A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

A bit of IFR practice

March 6, 2015
Tyson Sawyer

The rest of Levant went down to Costa Rica for a few days on a company sponsored retreat. There were a few for which the logistics didn’t work out well. I was one of those. Trying to coordinate Emilie’s schedule and dealing with Isaac, esp. when we needed to commit to the trip on short notice, just didn’t work out well. Instead, I did some flying!

Thursday and Friday I did a couple of IFR training flights with my Dad in his C172. For Thursday I said I’d be over to Jaffrey sometime between 9:am and 10:am. …I got there about 12:15. After fixing some network problems in the office and eating some lunch, …and spending some time going over approach plates… we finally headed down to the hangar around 4:pm or so. It had been a number of months since the plane had flown, so when we finally got ready to crank it up, it just went buzz… Time for a hand start. Fortunately, its motor runs well and starts easily. We skipped the hood for this round and just focused on procedure. For both days we went without the benefit of modern GPS electronics and just used the old analog gauges the the plane had. We were doing approaches into Keene, who’s VOR has been out of service for a while. Without that VOR, and with the limited equipment in the plane (we chose not to use GPS from mobile devices) we had to be a little creative and make up some of our own procedures using the localizer signal in place of the VOR. We returned around 6:30 pm, well after sunset. The runway lights were buried under snow and needing winter service, so we landed without the benefit of runway lights.


Friday’s track

Friday I arrived a few minutes earlier and we were much more prompt about getting going. This time I setup my tablet to record a GPS track and pitched it in the back seat. The hood went on shortly after departure. This time I used a VOR simulator app on my phone that uses GPS and knowledge of where the station is supposed to be to simulate a VOR receiver and display/CDI. So, still no moving maps or anything like that, but we could do more of the standard procedures. In addition to being under the hood this time, the air was much less constant. Shifts in wind at different altitudes, and up and down drafts combined with the hood preventing me from cheating, made it much more difficult to get steady, precise approaches to the runway. Keeping the airplane upright on the gauges is trivial. Correcting for shifting air is harder. When you can see the runway, you are visually immersed in zero latency feedback on what the air is doing to you. The navigation gauges are much less immersive and have some delay to them. Some of my approaches were, shall we say, poor. On the 4th and final approach I was determined to get it right and pretty much nailed it, even with the shifting winds.

For the return to Jaffrey, Dad made up a VOR approach to Jaffrey from the north by determining the radials from the Concord and Gardner VORs that lined up with the waypoints of the GPS approach from that direction. We were a long distance from the Gardner station, which is south of Jaffrey by a good distance, so the track inbound on that was a bit wobbly. We also didn’t know the winds and thus (esp. since we were not using GPS) ground speed so we under estimated the time from the final waypoint to the airport, so we came up a little short there. …but over all we came up pretty close and right on track.