After completing the ATPLs, my next step was to complete an IR(R), what some still referred to as the IMC. Whilst it’s not something I needed to complete just yet if I’m going down the commercial route, I knew it was something I wanted to complete anyway to improve my pilot skills.
Something that I enjoyed about night flying was the level of intensity that was required as it was like being in the zone. Everything else down on the ground, any worries or stresses, just slid away and I was forced to focus on the here and now. The taste of instrument flying during my PPL offered a similar feeling and Nick had said that I seemed to adapt quite well to it. So I felt quite positive going in to the instrument flying course. Everyone had recommended Pete and I was looking forward to flying with someone new and another person with such vast experience.
The good thing about starting the instrument rating (R) was that the weather was pretty rubbish despite it being summer which was stopping me building up my solo hours. I didn’t want to take too long building them up as I had a time limit on completing the CPL now I had completed the ATPL ground school exams. It was great to fill the void of studying with actual flying which was going to continue to challenge me and put what I’d learned to practice. The IR(R) involved 15hours (minimum) and a written exam with 25 questions.
For the first lesson, I drove to the airport quite excited and nervous – I could feel my heart racing a bit. I felt like I was throwing myself into something I hadn’t really done any preparation for. The night rating had given me some exposure but I quickly realised that having no reference to an outside horizon had its challenges. I was also a bit nervous about being taught by Pete as he was a commercial pilot and I was keen to make a good impression since everyone had told me how good he was too. I felt like this the first time I flew with Rob as well but I just had to be myself.
We sat down and he started the first brief which involved labelling all the instruments in the right place. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember where each instrument was positioned in the aircraft despite staring at them for over a year now – I felt stupid already! I guess having a bit of blank was just nerves and as we noted them all down it all came back quickly and I remembered how each instrument worked. Sometimes, it just takes different contexts and going over the same information over and over for things to become second nature and that’s what I wanted.
The first lesson was more about adjusting to flying without any visual reference to outside. Pete was keen to have poor weather and joked about wanting it to get worse before our lesson which was funny. It was relatively cloudy and it was forecast to clear up a bit which Pete was very disappointed about! He used a map to cover up my side of my lookout which helped so it didn’t matter that we weren’t in cloud at the moment. Pete have me a heading and a height and part of the first challenge was to try and stick to it on instruments. This was much harder than I thought as there was a lot more going on regarding visual instrument checks. Also, as he gave me different guidance and instructions my mind would get distracted thinking about something else and I’d look back and I’d be off my heading or below my height. Pete would lean over and give me a shoulder to shoulder nudge adding, “Oi, I said 3000 feet”.
We did some climbing and descending on instruments and he explained that “everything was done much more gently on instruments”. Turning on instruments was restricted to 15 degrees and descending was done at a lower rate of descent as well. These were all aimed at reducing the risk of becoming disorientated as I was quickly learning that it could happen fast and out of the blue where I’d have to ignore my senses and trust the instruments. It was amazing how you could convince yourself that you weren’t straight and level and yet the instruments would tell you that you were. This is what made staying on headings more difficult for me. Well, that’s my excuse for now!
On the way back, he started the explain how we would track the VOR and the ADF. This was something I was finding difficult to grasp and after my first instrument lesson, it was difficult to let all the information sink in. I hadn’t done much VOR tracking since passing my PPL. I’d done some with Rob on my night rating but had quickly forgotten it again. I found the VOR tracking OK it combined with the ADF seemed to make it more difficult to understand what I’d done and where I’d flown. Pete gave me headings and I followed them and that gave me some sort of first exposure to flying with the ADF. I started to realise that doing my IR(R) before completing my ATPL ground school exams would’ve helped me with the instruments exam. I’d recommend anyone doing their IR(R) first just to help with the exposure of understanding and applying all the instruments in the air.
As we turned onto final, Pete removed the map and I saw the runway straight ahead of me slightly to my right so I lined up and prepared for landing. It was a long final so I had time to get ready but I was a bit surprised as I hadn’t really understood where we were in relation to the airfield. Suddenly, I saw the runway straight ahead of me and I had to adjust my eyes from inside to outside the cockpit. It was like I’d been in the dark and someone had turned the light on. I slowed the airspeed down, put the flaps down and lined up. Thankfully, Pete had done the radio so I just had to concentrate on landing the aircraft. As we came closer to the runway I flared and waited for the wheels to touchdown. I was so relieved to do a good landing and smiled to myself as we taxied off the runway. “Good stuff” said Pete.
He gave a quick debriefing in the aircraft and showed me where we had flown on his SkyDemon. That helped to make more sense and things started to sink in regarding the ADF. Pete seemed happy with me on my first lesson and I was pleased too. I could feel that my brain had had a good workout and was looking forward to my next lesson!