More instrument training in Actual, Filing IFR

Monday was Columbus Day which meant a company wide day off from work. But since my CFII is available on Tuesdays instead I worked on Monday and took off Tuesday in lieu. This was nice for commute traffic reasons as well and as it turns out three other people from engineering did the same thing. Even better the weather on Tuesday was forecast to have some light rain and clouds at 2000 feet and the freezing levels were up at 5000 feet giving some room to experience some more actual instrument conditions.

Doug and I met up in the morning, discussed the weather and approaches, and decided that we would do the ILS 35 into MHT (Manchester, NH), the VOR 23 into LWM (Lawrence, MA), and the VOR-A approach back into Nashua. Nashua is still recovering from the runway construction and thus all other instrument approaches are out of service. But the weather was sufficient for the circling VOR-A approach so there would be no issue. Unlike last time we filed IFR ahead of time (using Doug’s information) and we would be on an IFR clearance for our entire flight. With the flight plan filed it was the perfect time for an early lunch so we walked over to the Midfield Cafe and grabbed a quick lunch before heading out.

Since this was an IFR departure from Nashua the procedure was a bit different. When I called up ground ready to taxi I said we were “IFR to Nashua” and the controller came back with the taxi instructions and then the clearance. The clearance was “N52667 is cleared to the Nashua airport via Radar Vectors, direct Manchester, then as filed. Climb and maintain 3000, squawk 1234, departure frequency 124.9.” I copied the clearance down correctly onto my kneeboard as the controller read it off but when I read it back to him my brain automatically stuck “five hundred” on the end of the altitude since I am used to reading off standard VFR altitudes! Doug laughed at me since he could see I’d correctly written down the altitude and made the freudian slip on the read back. The controller corrected my error and I taxied to the run-up area.

Once my normal run-up procedure was complete we did a few more IFR specific things including setting up the avionics stack (communication and navigation radios and GPS) for our expected route and pre-briefing the ILS 35 approach before leaving the ground. With all final checks completed I contacted the tower controller for our IFR release and waited while they coordinated our release with Boston approach. The final instructions included an initial heading “Cardinal 52667, after takeoff fly heading 180, cleared for takeoff runway 32″.

Climbing through 1000 feet I put on my blockalls instrument goggles. But by 2000 feet Doug told me to take them off since we were in and out of a broken layer. You could catch intermittent glimpses of the ground but no discernible horizon as Boston approach vectored us around for the ILS approach. Some other aircraft were doing practice approaches including a C-130 from the Rhode Island national guard with the call sign “Roady 38″.

After intercepting the glideslope and starting the descent eventually we broke out of the clouds and I had put the foggles back on. I did a reasonably good job on the ILS although it was hard work. Around 50 feet above minimums Doug had me look up and pull the foggles off and sure enough the runway was just a bit to our left. It would have been landable, but instead we executed the missed approach procedure. ATC had assigned an alternate missed approach procedure with a vector to fly, climb and maintain 3000 and by the time we were back up in the clouds again we were direct to the Lawrence VOR for the VOR-23 approach.

This time I briefed the approach in the air as we were in and out of the clouds. The view out of the window was never sufficient to maintain control without reference to the instruments. Unlike the Manchester ILS approach where ATC vectored us onto the final approach course for the VOR 23 we requested a “full approach”. This is done by flying to the Lawrence VOR, flying outbound on a particular radial from the VOR, performing a “procedure turn” to reverse course and rejoin that radial now flying towards the airport. We chose the VOR 23 for practice because the VOR itself is very near the airport but not exactly at it (you pass over the VOR about a mile and a half from the runway). Since the VOR signal gets squirrely directly over the VOR you need to be stabilized on a heading and wind correction in and continue flying that heading to reach the airport.

Flying the full procedure was a lot of work and I felt a bit rushed but the approach itself was well executed. Despite the VOR being close to the airport I held the course and when I looked up we were nicely aligned with the runway. The VOR 23 was not actually a good approach for landing since we had somewhat of a tailwind but it was the best VOR approach around. Since we weren’t planning on landing we advised the Lawrence Tower of our missed approach and climbed back up into the clouds once more.

Back with Boston approach I flew assigned vectors to the final approach course. The vectors took us west of the Manchester VOR first then intercepted the inbound course. The VOR-A is getting familiar now. Approaching the VOR we are cleared for the approach. Passing the VOR I put flaps 10 and gear down and begin the descent towards the minimum descent altitude of 900 feet. For a nonprecision approach like the VOR-A the descent is selected such that the MDA is reached prior to the airport and I increased the power and leveled off for the last part of the approach. Overhead the airport is the missed approach point and at this point I looked up and began the circling maneuver to Runway 32.

Unlike my last attempts at the circling maneuver this one was a bit nicer. The landing was a bit hard but tolerable. I’ll continue working on the transition between close focused instrument work and looking outside and focusing in the distance for the visual landings. Doug says many students have problems with the transition from Visual to Instrument flight in both directions, but my problem is primarily the instrument to visual transition.

With the plane tied down we went inside and debriefed. With some time left in the day but the weather a bit crummier I decided to spend some time in the Frasca Sim doing some approaches we don’t have easy access to. There aren’t many DME Arc approaches in our area. But an old approach plate from the 90s into Manchester features a DME ARC to the ILS 35. One other nice thing about the sim is that you can see the overhead and vertical profile of the approach. The DME arc looked very nice and the approach was right on the glideslope.

The other nice thing about the sim is it makes it easy to practice entering a nonpublished hold from several directions. Doing this in real conditions requires negotiating the hold with ATC (or asking them to make something up) which is extra workload for them. With Doug playing ATC I did several hold entries which looked nice on the overview.

My instrument training is coming along very nicely. I probably won’t get back to training until after the plane’s annual inspection is completed at the beginning of November. The break will set me back a bit but I am on track and after a few more lessons of approaches and holds we’ll do the instrument cross country required for the rating. Now I have 1.2 of actual instrument time and 9.7 simulated. I also get to count my time in the sim. Still, there is plenty more training before I am ready for the instrument checkride.