Now do it without…

Been keeping this blog, and the website that preceded it, since I very first started learning but it still always slightly startles me when someone who knows me in person mentions they read it – not least when it’s the instructor whose lessons I’ve been waffling on (hopefully fairly) about!

I’m a believer in “practise what you preach” and I spend a not inconsiderable amount of time at work trying to convince my learners that writing about what you’re learning is useful and does help it stick and so forth – so what have I learned this time?

Lesson three, to date and a bit of a long gap between this and the last one, first through waiting for payday, then through a whopper of a cold which knocked me flat for one weekend and then lingered as a cough until I reluctantly marched myself to the quack to get some horsepills to knock it on the head.

Partial panel was on the menu today and I’d dutifully read the relevant chapter in the rather forebodingly coloured “Thick Grey Book”.  It rather matched the colour of the thick grey clouds in fact, which I’d been eyeballing all morning.

The rest of the week had been clear if windy and cold but today was calm and grey.  Another opportunity for real IMC, although we bunged the foggles in anyway.

It was picking to rain as I prepared HotelUniform, which hadn’t flown yet today.  (Note to self: Don’t try and bite off a ragged nail immediately after doing fuel drain check – avgas – blegh!).

Dave joined me at the aircraft and we taxyed out to Alpha for 22.  I remembered to doing a bit of swerving to check the instrument response, but again forgot to check the DI alignment.  As I write this, I’ve just scribbled a huge box around that bit on the checklist, not sure why it keeps slipping my memory — too much else I’m concentrating on – thinking about what’s coming up rather that what I’m doing right now perhaps.

We took off and climbed in a wide right turn around the field to get north of town and heading towards Brecon.  We entered cloud around 2000′ and climbed to 4000′ where we were below the freezing level but keeping an eye out — well Dave was – that was something else escaping my overloaded brain today!

I set the radial, (080 To), listened out for the ident, and after a certain amount of overshooting first in one direction then the other, managed to get myself positioned on the line and tracking it.

Up to today Dave had been handling the r/t while I was instrument flying but today he suggested I do that as well, and I could straight away see why he’d left it until now – I was a good 30 degrees (plus!) off course by the time I’d bid farewell to Swansea and hello to Cardiff!

Only practice will cure that sort of thing I suppose.  My altitude keeping also still wandered a few hundred foot either side of the 4000′ we’d selected.

With about 15nm to run to BCN we turned about to head west again and once I was settled, out came the sticky notes for the partial panel work.  One on the AI and a small handful on the DI because otherwise you could still see all around the edge!

My focus narrowed to the remaining instruments, endeavouring, at it’s simplest, to to pretty much keep everything still!  Flicking my eyes up regularly to the compass which is decidedly out of the normal line of sight, I tracked west.  More or less…

I was distantly aware, that in my concentration on the flying I had only the vaugest idea of our position and the ‘bigger picture’.

Utter lack of free brain capacity, which was probably why Dave, beside me, was advising “If this happens for real, get some help, tell someone, get some radar directions if you can, get on the ground as quick as you can.”

In point of fact I need a fair bit more practice before even radar vectors would have been much use to me given that I utterly overshot south without even realising I’d done so on at least on of the practice turns Dave asked for!

By now, we were 6 miles from Swansea and were warned when I switched back to speak to them on the r/t that the weather was deteriorating fairly rapidly there, so it was time to call a halt.

We broke cloud around about Loughor into the now fairly murky visibility below.  I stayed on instruments as Dave gave me headings to steer until I looked up to find the PAPIs of 22 before me, looking very welcoming!

A tidy enough landing (I do like ‘HU’s big, flattering tyres!) and tayed into before scrambling into coats to hurry across the apron in the now increasing rain.

Another interesting session, and I’m fairly pleased with how it’s coming along — though I do need to get enough of the mechanics of flying by the instruments into my brain, so I have a bit more mental space to think about other things, like r/t, navigation, and properly regular checks.

More of the same, and some NDB tracking next time I’m told.


2 thoughts on “Now do it without…

  1. Andy Hawkins

    The ‘overload’ thing is just something you get used to. You can draw a parallel with your early PPL training. Initially you couldn’t maintain straight and level. Then you found the circuit hard. R/T was an undecipherable jumble.

    All of a sudden you’re doing solo cross countrys, and none of the stuff you previously found hard really registers. You get used to doing it, which frees up some mental capacity to allow you to do other things as well.

    To a certain extent I find partial panel a little easier. There’s less to look at! As your Instructor says, if it happens for real, get some help, and get down. That’d definitely be the way I was thinking.

    Interesting comment about your Instructor reading your blog. I wonder sometimes if I put too much information about the people I fly with in mine. I only tend to use first names, but it wouldn’t be too hard to find the full name of any of them. I’d hate one of my Instructors / Examiners to read a blog entry and take something I’d written the wrong way.

    Best of luck with the rest of the IMC. When you do an ILS in real IMC from FL50, breaking cloud about 1300 feet AAL and then carry on down to a near perfect touchdown with a 90 degree crosswind, you get an amazing feeling of satisfaction. I know I did on Saturday!


  2. Leia Post author

    It does help having been through a similar learning curve once with the initial PPL that’s for certain! I know the full-brain will pass at least!


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