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2005 Accelerated Instrument Training - Day 3

What We Did:

Date: April 3, 2005

After a breakfast of potato pancakes, Bill and I headed over to the airport to look at the weather (still crappy, but not as crappy as yesterday - it wasn't raining when we got to the field. After some discussion, we decided to head over to Utica, NY (KUCA), shoot the ILS there and visit one of Bill's friends who runs a flight school there (as a sideline to his funeral home, apparently - if he does a lousy job of teaching them how to fly, at least he can give them a nice burial).

I called the Flight Service Station and filed my first IFR flight plan. It's funny what I get nervous about - I wasn't particularly worried about the flight, or being in the clouds or rain, but I was deathly afraid about making a mistake calling in to file the flight plan. Weird, huh? Apparently I did it right, because they took it.

We climbed out of Schenectady and entered the clouds at about 2500 ft. The whole 40 minute flight to Utica was in the clouds, with light (maybe a bit of moderate, but not much) turbulence and light to moderate rain almost the whole way there. I was pretty nervous at first, being in the clouds for the first time, but Bill never touched the controls and didn't have to poke me too hard too many times to get me to remember to do the things I was supposed to be doing. We had requested 4000 ft altitude, and I was able to keep us within 200 ft. just about the whole time, even with the turbulence. Not great, but for the first time, I'll take it. We were vectored onto the ILS and we landed in moderate rain showers at Utica. I had a difficult time flying the plane, handling the radio calls (Bill had to pick up about 1/2 of them so that we didn't piss off ATC too often), and keeping all the navigation instruments going all at the same time, but I wasn't TOO far behind. I tend to have to think a LOT about what I'm going to say on the radio so I don't stumble a lot. I had some water dripping on my hand and arm most of the way there, but it didn't get me very wet, and didn't interfere with anything.

After hanging out for a while, talking about the COZY with some of the folks at a IFR refresher course Bill and I crashed for about 1/2 hour, we filed back to Schenectady. Since icing was being reported at 5000 ft. and above, we filed for 4000 ft. even though we were going east. I guess that neither Griffiss nor Albany approach were very busy, because neither of them had a problem with it, although the briefer at FSS asked me whether I knew that I was filing 4000 ft even though I was going east. I explained the icing situation, and it went through.

We ran out to the plane and jumped in as fast as we could in the rain (this is one place where a high wing airplane with doors is nice). We only got a little wet. I got my clearance and taxied to the active runway. This was the most difficult thing from a visibility standpoint - in the rain, with the inside fogging up a bit, it was hard to see the taxiway centerline. After we got moving, the fog disappeared, the rain streamed back, and I started getting the drip on my hand/arm again. This time, I wore a glove and didn't care. We joined up with airway V2 and headed toward the Albany VOR into the wind. I was a bit more comfortable this time, and was able to handle the multiple tasks more easily (although not without help from Bill at times).

Even at 4000 ft., we were picking up just a touch of ice -something with which I had been VERY concerned. I could see a tiny bit on the canard trailing edge and the tips, but I couldn't see any on the leading edge of the wing. I did not notice ANY degradation of flying qualities. We decided to stay at 4000 ft, since we were only going to be there for another 15 minutes or so, we knew that we could descend below 2000 ft into VFR conditions, and the temperatures at the surface were over 45 degrees and we were at just about freezing. As we descended for the approach, the ice flew off in thin bits - it was weird seeing it breaking off the nose and canard and whizzing backwards.

We were vectored to the ILS to runway 4, but the winds were favoring 22, so I got to do my first "circle-to-land" approach. Pretty much a low right hand pattern, close in.

Bill was pretty happy with how things went - probably happier than I was. That's a good thing - it's nice when the instructor thinks I'm doing a good job. We decided to fuel up, take a break, and then head out again for another flight. We decided to repeat what we did on the first day - head over to the Cambridge VOR, do a few holds, do a VOR approach into Bennington, and then do the ILS into Glens Falls. I filed a "round robin" flight plan from Schenectady back to Schenectady, this time at 3500 ft. to avoid the icing levels. We departed Schenectady and when we contacted Albany approach, they mistakenly thought that we were VFR and gave me some instructions to remain VFR. I missed that part of the call, but Bill caught it and reminded them that we were not only IFR but in IMC. They then vectored us around toward Cambridge, and we did 4 turns around the holding pattern. The first one was pretty ugly, but by the fourth one I had the radials and timing nailed pretty good. We exited the hold and did the VOR into Bennington, then executed the missed approach and headed back to Cambridge. From there, we headed over to the ILS at Glens Falls, executed the missed there as well, and then were vectored back to Schenectady.

Once again, we flew the ILS to runway 4 and circled to land on 22.

So, 3.4 hours in the air, all in actual Instrument Meteorological Conditions on my second day of real flight instruction. Bill and I were both pretty psyched - the day had gone well, I had progressed a lot from the first leg to Utica to the last leg back to Schenectady, and he said that I could pass the test if I took it now. He's hallucinating, of course - 6 hours of actual instrument instruction, even with 10 - 15 hours of simulator time, is NOT going to be enough to pass the test, much less be safe, but it's nice to hear him say it, and that's probably why he did so.

We went to dinner at Friendly's, and then Bill dropped me off at the motel. Tomorrow, we'll do another long flight in IMC (the weather is still projected to be crappy) and practice a bunch of partial panel work as well as some unusual attitude recovery work. Whoo, hoo.


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