Lesson 47 - Tuesday Aug 24th

Instrument Flight

Again we were supposed to go to Riverside today.  Unfortunately the weather did not co-operate, with low ceilings everywhere, and most importantly a ceiling of under 2000 feet over LAX, which is part of our route, and where we have to maintain 3500 feet.

So Riverside is out, and Craig suggests we do some hood work.  I agree, as it sounds more interesting than the other option (maneuvers along the coast).  So, off we go.

Craig makes the first call to ground, and informs them we would like a "round robin Santa Monica to Santa Monica" or something similar, I forget much of the terminology.

We then taxi to the run-up area, where Craig gets the IFR clearance.  This is basically a series of instructions that you will follow to complete your flight.  Mostly the import stuff here is at the start, as you will get "Vectored" after that, (in that Socal will tell you vectors to fly at).  But you need to be prepared to fly the full IFR flight plan.

Craig tells me the Acronym CRAFT, used to note down the directions,  CRAFT stands for Cleared, Runway Heading, Altitude, Frequency, Transponder.  Here each word can for the start of a sentence or paragraph of information, like:

Cleared to SMO
Runway Heading (as in "Fly Runway Heading"), upon upon reaching LAX 315 degree radial, Right Turn to heading 270, (then some other stuff, which I can't currently decipher from Craig's note).
Altitude 3000, expect 5000 in 5 minutes.
Frequency 125.2  (for first contact with SoCal).
Transponder, Squawk 4615

So, now we taxi and hold short 21, and wait for a few minutes for our clearance.  This has to be coordinated with LAX, and they have to interweave their traffic with the SMO traffic.  We wait about five minutes, as there is a jet taking off ahead of us.

Then up we go.  We fly straight out.  Shortly after takeoff I don the hood, and all I can see is the instruments.  This is not too much of a problem, as all I have to do is keep the plane straight and climbing.

Pretty quickly Craig points out we are intersecting the LAX 315 radial, and we have to turn right to 270.  I think around this time, we get new vectors from Socal.

Then it's just a continuation of keeping at 3000 feet, and turning to whatever heading socal gives us for a while.  I think we make about four or five turns, and are handed off to two different controllers, before we are turned to "the approach", and contact SMO tower.

Then we are on the SMO Instrument VOR-A approach.  This is just a defined slope down to the runway, with specific heights you have to be at at various points. 

There are three points on the approach, labeled DARTS, BEVY and CULVE.  I don't think these have to have a specific meaning, but some do.  DARTS is 6.1 NM out, and you pass over it at 4500 feet.  I think we entered the approach between DARTS and BEVEY.  I suspect BEVEY is over the Beverly center (or Beverly Hills).

At BEVEY you need to be at 2600 feet.  Craig kep telling me to not go below 2600, I think it's most important to keep ABOVE the specified altitudes (to avoid hitting stuff, obviously).

BEVEY is 6.7 NM from the SMO VOR, we can tell our distance using the DME (Distance Measuring Equipment), and after passing BEVEY, we descend to 1120 feet, approaching CULVE (over Culver City), at 2.4 NM out.  After passing CULVE, we descend to (I'm assuming here) "circling altitude", which is 680 feet MSL, or just 500 feet above the field. 

So Craig waits until we get to 680 feet, and says, "okay, take off the hood, land the plane"

I take off the hood, and blimey, we seem to be rather high up, I knock off my sunglasses and me headset as I take off the hood, and then push the headset back on as I add full flaps, and point the nose downwards.

Initially I though we were way too high, but our airspeed was only around 85 kts, and with full flaps we did not gain too much speed as we hurtled towards the ground, it actually turned out to be a remarkably easy landing.

Craig asked me if I wanted to do a few short/soft landings, but I decided I'd just go home and digest the Instrument flight.   Interesting stuff.  Not particularly difficult, but certainly the kind of thing where practice is needed, as it's pretty precise, and you need to know what you are doing.

At a couple of points in the flight Craig had me take off the hood to experience actual IMC (or as we later termed it, "I can't see").  The key there is to simply avoid looking out of the airplane at all there is is clouds.  It's like looking into the face of Medusa, best not to.