IFR Diary, Day 16: Tuesday, Sept 14
Scooting Around the Sky
Instead of filing over DUATS the evening before a flight, Charles
has me file by phone this morning to Napa County then to Stockton--
an odd pair considering that they are about fifty miles apart. In
both cases, instead of letting me determine the route, he dictates a
bizarre, circuitous route (Bay Area pilots: the HWD-APC leg was
ALTAM OAKEY PITTS COLLI SABO CROIT REBAS SGD. The APC-SCK leg was
V108 CROIT FLEAT REJOY PITTS V108 LODDI V585 ECA ). Under "Remarks"
on the flight plan forms, I put "Navigational Training
Much to both our surprises, we got the HWD-APC as filed. The APC-
SCK was approved except for the segment from FLEAT to REJOY, which
are not joined by airways. "Not to worry," says Charles. Center
usually won't approve off-airway intersection-to-intersection
routes, but we can probably get it from controller if things aren't
crazy in his sector."
Off we launched and I was vectored to V244 for the umpteenth time in
the last three weeks. Once established, I got a little surprise:
Charles turned off my DME. "I've noticed you've gotten so that you
depend almost entirely on that thing. Today, we're going to do it
all by VORs." I set up the number two nav and upon reaching ALTAM,
turned north. This was actually fun. There's something Romantic in
scooting around the sky on analog antennae. The DME is wonderful,
but it requires no interpretation, no perception. There's something
so fulfilling about watching the two needles center.
Anyway, we shot the Localizer at Napa, then started on the second
leg. We started out with Oakland Center, then got handed to Travis
Approach, who handles the area around Travis AFB. I explained to
him that for training we wanted to do the FLEAT to REJOY direct. He
explained that REJOY "belongs" to Sacramento Approach, but he
managed to work it out with them and the segment was approved. This
worked out better than the original plan: not only were we given
FLEAT direct to REJOY, we were given direct FLEAT from our current
I tuned in the two VORs and dialed in the radials defining FLEAT
(neither of which we were currently located on.) I don't think I
experienced brain-lock exactly, more like brain-fade. I turned
immediately for a 45 degree intercept on the number 1 VOR. Charles
could tell I was stuck in neutral because I started getting real
jerky with my altitude and heading, suggesting I had slowed down my
scan and was concentrating elsewhere. After about a half-minute, he
pointed his index and middle finger downward in front of the number
two VOR and made a walking motion with them.
"Ah ha!" I exclaimed into the intercom. "Let my fingers do the
walking!" I recalled my sample lesson with Charles, and his
demonstration. Starting at the top of the dial, I placed my finger
on the first digit on the side of the needle. I then checked if
that course was anywhere on the side of the needle on the number two
VOR. It was. Without further thought, I turned to a course of 360.
(Once on 360, I turned to 330, which provided a better intercept
angle to both course.) The number two VOR, with its OBS set to 216,
centered first. I now had two choices: turn to 216 or its
reciprocal 036? Simple, which of these headings is on the side of
the needle on the number one VOR? It was 036. I flew 036 until the
number one VOR centered.
Charles chides me mildly for trying to hit the intersection on the
button. "Stop trying be so precise. The one you're navigating on
(number two) is centered--give or take a dot. And the one you're
waiting on is within a couple of dots. Go ahead and set up number
two for the next fix, continue flying your current heading and
you'll be fine. You're not cutting diamonds here." I follow his
suggestions and arrive at REJOY without a glitch.
The rest of the navigation was uneventful, as were the approaches.
Today was a good test for two reasons. First, it forced me back to
the basic of navigation. Second, all the VOR tuning and twisting
gave my VOR mechanics a workout. In early training I sometimes
tuned a VOR receiver's frequency, but became distracted and failed
to set the OBS. After this occurred a few times, I decided to treat
these two acts--tuning and twisting--as atomic. That is, I always
complete them as a single, indivisible procedure that cannot be
interrupted. If an un-postponable interruption occurs (arriving at
a target altitude, high scan rate in bumpy air, etc.) I leave my
hand on the dial as a place holder. On rare occasions this
technique causes me to be slow in responding to an ATC call, but
today everything worked out fine.
Charles wanted me to practice on the PC simulator to stay sharp,
but mostly study for my oral. And relax. If I go flying, go VFR
and just fool around. And don't fret about my stage-check on
Today was the last time I flew with Charles.
Three days Off: Wednesday, Sept 15-17
These three days were largely spent studying for my oral. I used my
sparse notes from my ground sessions with Charles. I also relied
heavily on the Gleim "FAA Practical Test Prep," by Irving Gleim and
to a lesser degree, "Instrument Flying" by Trevor Thom. From
Sporty's I also bought a copy of "A Guide to The Instrument Oral,"
by Bob Green, which proved to be a waste of money in view of the
free resources I discovered on Compuserve's Aviation Forum (AVSIG).
There I downloaded a file named ORAL.ZIP by Ed Williams, a CFII
based in Livermore, CA. This file contains typical questions asked on
instrument orals, organized by topic: Regulations, ATC Procedures
and Clearances, Charts, Approach Plates, Flight Instruments, and
Weather. I found this to be an excellent study guide.
On Thursday evening, Charles calls to tell me that the person who
was going to perform my stage-check will not be available. While he
looked for another person, I have a bright idea: I ask Ed Williams
to perform my stage-check. Ed agrees and we plan to meet Saturday
morning in Hayward. Charles is pleased that I've found someone whom
he doesn't know.