Saturday, November 29, 2014

Instrument Practice Adventure

Yesterday my husband and I went out to do some practice approaches so I could improve my instrument proficiency before a potential instrument flight to Willows next weekend. I was going to do a modified "milk run" three approaches at the same airports (Tracy, Stockton and Livermore) I used for my instrument check ride and preparing for the ride. As seems to happen in aviation, when one expects a routine flight, one gets an adventure.

First approach was into Tracy airport, KTCY. I got cleared for the GPS 12 into Tracy. Did the procedure turn at OYOSO and was inbound on the approach when the GPS failed. Not the first time its failed on me in the middle of a GPS approach in this particular plane. It came back eventually and started working again.

GPS 29R into Stockton was uneventful, aside from the actual level of visibility. It was so hazy at ground level I got to log a little actual on that approach. The GPS worked just fine.

The transition to Livermore was rough. The sun angle from SCK at that time must have been right between 220 and 230. On climb out the switched me to 220, and then cleared my direct to TRACY (roughly 230) to intercept the localizer. The sun was exactly in my face and the glare made the top three instruments practically unreadable, I had to shield my eyes to see the whisky compass to reset the heading indicator.

Not like I hadn't flown to the initial approach fix for the ILS to Livermore with the sun in my eyes dozens of times before when working on my instrument rating, but I had a perfect storm this time. I overshot my target altitude by 200', so I was pitching down to return to 4000'. At the same time the first real turbulence of the trip kicked up so the turn coordinator was flopping around and the bonanza boogie got going. To top it off, the turn coordinator in that plane shows wings level when actually in a slight left turn, the AI is accurate, but I couldn't see it. All of that at once got me the most dizzy I'd ever been in real or simulated instrument.

I realized what was happening, and told myself repeatedly to slow it down. My husband says I said that out loud a couple times. I stopped the boogie, slowed down my scan, and used the heading indicator to tell if wings were level and the vertical speed indicator to ensure I wasn't climbing or descending anymore. Once I got the wings level and plane stabilized the dizziness stopped. Then I got the plane back on altitude and dialed in for the rest of the flight to the IAF for the ILS 25R into Livermore.

Once I turned onto the localizer the sun was enough out of my eyes I could actually use all of my instruments again. The actual approach was good. Nice how no flaps, 15" MP and gear down gives a perfect 3 degree glide slope descent in a Bonanza.

Never know what I'm going to get when I go flying. My trip up to Willows next weekend for the 25 hour race may be IFR. Fortunately there's a VOR approach there as well as the GPS approach. This little practice adventure was good preparation for that one I think.

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