On Wednesday November 4th, non-traditional Minnesota weather phenomena (El-Nina?) provided me with the opportunity to obtain just over an hour of actual instrument time. (1.5 to be exact.) When I say “Actual Instrument Time,” I am referencing to time that the airplane was flown inside the clouds or IMC. (Instrument Meteorological Conditions.) Actual Instrument flying is something that you experience in the real world therefore it is a whole different experience transitioning from the simulator, or flying with the use of “Hood/Foggles.” Flying VFR is always a great and exciting way to fly and travel, but when you add the precision of solely referencing indications presented by the aircraft instruments, it goes from a on the “Mesmerized Scale” all the way up to a .
[ 1 ] “Oooh Spinny Fan…”
[ 3 ] ” **Stall Horn** Yeah… did we just fall from the sky?”
[ 5 ] ” Night Flying… Engine-Out? Landing Light –> ON … Don’t like what you see? … Landing Light –> OFF
[ 10 ] “I better cram the last bit of FAR’s tonight before my checkride tomorrow…” Proceeding with Three Hours of Netflix, Numerous hours of aviation videos on YouTube, Two bags of Doritos Chips and a re-re- re-watching of Top Gun… “So… Within standards means that I PASSED?!? Really!?… How!?…”
[ 12 ] “……” “Beyond Inspirational, completely Aspiring.”
….. Nonetheless! it was an unforgettable experience. Lately, the north mid-western United States has been getting some warmer (Well… “Warm” in the mind of a Minnesota native… as in… slightly above freezing? [ < 32°F ] So T-shirt weather.) In addition to lovely temperatures, we also get copious amounts of liquid precipitation (Rain) and of course, the wonderful wind that seems to be extra gusty and inconvenient for learning instrument approaches and holding! Anways, to start our journey out right, Joe and I quickly weather briefed ourselves using ForeFlight and then filed an IFR flight plan to Rochester (KRST) requesting a cruise altitude of 5,000′ MSL. The cloud coverage was showing 1,500′ overcast with the tops right around 3,200′ expecting some moderate turbulence with the winds out of the South (HDG 180° …If you didn’t know south was 180°… …you’re welcome!) @ 13-15 Knots with Gusts varying from 25 to 35 Knots. We departed Flying Cloud Airport, (KFCM) on Runway 18/36 and climbed up to 2,500′ initially before getting cleared up to 4,000′, and breaking through the clouds where the sun was shining bright as ever.
Fighting a nasty headwind leaving us indicating 110kts with a ground speed in the 80’s, we eventually made our way over to Rochester where Joe proposed a radical idea to set me up with an approach that I had only heard stories of actually being conducted. Our current frequency of Rochester Approach (119.25) threw us on a frequency with a final approach controller (like 118.75 or something…) where we flew a “no-gyro” approach into Runway 31. Unfortunately, Rochester Airport was situated right on the edge of newly developing beautiful VFR afternoon with a solid wall of overcast cloud cover just North of the field. Joe is quite the improviser as for half the duration of the approach he was jamming paper into my DG and Artificial Horizon so I couldn’t cheat. (You learn nothing by cheating.) We also were tasked with trying to improvise covering the windscreen up on my side and ended up unfolding multiple VFR Sectional and TAC Charts and wedging them into the dash/window since neither of us brought the almighty “foggles.” After a nice long vectored approach into instructional transmissions on the radio such as…”6301D turn right, 6301D stop turn, 6301D on-course tracking slightly left, 6301D half-standard rate turns now… etc.” I sent us down to our minimums as published (1660′ MSL) and didn’t feel like doing a touch and go, so we immediately flew the missed approach and were promptly given Direct back to KFCM as intended. Something that was really cool was asking Minneapolis Approach to give us a lower clearance down to 3,000′ MSL where we could so-called “Cloud Surf.” Of course, due to traffic separation we were forced to climb back up to 4,000′.
After picking up the weather at KFCM, not much had changed from our departure conditions other than the ATIS code (Ex. Current is “Bravo,” next weather report will be “Charlie.” and so on…) Joe and I agreed upon putting the request for ILS 10R Approach and proceeded to descend further into hard IFR conditions in the clouds. Keeping my scans fluent and briefing myself for the approach was tough but by no means was I at ever distracted by my Ipad or the task itself of flying the airplane. I intercepted the Localizer and got pushed quite a ways off the final approach course of 098° as it was a direct crosswind out of the South making my intercept angle pretty ridiculous on the amount of crab and heading correction required to fly the ground track of the ILS. (We were around HDG 135° at one point flying a ground track of 098°)
The approach went really well with just minor deflections on my glide-slope and Localizer before breaking off at our circling minimums where I got on a short Base-to-Final for an uneventful 7/10 landing on Runway 18/36. My experience with flying in actual IFR conditions was incredible to say the least and it will always be something that motivates me further to continue my education. I am looking forward’s to great flights like this in the future as long as mother nature treats us accordingly with some warmer winter months. Icing is a real concern since we have such cold temperatures during our winter season. (Every 1,000′ MSL generally decreases the temperature by 2°C, so if it is 33°F at the surface, you would probably expect to pick up some ice when flying with visible moisture like clouds.)
Learning something new in the airplane is always an unforgettable experience for me and I can’t wait to reflect on my future endeavors as a pilot. I would like to thank Joe Harbison for his dedication towards educating me and keeping things interesting. Also, I want to thank Inflight Pilot Training for the well-maintained and always readily available aircraft fleet at my disposal allowing me to obtain my flight training comfortably and most importantly, safely.
Please Comment or Share with a friend, I would love to get some feedback on suggestions or improvements I can change with my blogs! As always, safe landings for all and look forwards to more adventures to come!