Monday, May 26, 2014

An update from Erin, GWW Advanced Training Scholarship Winner!

This is the first journal entry provided to us by Erin DeYoung, who was selected for an Advanced Training Scholarship within The Girls With Wings 2014 Scholarship Program to help defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of an Advanced Rating or Certificate such as instrument rating, commercial pilot certificate, flight instructor certificate, instrument flight instructor certificate, multi-engine rating or multi-engine flight instructor certificate. This new scholarship award is in the amount of $1000, funded by the generous donations from supporters of Girls With Wings, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Erin's application essay is published here.

With news that I had been awarded a Girls With Wings Scholarship, I knew I would be able to begin my instrument training in earnest, and I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I had started my instrument training informally when I was still a private pilot (and I had completed the ground school before I soloed), so I was already used to thinking about life after VFR , but I had never been able to focus solely on my training the way I would have liked. My instructor and I have been sticking instrument lessons in the midst of currency checks and flight reviews for the last year, so I had never had a flight lesson that was only focused on my instrument rating. This one would be my first: 

We started with a blind takeoff. The aim is simple: takeoff without being able to see. The application seems more complicated. My first thought was, “How will I know I’m on the centerline?” Dover has a 150’ wide runway (it spoils a pilot awfully fast), so we had plenty of room to work with. But the answer to my question was deceptively simple: follow the heading indicator. Because I had flown approaches on the same runway, I knew the exact heading (013), and I could use that to make sure I was holding the centerline. I taxied to the centerline, put on my foggles, pushed full throttle, and we were off! Wow, was it a rush! I could have sworn I was swerving back and forth, but the HSI held true, and my instructor didn’t say a word. 

Once we were in the air, everything felt “normal.” I was used to sitting under the foggles while we were flying, and I felt more confident about holding my heading without the ground underneath me. Today’s lesson plan was fairly simple: basic maneuvers with the foggles. I would be doing some stalls, steep spirals, turns with the magnetic compass, and then we’d “shoot the RNAV to 32.” I’d run through all the maneuvers before, but I was hoping to clean up my flying a bit. There was also one catch: I’d be flying partial panel. 

I was simulating a “no-gyro” malfunction. This means I lost both my heading indicator and my attitude indicator, and I would be using my magnetic compass for navigation. Flying with the magnetic compass always makes me more appreciative of the early days of flight. Even though I fly with only the standard six pack (no glass cockpit here!), I realize how lucky I am to even have this many instruments, and how grateful I am that my compass is only a “back-up.” The lack of precision coupled with the turning errors, among other things, has quickly made the compass my least favorite (even if the most used) instrument on my panel. 

Setting up for slow flight, stalls, and, eventually, steep turns wasn’t a terribly stressful ordeal. I enjoy trimming the airplane and getting her to sit just at the edge of a stall while in slow flight (and my turn coordinator is great to make sure I am keeping my wings level). I also love stalls. They are my favorite maneuver, and I love how quickly the airplane will recover. Just nose over and add power…she’ll gain airspeed before you know it. I find it reassuring to remember just how much my airplane wants to fly. I knocked stalls and steep turns out of the way early, even though I ran through steep turns a couple times just to get the feel for them again; then, it was on to the timed turns. 

Timed turns are difficult for me for several reasons. The first is wrangling with the magnetic compass (remembering UNOS, my latitude, adjusting for my roll out heading, etc.), but the second is patiently watching the second hand on the clock. With the dozens of things I should be doing in my airplane while I’m flying, I am sometimes frustrated by watching the “sweeping second hand” (it is expressly required by 91.205). Still, the timed turns are good for me. They force me to be patient, and they force me to remember that few things happen quickly in an airplane and that a standard rate turn should never be one of those things. 

Finally, we let timed turns become vectors for an approach (an RNAV). I’ve been missing one radio call fairly consistently as we’ve been shooting approaches (the one at the final approach fix when I’m established on the glide slope), but this time I got it. I pulled throttle, nosed over, and let the airplane settle on the glide path. I found my wind correction angle early, and it was one of the first times I was able to really just watch the airplane settle into a stabilized approach. I was beyond thrilled. Normally, I am making minor adjustments for a good half mile while on approach. My needle seldom deflects more than ¼ (within PTS standards), but it’s not as centered as I want it to be. This time, it was there. I hit the bulls-eye and I held it. I don’t think I was more proud when I soloed. 

I hit the minimums for a circling approach, leveled off evenly, and turned to make my visual landing. It was one of those maneuvers where you know you’ve hit things just right. It was the first time I’ve felt that way in my instrument training, and it felt good. 
I’m itching to get back in the air and do it again! 

Essays about flight training from the other awardees will be published here as they are received.

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