Perspective

It seems as if things are slogging along with my instrument training since I passed my FAA Instrument Knowledge Exam and had my 1st lesson in the simulator; however, as I scroll through my iCloud Photo feed I realize that I felt the same way during my private pilot training. Facebook was kind enough to give some perspective via a “Year Ago” memory featuring me standing on the ramp at my first flight school next to the first plane I flew. I then scrolled through a years worth of photos that put everything into focus.

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My first instrument flight lesson.

My initial phase from April 2016 through November 2016, with at least 8 weeks of cancelled lessons due to weather, seemed to drag on and I wondered if I was learning anything and whether I’d ever manage to get my pilot’s certificate. Looking back at photos depicting books and papers spread over my desk, flight photos, and testing reports, allowed me to see the enormous amount of work that went into the accomplishment one piece at a time and how it all came together in the end. Looking back at that allows me to look forward with a positive attitude. Take it one step at a time, work hard and make each lesson count, do your part to apply yourself and be prepared for each lesson and flight, after the lesson think it through: REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT!

So after the simulator lesson I have had my first two instrument flight lessons in the aircraft, a Diamond DA40 with Garmin G1000 advanced avionics aka glass cockpit. I have to realize that it is a new airplane to me and that all my time has been in a Cessna 172S with traditional steam gauges. So now not only am I developing my feel for a new airplane, I’m learning a complex skill while also keeping up with an unfamiliar airplane and its unique qualities.

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Diagram we practice and flight data recorded, degrees to compensate for compass turns.

The first flight lesson we basically repeated the tasks completed in the simulator on the prior lesson. Thankfully the air was smooth and even though I was new to the airplane I did a decent job of controlling it; my instructor never had to grab the controls or pull us out of any unintended unusual attitudes. Meaning I never lost control of the airplane. Especially with beginner instrument pilots, it happens.

I find I’m at a loss for words to describe what it is like to go “under the hood” as it is called. Most of my time especially in the first part of my instrument training flights will be in clear conditions so the instructor can see and avoid any traffic and concentrate on imparting his knowledge to me. I will be wearing a view limiting device that covers my field of vision limiting it to only the avionics screen in front of me and I will be working on developing my ability to control the airplane’s heading, bank, altitude, and speed, while still working the radios, inputing data into the avionics, and following an instrument flight plan depicting/stipulating all the above: speed, headings, altitudes, etc. Its so much to keep up with….. think drinking from a fire hose and trying not to spill a drop…. sigh.

The second lesson was pretty much the same tasks with in variable windy gusty conditions. Its adds a level of difficulty when your tail is wagging like an excited hound and wind gusts cause altitude gain/losses of a hundred feet at a time. So with the added difficulty of the windy conditions I worked on flying the pattern on the diagram my instructor provided which included altitude and aircraft configuration changes to simulate maneuvers required on instrument arrival/departure procedures.

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Debriefing an instrument training flight.

In the interest of preparing for my lessons and giving myself every possible advantage I decided to supplement my learning with an online course prepared by my favorite instructors: the Kings. Branded by Cessna it is a course designed to provide classroom instruction and fundamentals to help maximize the time spent in the airplane. It helped me conceptualize the instrument scanning techniques and timed turns to a heading with the compass only; used if you lose your primary flight instruments. My instructor said I showed improvement in holding my heading and altitude and keeping my turns constant while rolling out on my intended heading.

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Cessna Instrument Course.

On upcoming lessons we will continue to work on proficiency with the basics, work on recovering if I put the aircraft into unusual attitudes, and IFR ATC Clearances.

This last summer when I was struggling with the frustrations about how I felt my training was going. Then I met an airline pilot who sat next to me on a coast to coast flight. We talked about my training and scrolled through pictures on his iPad of the aircraft he was restoring. Over the summer we spoke a lot and he always had just the right counsel. After 30 years flying with the airlines and having vast aviation knowledge he never became concieted and wanted nothing more than to share the love of aviation. Last week he died in a small  aircraft accident; something went terribly wrong during takeoff on the maiden voyage of that airplane he spent 2 years restoring. It shook me up real bad. But after a few days of thinking it over and listening to all his friends and family talk about his life and how every minute revolved around flying or sharing his love of aviation and what he would want for all his fellow pilots. After thinking it over I drove to the airport and continued my training.

Lots of work to do but trying to keep my perspective……..

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