Thursday, January 26, 2006

Into the Class B

Objective of this flight: Get away from the patch and work the system. The plan was to fly down to Pine Mountain (Calloway Gardens) KPIM, shoot a GPS approach, come home over Atlanta for ILS 27 at McCollum (KRYY). We used to call them TCAs (upside down wedding cakes) reserved for the busiest of airports. While I've worked with Atlanta Center many times, this would be my first venture into the crowded airspace all by myself.

All the planning was done at home, my first time filing a flight plan from my home office. Weather was perfect VFR, not a cloud in the sky and very light winds. I got to airport just before 4:00, got the dispatch kit and went out to preflight. I had planned a 2130z departure, so had plenty of time to set up the radios. I expected a far different clearance from the one filed, so prepared myself to make the changes. To my surprise, I was cleared as filed, fly heading 260, climb and maintain 3000, expect 4000 ten minutes after. Cool.

Taxi, runup and takeoff were all normal. switched to departure, hit the ident button and waited. He was busy, but I always wonder how long to wait before reminding ATC that I'm waiting for radar contact. When he did contact me he had me turn to 180 and told me I would be on vectors down to PIM. (So much for the flight plan.)

This is GREAT stuff! Flying alone in Class B, talking to controllers, watching for traffic, just doing all of the 'stuff' I've been training to do.

I planned to do the GPS-A at PIM, which has an initial approach fix called JUKRU. I got a late frequency change and was passing the fix by the time Approach figured out what I wanted to do. No problem, I responded by going direct CARVA (Final Approach Fix) and playing the GPS to make it all happen. No problem on a clear day like this, I had the field in sight early and could easily have made the landing. Missed there and headed for home.

Again, the filed flight plan wouldn't work. Center didn't want me to fly directly over Hartsfield so I was told to go direct MIKEE. Ah, nice to have the GPS now, much easier to dial it in rather then find the defining navaids, set the radials and determine the correct intercept. A few minutes later I'm given vectors again, fly 360.

I asked for and was granted vectors for the ILS. Now this was really nice, as it took me directly over Dobbins AFB and close to downtown Atlanta. Very Cool! The rest of the approach and landing was uneventful. (Really easy when you can see the runway.) 215 miles, 5,090 feet and a max ground speed of 152 mph.

Time = 2.2 hrs

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Local Area Bounce

Objectives of this flight: Shoot some Touch and Goes. Instrument flying has been great, but my first love in aviation has always been the landings. That sweet squeak when the mains just kiss the asphalt and you feel the struts gently contract... well, if you don't know I can't explain it to you.

It's the middle of January and the temperature is in the mid 60's, clear as it gets and I have some money in my 'prepay' account. Got to the airport about 4:00. My CFI is sitting in lounge waiting for another student and asks where I'm going. After all this time and effort to get my Instrument ticket back, its hard to believe that I just want to go out and bounce.

Normal preflight, taxi and runup. Its busy today and I have to wait a few minutes before cleared for takeoff. The plane jumps into the air when no one is in the right seat. It has been awhile, no climb checklist since I'm staying in the pattern. (What are my settings and speeds?) It all comes back quickly. Tower calls, looking for traffic and making appropriate corrections for spacing comes easily now.

8 total, 4 good (3 great), 4 "OK" (1 salvaged...balloon), full flaps, half flaps, No flaps, and all with a mild (6-8kt) left crosswind. I had a smile on my face the whole time. "Peaceful", "At Home", "Comfortable" is how I would describe it.

Next time I'll have to wander away from the patch and go explore something, but today was a good day just to bounce.

Time = 1.1

*the track was created using Magnalox. (#1152 'Local Bounce'.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I had a personal accomplishment last evening. I completed my IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check) and am now allowed by the Federal Government (FAA) to fly in clouds. I can now use the radar systems of the United States (ATC), fly on designated airways and execute standard approach procedures into airports. I've always felt that the Instrument Rating was the most difficult one to get, and am pleased to have these privileges reinstated.

I arrived at the airport about 4:00 PM local, had a short brief with the CFI , grabbed the dispatch kit and went out to start the preflight. The cold front that passed through with such energy in the morning, had left behind a beautiful blue sky and unusually mild temperatures (65F). The preflight was normal (although getting up to check the fuel level with my 'bum' leg was a bit difficult.) All checks complete, I got to the point where you turn the key and....nothing. Dead battery. I don't believe in 'bad omens' but this was not an auspicious start. Fortunately another C172 (w/Garmin 430) was available so we jumped over to that one.

Taxi was a bit unusual as some paperwork needed to be delivered to the maintenance shop on the north side of the field. This was my first time over there in an airplane, but no big deal. The nice thing is, they have a 'formal' run-up
area, felt almost professional to have a space to do this other then a taxi way.

The plan was to fly north up to Calhoun, do a 'mystery' approach somewhere, and come home with the ILS. I took my time and used AMICEATM to get set for the approach. Weather is obtained from CTAF, or use the Rome altimeter settings. The Rome frequency is not listed on the approach plate, so I used the GPS nearest function to get the frequency. I fumbled a bit getting GPS back to the approach, but no major errors. The clock was broken in the airplane, so I used a combination wristwatch and Westclok for the timings. Overall, the approach went well. There were strong crosswinds but I was able to keep the needle alive. I executed the missed there and headed for the holding pattern.

The intent of the 'mystery approach' was to have me control the airplane while reaching back for my approach plates, leaf through the binder to find the right approach, brief it, set up the radios and execute it. This simulates a contingency situation, the kind of thing that happens when for whatever reason, the planned approach doesn't work.

Key here is scan. Flying the airplane while searching for the approach is cumbersome, but good trim and constant scan make it doable. He chose the GPS RWY 34 at Pickens County (which can be found under Jasper). While I could easily dial in the GPS, I needed the approach plate to determine the closest IAF. The rest of the approach was normal, except that the last pilot had set the GPS for 'airplane up' instead of 'north up' which is my preference. I got
slightly confused on the first turn as I tried to transition form the screen to the plate. (Later, we changed the preference.) The rest of the approach was uneventful. Missed there and headed for home. By this time it was getting dark, and it was nice to find that the panel lights worked! (I still had my flashlight at the ready.)

Climbed to 3000, headed roughly south and listend to ATIS for KRYY. I contacted Atlanta Approach and requested
vectors for ILS 27. No problems. I was 'on rails' until the end where I zigged to the left a bit. Overall a very good approach and nice landing.

Assessment: The most challenging (and interesting) part of this 're-training' was the use of GPS. Tuning in and flying the needles came back rather quickly. However, adding the 'TV Set' into the scan, and prioritizing it properly was much more difficult then expected. Once I learned to relegate it to a secondary system, I did much better. (I spent far too much time trying to tune the GPS, when I could have accomplished the same thing by twisting a radio knob.) There is no question that the situational awareness provided is simply wonderful, but the other aspects of Aviate - Navigate - Communicate can not be sacrificed for that extra bit of added awareness.

Time = 1.7