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2005 Accelerated Instrument Training - Day 6

What We Did:

Date: April 6, 2005

I checked out of the motel a day earlier than I expected, and we went for breakfast. Didn't see that coming, did you?

Today's plan was to fly up to the Messina VOR and practice approaches (VOR, ILS, LOC), as well as holds, timed turns, timed descents, and partial panel turns and approaches. After that, we'd land at Malone, and I'd take the Instrument Checkride with Dan Wills, and then we'd fly Bill back to Schenectady, and I'd fly home to Fitchburg.

We left Schenectady and headed up over the Adirondack mountains, almost due north. It was a beautiful VFR day - a few high clouds, but for the most part, blue sky and warm (in the 50's). We did the practice work as planned, and Bill said it was the best pre-check ride he'd done in his last 40 students. I never believe people when they say things like that to me, because I know all the things I did wrong. But it's nice to hear, and I was just hoping that it wouldn't be the kiss of death. After that, we landed at Malone and waited for Dan to arrive from Pennsylvania. He was late getting back because he had forgotten to change his clocks on Saturday night for Eastern Daylight Time.


We got some lunch while we were waiting, and when Dan came back we started the checkride. First, he checked over all of the paperwork. Then we spent about 1.5 hours talking on the ground, going over procedures, techniques, choices, etc. After that we got in the plane and at about 300 ft. I put the "foggles" on so I couldn't see out, and we headed over to the Messina VOR. First, I flew the Messina VOR approach, doing the holding pattern procedure turn, heading inbound, and performing the missed approach at the right time.

We turned back to the VOR and I flew the transition to the ILS approach. We flew the Localizer outbound, I did the procedure turn, and then followed the Localizer inbound, picked up the Glideslope, and did the missed approach at the minimum altitude. We picked up the Localizer outbound again and I executed a few turns in the holding pattern at the outer marker. On the outbound leg, Dan failed my gyros and had me do a partial panel Localizer approach, ignoring the Glideslope.

I was doing great - staying on the Localizer, holding altitude, and starting my descent (all while making radio calls to the uncontrolled airport - I felt like I was one of those guys juggling 37 plates on sticks, and keeping them all spinning - I don't know how anyone flies single pilot IFR in IMC without an autopilot) at the outer marker. I screwed up though - I forgot to start the timer at the outer marker, and about halfway down to the minimum altitude, I realized that I had no way of determining where the heck the "missed approach point" was. I spent about 5 seconds thinking about that and finally decided that fessing up and executing the missed approach was the only safe answer, and by the time I made that decision, announced it, and began adding power, I had busted the minimum altitude by about 50 feet. Dan said I did the right thing though - I'm going to screw up on occasion, and knowing when to bail out and not try to force things is a good thing. I SHOULDN'T have tried to figure a way out though - I should just have executed the missed as soon as I realized the timing error gave me no way of identifying the missed approach point.

Good thing you don't have to get a 100% on the test..... Anyway, as soon as I started the missed, Dan said to execute a circling approach and land on runway 09, so that's what I did. We then took off and headed back to the VOR, and then back to Malone. I let Dan fly the plane for five or ten minutes - he did some steep turns and just explored the controls. I have to say, he did a great job of holding altitude in steep turns - better than I do, after 2.5 years of flying the thing. Some folks are just born to be pilots, I guess.

He had me put the "foggles" back on and had me stare at the enroute chart for about 15 seconds while he put the plane into a partial panel "unusual attitude", which in this case turned out to be a 45 degree banked diving turn to the right. I pulled the throttle back to idle, leveled the wings using the turn and bank indicator, and then pulled back to stop the altimeter from moving. Next we did some timed 180 degree turns, both left and right (I ended up about 30 degrees off of the heading I started out at after 2 minutes), and then a timed descent. I misinterpreted his instruction and descended 1000 ft. over 2 minutes rather than 500 ft. over one minute, but I was within 100 ft. of the altitude I was shooting for (too bad it wasn't the altitude HE was shooting for). Again, good thing you don't have to get a 100% on the test.

That was it - we were done. Dan asked me how it felt to be instrument rated, and all I could do was say "tired". We landed and then finished up the paperwork, and Dan gave me my temporary certificate.

Oh, and by the way, the engine didn't stumble or burp ONCE on the whole checkride. Go figure.

Here's N83MZ in front of the town building at the Malone, NY (KMAL) airport. It's a quiet little place - very flat, just south of the St. Lawrence River. You can just about see the river and Canada on the other side. It was a GORGEOUS day.
I was COMPLETELY exhausted after the checkride - just a touch of nausea, but physically and mentally beat. Bill and I got ready to go, loaded up, and took off. After we climbed to 6500 ft to head south to Schenectady, I asked Bill to take over, and he flew the rest of the way back. Another guy that flies my plane better than I do, with all of 2 minutes of practice. Of course, his 12,000 hours in all sorts of aircraft helps a bit, I guess.

We landed and I put the ballast back in, loaded up my gear, paid Bill the rest of what I owed him, and thanked him for a great experience and education. I then took off and headed away from the setting sun back to Fitchburg. After landing, I put the plane away and drove home.

So, $2400 to Bill, $400 to the Days Inn, $300 to Dan Wills, $400 in gas, and some food money, for a total of about $3700 (not counting the cost of operating the plane OTHER than the gas). It would have cost $1K - $3K more to go to one of the big name schools, and probably about $2K less to get the rating in my plane with a regular instructor over the course of a couple of months. I wanted to get it done fast - I think that the accelerated course is better for speed and retention, and I didn't want to stretch it out over a long time period.

I had a great (but grueling) time, and I would recommend this method of getting an IR.

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