I’m continuing to work toward my instrument rating. I’m learning that there is much more to this rating than flying in challenging weather conditions. The rating is about developing discipline, precision and workload management. The little things matter: How you test and tune nav and comm radios, how you organize in-fight documents and how you determine the airworthiness of both your aircraft and navaids along a given route. The training puts a premium on minimizing mental and emotional bandwidth, both of which are precious commodities when flying through more demanding conditions. Eyes and other senses must also be disciplined and trained so not to misinterpret flight dynamics and control changes. Even language becomes more precise: VORs don’t broadcast a signal, they emanate a signal. My instructor is disciplined, and expects the same. Training consists of ground study, simulator work and flying. I find that talking about concepts, applying those concepts in a simulator and then in actual flight provides a productive framework for deeper learning.
This weekend I started training toward my instrument rating. My flight instructor is a great teacher and will be a good fit. After about an hour of ground instruction, we logged 1.8 hours in the flight simulator. We did basic attitude instrument flying in the clouds and shot an instrument approach through the rain.
I attended an FAA safety seminar last weekend about engine failures, and it has me thinking about my personal experiences.
I experienced my only engine failure to date shortly after a night takeoff, which in my opinion is the absolute the worst time to lose confidence in your engine.
I was a relatively new student pilot and still several months away from my checkride. My instructor and I had just departed on a night cross-country flight. I was at the controls, climbing out of 1,500 feet AGL just a few miles from the airport when the engine stuttered. My instructor didn’t notice the engine’s hesitation. My attention went to the tachometer. It slid downward a second time. The plane pulled. This time she noticed. I was keenly aware that we were engulfed in a black, night sky. A highway below contained considerable traffic so wasn’t an option. If we had to put the plane down into the blackness, there would be no telling where we’d end up. There was no way to know what was inside that abyss –– farm equipment, livestock, fences, water. All were dismal landing environments.
Like many pilots on vacation, I often find myself staring skyward and wishing I could stop at a local FBO and sign out an airplane. Doing so isn’t especially difficult, but it does requires a checkout and enough paperwork to make the endeavor more chore than adventure.
But thanks to OpenAirplane and its Universal Pilot Checkout concept, I can now easily rent from about 100 operators in more than 32 states using little more than my iPad.
We set out on Saturday, February 8 for a dusk flight over Central Texas. Lauren captured this approach into Lockhart just as the sun was setting.