.

Time had ticked on by now and it was time to head back to the field.

Swansea used to have an ILS once upon a time, and though it hasn’t been used in years, some of the approach diagrams are still knocking about and  for training purposes “faking it” in VFR with a GPS is a relatively cheap way of getting the general idea of how the procedural approaches go.

All in all an interesting session again.

Limited panel stuff next.


4 thoughts on “Up above the freezing level

  1. Andy Hawkins

    It’s always good to get some ‘real’ IMC during the training. I was lucky enough to do the same, including a few trips around the NDB hold in ‘real’ IMC. It’s definitely a whole different ball game to the foggles or hood (personally I preferred the hood during training as it hid more).

    VOR setting can be a bit fiddly, just remember that full scale one way to the other is only 20 degrees, so twirling the knob too vigorously will have you overshooting!

    Good to see you’re still in there air.


  2. Leia Post author

    20 degrees. Yes… I think I knew that somewhere in my head but hadn’t made the logical connection to the effect when “twiddling”.

  3. AndyR

    Relax Your Thighs!

    I do believe that may have been me, passed onto me from an ex Red 1, during my formation training 🙂

    Glad to read that you are having fun and progressing. Real IMC is an eye opener, if that is not a contradiction…

  4. Leia Post author

    Quite possibly Andy – I knew it was a Flyer person!

    I’m enjoying it quite a lot really — occasional moments of alarm and dismay aside!

    I do think it’s been a help having flown a certain amount between the PPL and this though — being comfortable in the aircraft helps rather a lot. (Even though me fingers go my themselves to where the avionics were in TOMS as opposed to the rather better kitted out ‘HU)


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