Friday, September 18, 2009


Finally, the weather was good. A cold front had stalled up in Canada leaving the weather here fairly good. I made the trip along Rt73 out to Wings in the sunshine. It was great.

I was a bit nervous since once again it had been two weeks, but I also had the touch of confidence. I am learning this stuff and felt that I could perform if I just allowed myself to think through instead of react to the situation at hand. I was ready to see what I really know about the system.

The airplane had been flown already so I knew to use the warm start procedure. The destination was quite close, therefore all the radio set up and briefings were done in the run-up area. Take off was normal, actually smooth and I refrained from clicking on George right away. Instead I climbed to 1300 and departed to the North manually. Once comfortable I exercised the knobology for the climb and set up the approach. He brought me in from the north, cleared me for the approach with one turn in the published holding pattern. So with George in Nav mode, I slected the VOR as my source, engaged approach mode as the CDI came alive and used the GNS430 flight plan to scroll down to the proper holding fix. As you can see from my track, I didn't select a great enough rate of descent to get down to the MDA before going missed.

The good news was I understood how to translate my clearance into the proper system sequence to get the airplane to execute the approach. Good stuff! Missed back to holding (learned a trick or two about the rev button) and did approach number 2. This time I chose about 900 fpm descent which got me down in time, and again executed the missed.

The big lesson: He asked me to execute the VOR-B into Pottstown Muni (N47) from the holding pattern. It is always a bit messy to thumb through the approach plates, find the right one and get setup. No paper approach plates in this airplane, insted you load the MFD. Getting this done smoothly will take some polish, but after multiple attempts I did get it done. I also needed to load the GNS430 and found that N47 should be inserted in the enroute section, not under the approach section. I have some research do for homework here, to find the easiest way to set this up. I think pressing and holding the clear button might eliminate the current flight plan allowing insertion of the new destination to be a bit easier. It was a good exercise.

Home to a VFR entry to runway 24 with an acceptable landing. I was really happy with this one.

Time = 1.7

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A difference

We were a bit shocked when the sun peeked through today, after all its been nearly a week of gray skies and gloomy weather. I had a flight scheduled for Friday (9/11) but when I got up for my first conference call I knew it wasn't going to happen. Ugly clouds and a low pressure area generating gusty winds and rain showers was positioned right over Philadelphia. If the water temperatures had been 20 degrees warmer it could have been a tropical storm, instead it was just "Canc- Wx".

Disappointed, I sat back in my favorite chair and picked up the latest issue of "The Aviation Consumer" and started paging through. I liked the article by Bertorelli on page #4, EFIS Report Card. "Glass panels require a lot of consistent usage. It's comparable to using a computer program. If you don't use it every day, you won't know all of the features or be proficient in operation...flying once a month won't do it." Amen to that.

A simple example; going from en-route to a vectors to final. The 'old way' was to brief the approach, ensure navaides were set up and identified, current weather, etc. When the controller said 'Turn Right heading X, you turned right heading X. The 'new way' has the same setup, brief, etc, but a different flow. You see, you're not flying the A/C, George is, and you need to translate the commands so George can understand them. So, "Turn right heading X" means checking on the PFD where the heading bug is, ensure the heading function button is active, push the right hand knob to center it. Next check the autopilot, go from Nav Mode to Heading Mode. Now twist the knob on the PFD to the correct heading. (also, set up the GNS430 to activate vectors to final...but you would do that anyway if you had one installed.)

Does that sound like MORE work? Actually it isn't, its just different.You do more then 'just turn to X' using the old way. Your scan is minding altitude, your checking position with the tail of the needle, trimming, watching for the roll out heading, etc. That all seems natural to the point it almost becomes automatic. Telling George to do it takes care of the flying and more, and all agree that the 'situational awareness' is fantastic, but pushing the buttons is not (yet) automatic. That's the difference.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Finally good weather. Fall has come to the Northeast, temperatures are about ten degrees cooler and the skies have turned to blue.

After another two weeks to fly my easy chair thinking about knobology and procedures, I felt pretty good about getting back into the cockpit. (Not over confident by and stretch, but knowledgeable enough with GNS430 and S-Tec 55 to get from Point A to Point B.)

The CFII suggested we do the VOR-A at Allentown. Now, I've been around enough to know that VOR-A approaches are not necessarily simple. Most have little tricks or nuances that if missed during the setup will almost always cause a missed approach. This would be no exception.

The ground stuff was normal (and not perfect). My mindset was different as I was convinced not to let my errors block my attention to other things. Among these other things, I should have set a more aggressive rate of climb on the autopilot for after take off. Otherwise climb out and departure were normal (and while cautious I was pushing the right buttons.) The CFII did a great job of quizzing me on the approach setup, questioning what needed to be done, where was I on the approach what I should be doing, etc. I'm finally starting to manage the systems, not ahead of them but at least with them. I had set up the approach to go to HOPPS, and worked the navcomms in the GNS430 to define that intersection. When the Controller approved vectors to final I altered my plan and chose the right option. And here I had a brain fart. You see, this approach has a dog leg, 210 into FJC followed by 182 outbound, so my brain told me that 182 was the final approach course. Wrong answer. Now, I had FJC dialed in, I had 210 dialed in and I hit approach mode when my CDI came alive, but my slow cooker of a brain was still trying to reconcile the FAC. In my mind, this means a lot of twisting and turning to get this to all work out. Nope, the plane can handle it just fine. What it can't do is start the descent unless I tell it to. So, I should have started a pretty aggressive descent at BOUNCE, instead I was worried about what was going to happen at the VORTAC. Blew it.

The Tower was very nice when I told him we were going missed and I'm sure he was glad that we were leaving his control to the south. I switched and then canceled Radar Services with Allentown and headed home. One more head work error setting up for the VFR entry. I've always crossed the field 2500' to descend to pattern altitude for RWY24. KLOM was landing RWY06, so again my head was...well not screwed tightly where it should be. The CFII helped me save some dignity by having me fly North to avoid traffic, essentially giving me another shot at it. I got the speed off and flew something resembling a pattern to an OK landing (not great and left of center-line) .

This was actually a good flight. I messed up a lot, but I've been in this place before. I haven't made all possible mistakes, but a large enough percentage that I can start moving forward. I have just a hint of optimism, a dash of confidence, and a better idea of who I am. The journey continues.

Time = 1.2 hours


The weather has been a real challenge this year. While I had scheduled about four sessions, three were canceled before I got to the car for the drive to the airport. Some has been frontal activity but most was just convective buildup. It didn't seem to make much difference what time of the day I tried, weather was a factor.

So I was happy to take some time off on a Friday morning that looked like I could get some time in. Unfortunately It wasn't going to stay clear long enough for me to get my work done. By the time we got out to Lancaster the weather data in the aircraft was showing red and purple blotches on the final approach course. So, with ATC advising us that the cells were ominous we changed our plans and diverted to KLOM. I chose the GPS06 circle to land RWY24. The landing back home was a good one, in gusty cross winds.

So some progress is being made, but not nearly as fast as I had hoped. Basic airwork is fine, and I enjoy hand flying the plane. Headwork is below average; I'm still not thinking like an IFR pilot and making mental errors that I allow to distract me. The most important thing holding me back are procedures. Fortunately, that is something that can be corrected. I'm frustrated, but part of this endeavor is learning more about myself in addition to the airplane and it's systems.

Time = 1.1
0.5 Actual

* I was sitting in my home office enduring yet another conference call while looking out at gorgeous blue cloudless skies. Flying west at about 3000' I saw a four engine piston aircraft. Yes, a B17, probably out of Lancaster following the airshow. Pretty darn cool.