I am once again behind on the blog updates. On Saturday I went for another IFR training flight. The goal was to do more practice with holds and to fly both an ILS and two VOR approaches. On my previous flights I didn’t have the opportunity to practice an intersection hold so that would be one of the goals. Just like the last time I was doing holds for real the winds aloft were fierce – up to 30 knots.
After departing Nashua we proceeded direct to the KHRIS intersection which is defined by the intersection of the 060 Radial off the Manchester (MHT) VOR and the 154 Radial off the Concord (CON) VOR. The hold itself is along the 154 Radial, right turns, 1 minute legs. The first step was to fly direct to KHRIS. I began by navigating using the Manchester VOR while Doug dialed KHRIS into the Garmin 430 GPS to navigate direct. On the way I setup my two NAV radios for the Concord and Manchester VORs. About three minutes from KHRIS I began slowing the airplane down for the hold by reducing power and holding altitude. With the power setting I’ve chosen for holding the airspeed drops down to around 90 knots in the clean configuration (landing gear and flaps up).
There are multiple ways to enter a hold depending on which direction you come from relative to the hold. These entries are called “Direct”, “Parallel” and “Teardrop”. If you approach a hold such that you do not need to make a sharp turn to enter the hold after passing the holding fix then a direct entry is appropriate. Otherwise you need to choose between the Parallel and Teardrop course reversals. The important part is that you remain on the holding side of the VOR radial since the airspace on the other side is not protected (ATC could put other airplanes there). To enter the hold at KHRIS I used a parallel entry although a teardrop would have worked as well.
Once passing the KHRIS entry and turning to a 334 heading the wind became a direct crosswind. I applied a substantial amount of wind correction to the left and started my timer for the one minute parallel leg. With one minute up I turned more than 180 degrees to the left and back in on a course to re-intercept the 154 radial off of Concord (the inbound holding course). Once this was reintercepted I tracked that radial, adjusting for wind, until the KHRIS interception was indicated by the second NAV radio’s CDI centering the needles. At this point I reported to ATC that we were established in the hold at 3500 feet and began my first right turn around the hold.
After several rounds around the hold at KHRIS without major issues we decided to depart for the Concord VOR. This would give me the opportunity to practice another hold entry and also provide a transition point to do the ILS 17 approach at Manchester. I increased the power back to a cruise setting and headed for the Concord VOR. I don’t remember what entry I used here but it was either parallel or teardrop again. I settled into the hold reasonably well although the crosswind was challenging.
Soon ATC reported: “To your west about 8 miles an area of moderate precipitation, moving east quite rapidly… A jet departing reported moderate turbulence, moderate chop.” Of course, by this point I have been flying for almost an hour and a half without being able to see outside. I asked Doug how it looked outside and he said it was looking much hazier and there was rain off to the left. We could either head straight back to Nashua or call ATC and request a pop up IFR clearance to continue holding at the Concord VOR. It did not take me long to answer!
I requested the IFR clearance and got ready to copy it down while still flying the airplane. It took a few moments to get the clearance and soon the controller came back with “Cardinal 52667 you are cleared to the Concord VOR via… continued holding, maintain 3500, expect further clearance 20:00, let me know whenever you want to continue and do an approach”. Now we were legally on an IFR clearance and I continued to hold.
It was not Doug told me to take the foggles off and sure enough we were headed in and out of clouds and light rain. There was certainly no discernible horizon. I focused on the gauges and glanced up occasionally to experience the view of IMC. The rain soon got much heavier, definitely moderate precipitation. Each time I circled the hold I went in and out of the cloud and the area of moderate precip. In the cloud there were some fairly intense updrafts and I would suddenly find myself climbing a few hundred feet per minute and have to push on the yoke to remain level then the opposite would happen as I passed through the weather.
Soon we decided to advise ATC that we wanted to fly the ILS 17 at Manchester. I was immediately cleared to the Manchester airport via the Concord transition ILS 17 approach. I proceeded following the approach plate from the Concord VOR to intercept the runway 17 Localizer at the ROCKR waypoint. Along the way Doug flew the airplane while I briefed the approach and set up the radios. Visbility had improved but I stayed focused on the gauges. We planned to fly the ILS down to the Decision Altitude of 429 feet (200 above ground).
Soon I was back to flying the airplane and got my approach clearance which I read back “6 miles from KIMBR, maintain 2100 ’til established, cleared ILS 17 approach Cardinal 52667″. Intercepting the glideslope at 2100 feet I put the gear down and flaps 10 and began descending at 500 feet per minute to follow the glideslope needle. Once again, it was a direct crosswind! I focused on the approach and flew it down to 450 feet and looked up to see the runway in position. Doug asked me if I was prepared to land and I said I felt I could have landing it and he said “OK, go missed!”
Missed approach: Full power, climb pitch, gear up, flaps up, cowl flaps open. For the ILS 17 at Manchester, a climb to 800 feet straight ahead then climb to 2000 feet direct to the Manchester VOR unless advised by ATC. Tower advised me to proceed direct to the VOR, and contact approach again. Back on with approach we requested the VOR-A approach into Nashua (currently the only approach)
I grabbed the plate to quickly brief the approach while climbing towards the VOR since we didn’t have much time before reaching it. IFR is all about multitasking. This time the approach was not as cleanly flown as last time but I still ended up over the airport within a very reasonable tolerance.
There was no traffic to follow and with the airport now in sight and my foggles off I entered a left pattern for runway 14 and was cleared to land. Unfortunately what followed as a disappointing landing. While I was in a great position to land at Manchester at Nashua the circling approach combined with all of the close focused panel work meant that my sight picture was all messed up and I flared way too high. It wasn’t too bad, and I ended the flight with 0.5 of actual instrument time.
All in all the flight was a great confidence boost and a good reminder of why I have been doing the IFR training. When we debriefed the biggest thing to work on is transition from instrument flight back to visual for the landing. My instructor said that for many people transition into instrument flight is tricky but I didn’t have a problem with that. I’m excited for the next actual instrument experience with a better landing at the end!