Friday, October 2, 2009


You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Lately, I've been feeling like an old dog and when I read this piece it didn't help.

The key paragraph for me was this one: The ability to learn new operating procedures, new aircraft systems and such definitely becomes more difficult as a pilot ages. Recent research on learning has found that older people tend to rely on their previous knowledge, and don't retain newly learned material in long-term memory as well. Thus when pilots set out to learn something new such as a different FMS, they'll rely on the skills and general knowledge acquired over a longer period of time. These studies have shown that older participants (60 to 70) were slower and made more errors than younger pilots, especially on tasks requiring more information processing. One possible cause may lie in changes in cognitive processing associated with increasing age.

Well, I'm feeling a bit better now. Maybe some new neural pathways have been developed and maybe the extra study and time spent running the GNS430 simulator really made a difference. Certainly the patience of a good instructor helped, but all combined to allow me to have a good, solid flight yesterday.

The weather was just OK. A controlling high pressure area over West Virginia was holding back a slow moving cold front over the Great Lakes. Winds from the previous day had subsided and we were left with a broken-overcast layer at bout 5k. Temperatures have dropped down into the 50s. The Plan was to practice two VOR approaches emphasizing the Avidyne, Stec and GNS430 systems.

The Schedule was tight. I had managed to squeeze in a two hour slot to accommodate the airplane, instructor and my home/work availability. So when I got to the airport I immediately went out to the airplane to start the preflight. I only had to wait a few minutes until the CFII arrived and strapped in. After a brief chat about the approaches I had selected, I started the ground procedures and taxied out to the runup area. I set up the radios here and went through the briefing for the first approach. An interesting aspect about the VOR A at Trenton (Mercer) was the overlayed holding patterns. The initial pattern is aligned along the ARD 261 radial, the missed approach pattern is aligned with the ARD 109 radial. On the MFD this is depicted by a bold line for the initial and a normal line for the missed...I mention this because it confused me at first glance, a different look then how they are depicted on the NACO plates. (Old dog stuff)

I held off briefing the KDYL approach, only because I wanted to simulate an actual missed at Trenton and test myself on getting setup for going to an alternate.

Departure was normal as I took headings from the CFII and then from ATC. When directed to go direct I knew what to do and why to do it. I actually had to wait for the airplane to catch up, what luxury! The autopilot entered holding and I was directed to respond when ready for the approach. On the inbound leg, when I was ready, I was directed to take another turn for traffic (OBS button). Next inbound leg I was cleared, managed my vertical speed well (pushed the correct buttons), leveled at pattern altitude and entered a right downwind for RWY24. T&G back to ARD for the the next approach.

This one came at me much faster. My focus here was to insure GNS430 was set up with the correct destination in order to load the MFD with the proper approach. A little fumble, but did well enough. I'm stilled impressed when the plane follows the purple line and does a beautiful procedural turn. Again the vertical speed was fine and I leveled at pattern altitude. SBJ is the VOR for this approach and is about 23 miles from the airport. The radial accuracy at this distance is pretty wide, and the CFII made the point that in actual conditions you might be a mile either side of the runway. We entered an upwind leg to avoid traffic and terminated with a full stop.

At the hold short line the CFII provide some insight to my prior question about deleting the flight plan from the GNS430 to facilitate entering a new new destination. There is a menu item that allows you to do that, but a better option is the "remove approach". A more 'selective' cleanup, this lets you to use the system more efficiently (using things like 'invert FP' to get back home.) An uneventful departure form Doylestown to a VFR entry back at Wings. This was a fun flight.

At the debrief the CFII told me that I had shown a lot of improvement and asked what I had done wrong. The list in my head was loooong, but clearly he had something in mind so I said it was a 'perfect flight'. During the last approach, even though briefed, I had failed to properly set up the comm radios. Dumb.

So, the next one will be a short x-country to allow me to demonstrate the whole package. I'm anxious, and I'm ready.

Time = 1.6 hours.

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