(Preface: I’m writing this for my own recollection and because I found it useful to read other people’s experiences as well)
Dec 6 2011: Planned: 9am meet the DPE (referred to as ‘she’) at KANE hangar. I went to KMIC to get the plane ready, it was snowing and forecasted to rapidly improve. However, time was not on my side here and I had to make a decision about my flight to ANE. I called off the flight after some AWOS phone calls when conditions of the minute were below VFR. The ironic thing here is that I could have made the flight under an IFR flight plan and the conditions did improve as forecasted, but… oh well. In chronological order, the best I can recall.
- We first started with the 8710 form, which I didn’t fill out properly. Note: fill out all hours including private pilot minimums (night, solo XC, etc). ID, paperwork verification, logbook, etc. Two snags: a) missing 1 of 2 endorsements from instructor, b) “Long XC” may not have had 3 different approaches. Lesson: read the FARs and be precise. Paid fee, moved on.
- AC & Engine logs. I bookmarked the a) annual, b) ELT, c) ELT battery due date, d) pitot-static check. This helped. I was also asked what ADs were and if there was any recurring (seat rails). This was quick and painless.
- W&B. I “just” printed off the spreadsheet that the club provides with our weights in there and fuel burn. This was acceptable, however there were questions about the validity (check POH) and utility vs normal, then questions about SPINS…uhh. I haven’t thought about spins or G forces in years. So, she refreshed my memory on spin recovery (PARE) – she was happy to ‘teach’ me on this. What a first question though….got me abit nervous.
- She had me plan a XC to KGFK. I used FltPlan.com (she questioned the use of fltplan – don’t think she has used it and wrote down the website) and printed out everything I could (NOTAMs, METARs, TAFs, etc) – I forgot to bring the actual flight plan though. Doh. So, I “recreated” it, verbally, just a casual discussion. This was acceptable.
- While the enroute chart was out. We talked for a good amount of time about my proposed route (I drew a line direct ANE, GFK). She said this was fine but not ideal and we talked about many circumstances, she helped me understand why it was less than ideal in the end. Some points: a) active RA/MOA – while IFR, vectored around. She seemed impressed that I knew this b) Filing direct is more SRM than a route when ATC gives you curves vs ‘as filed’ c) know your alternates, I picked KTVF (41nm away). It had a A-NA ILS and non-precision approaches – if you have to use an alternate you should prefer a precision approach but that wasn’t available to me. The next closet alternates made me uncomfortable with available fuel. She did some fuel calculations on paper with me and I came up with my own conclusions. She liked that I said that if I had to file an alternate, I would stop for fuel enroute as that gave me more options. d) RAIM prediction – what, how, etc. e) FDC NOTAMS, f) My aircraft’s de/anti icing equipment, I started with ‘not much’ then listed pitot heat, carb heat, defroster. She was impressed with the latter. Flight into ‘known icing’ ? I said well, don’t fly in clouds when it is cold and was quickly interrupted – ‘that is POSSIBLE icing’ – ‘oh, PIREPS is KNOWN icing’ g) picked random things on enroute chart, MEA, MEA-G, MOCA, MRA, MCA, center freqs, just random things on the chart that she was looking at and asking me about, no specific items really h) lost comms procedures – this was fun. Emphasis on when to hold vs ETA, etc. The scenario was pretty easy – ‘you are halfway to GFK, can’t turnaround, radio dead (not pilot error)’ She liked my answers: squawk 7600, continue to GFK in IMC or land if VMC, hold at GFK VOR if not at ETA – convo went into IAPs
- IAPs, we talked about the hold at GFK, ILS 35 and how to leave that hold (with lost comms). Then went into some other stuff that proved I could read a IAP, casual convo and she helped on some finer points. Then looked at KTVF, the ILS A-NA thing came up here.
- Some other topics were sprinkled in. t/o minimums, alternate mins, VOR checks, Garmin 430 DB, RAIM outage on IAP, IFR currency, FDC NOTAMs
- Nothing or not much about: medicals, weather (besides icing), available weather charts, instrument systems, VORs, ATC (besides a quick empathsis on asking for clarification/help if needed)
- I was over prepared on some topics. I didn’t ‘offer up’ too much info except a few times to steer the convo away from my less strong topics, this just came natural to me and I can’t remember anything specific except that I know it happened.
- Bottom Line: She was interested in a conversation with me. It took about 2 hours and ended with, “Well, we can talk about this for weeks, good job I wish we could have flown too”
Skip forward to Dec 14, finally find out that the “Long XC” did not fit the requirements..Time to fly again for 3 hours with my instructor. Set up flight with DPE on Dec 21 after completing a ‘valid’ long XC.
Dec 21 2011, flight in the afternoon with DPE. Weather conditions were forecasted to deteriorate as the day went on. We needed VFR conditions to do the flight safely. I get to the airport and find that the plane owner has not updated the nav database on the Garmin 430 – so now my GPS is a VFR GPS only and not allowed for IFR flight. At least, now, I know what approaches I’ll be flying because I only need 3 and the plane is only equipped for 3 – VOR, LOC, ILS. For the flight:
- I fly to ANE, she is outside her hangar and directing me where to park. We go inside, we have to complete some paperwork then proceed to check the weather for our flight. There are some passing snow showers to the north – St Cloud, Princeton, etc. Should not be an issue for our flight around the metro area.
- She gives me a ‘clearance’ to read back – then we proceed on course to Grand Forks via Gopher VOR, V2. I’m to ‘report’ established on V2. So this proves that I can intercept and track a VOR.
- After reporting established, she did two unusual attitudes. These were easy and my instructor’s unusual attitudes were much more extreme – these seemed mild, almost as if I was recovering wrongly because the plane was straight and level so quickly.
- Next, called up MSP approach while she was flying the plane to get a VFR code for practice approaches at ANE. Request published hold for the VOR 9 approach at ANE
- Execute hold multiple times around to prove that I can make adjustments – actually the first outbound leg I had the opposite wind correction angle. It was acceptable to her that I was able to correct for this the next time. 2 times around then requested to continue with the approach, was told to go around again by MSP.
- Come inbound, keep VOR needle mostly centered – it was off course by 1-2 dots at the worse. Acceptable. About halfway through, I was expecting a question like “when are you going to execute a missed?” since I forgot to take the time at the FAF – luckily, that didn’t come up.
- Go missed, request vectors for the LOC 27. This went fine, big emphasis on the step down fix for this approach. Nothing crazy happened here.
- Go missed, request the 23DME ARC for the ILS 27. This involved abit of flying and was eventually cleared ‘direct BLAYN’ – I had GEP for DME in the GPS so I couldn’t easily fly there via GPS, instead intercepted the intersecting radial off GEP. I flew a really nice ARC, I was +/- .1 mile. Then intercepted the localizer and flew that in. Having just down the LOC approach, this was easy – I already knew the correction needed, etc. She placed emphasis on flying ABOVE the glide slope such that if I had a GS malfunction, I would be immediately aware because the GS would snap to the center (as opposed to flying ON the GS and then not knowing about a GS malfunction right away). Circle to land on runway 36 – she had some tips for me on my circle to land.
- About 1.6 total flight time, about 1.0 simulated instrument time
Maybe the flying portion was easy but more likely was that I was extremely prepared (thanks Kevin!). The flight felt like a conversation (again) in the air and she was more than helpful and provided subtle hints, like “now we just be sure not to peg the needle” or something akin to that. I PASSED.
Now, the fun part was trying to get home. In the meantime, the snow started creeping south and now we had a full fledged snow storm on our hands, 1.25 mi visibility, heavy snow, light ground winds. I could have flown IFR home – it was only 8 mi flight, but I was not excited about the circumstances. So, after listening to AWOS at ANE and MIC, I ask ground control for directions to the FBO – I love talking to ATC, they are often nice. When asked which FBO I had to laugh and say one with a lounge please (since I didn’t know ANE at all). Anyway, I ended up at [Cirrus Flight Operations] – and I just have to put a plug in here because even though I didn’t need to buy anything, the staff treated me as a first class citizen, buying ME a soda and pizza – what a way to de-stress the situation, awesome. Eventually, I did make it home at sunset. It wasn’t my most favorable flight but it was safe and legal VFR. Whew.