Saturday, October 24, 2009

Approaches and Stage Check Dos

Lots and lots of approaches. They use a custom approach to a radio tower for the NDB approach so I've been flying that along with ILS's into Elmendorf and Anchorage and the Big Lake VOR approach.

The Big Lake VOR approach is usually timed. This means the vacuum driven instruments that show your heading and attitude (the plane has an electric turn coordinator) are covered up. So all turns are made by making a standard rate (3 degrees per second) turn and timing it. Which means you have to do the math pretty fast in your head on how many degrees, and then how long, you have to turn. Just watching the compass won't work because it goes crazy when you're turning, so you time, turn, stop.... wait for the compass to settle down and then do it AGAIN, because it won't be perfect, and at the end it comes down to counting "one, two" in your head to get the last few degrees fixed, lol. I like timing the approaches but it's easy to get off course and it's easy to take too long getting on course and blow past the fix if you're close to it when you start. Any deviation from the standard rate turn (like not even 1/2 a needle width) will make a huge error in a big turn, so you have to really have the bank angle nailed. Hard to do in turbulence.

The ILS approaches can be tough because the localizer (horizontal guidance) is twice as sensitive as a VOR, so you have to really stay on top of it. It's almost like landing a taildragger - if you can tell it's starting to drift it may be too late :-) The ILS gives you vertical guidance also, and I've found staying on the glide slope has been pretty easy, really.

The NDB approach to the radio tower isn't all that hard, but it confuses me sometimes which way to turn to correct the course. Particularly outbound if the wind is blowing and you have to trial and error the heading correction. I do like the 'old school' aspect of it. They are phasing the NDBs out in favor of GPS approaches, which is too bad because there are a lot of them in AK and I can't afford a GPS, lol. This particular approach has an interesting hold - outbound from the NDB to a radial off the Big Lake VOR. Not hard but it's at a NDB/VOR fix and not a single navaid.

Then I had to take my 2nd stage check which went OK. I had a couple altitude issues but would have made all the approaches, if not to the checkride standards quite yet, at least without killing anyone :-)

Next we fly some cross countries and try to get my accuracy up for the check ride.