Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Training Mission Accomplished !

This past weekend was fun, educational and downright grueling!  As expected, the ground portion of the CPPP covered some specific topics, like in-flight weather, engine management and aviation safety.  The stats around Cirrus accidents and parachute deploys were quite a surprise to me.  However, the flight training was the really significant part for me this year.

The instructor I was assigned (named Cliff) was a former military pilot and a very seasoned instructor. I had met Cliff a few months ago.  But never had the opportunity to fly with him before.

The plan was to cover VFR work on Saturday, such as stalls, slow flight, unusual attitudes, emergencies etc and IFR work on Sunday, such as procedures, holds, precision flight etc.  Sounds simple right??.  (That's what I thought)

From the beginning, Cliff's military background was blatantly obvious. After he carefully watched me do the entire pre-flight, we taxied out to runway 27.  Seconds after we started to move, Cliff noticed I was a few inches off of centerline and ~ 1200 RPM.  He immediately insisted that I get "exactly on centerline" and "exactly @ 1000 RPM".  That was just a hint of the level of precision that Cliff demanded of his students.  After the run up, he gave me the instructions for the flight and we were quickly cleared for takeoff.

After departure I was to join V97 as soon as practical and track to the Rome VOR using NO GPS and NO AutoPilot.  The "no auto pilot", I expected... But the "No GPS" hurt.  I felt like I couldn't use any R9 magic and I don't remember the last time I tracked a radial to an old fashioned VOR!

After I eventually got to the Rome VOR, we did some slow flight, stalls and unusual attitudes. Again, I thought to myself "Simple enough". However, I didn't realize the level of precision he required.  As a result, it took me 4 attempts to do one of the maneuvers until I did it "well enough" for him.  Even his technique for simulating emergencies was a bit interesting.  He pretended to be a panicked passenger repeatedly yelling "Smoke in the Cabin" when we were ~ 5 miles from landing.  I had to retrieve the right checklist and stay focused despite his distractions. After surviving Saturday, I was looking forward to Sunday's IFR flight because that is more of my comfort zone.

On Sunday morning, I was prepared to spend the entire flight under the hood.  Luckily (or unluckily) the weather was not very good and most of the flight was in actual IMC.  

My level of precision was more to Cliff's liking on Sunday ;-)  I was doing great and feeling rather proud of myself for flying so well in the clouds.     Then Cliff decided to change everything!

1. First, he blanked out my PFD, which is the left IFD screen on the R9 ... (No problem... I just flew while looking at the right screen.)  
2. Then he pulled the autopilot circuit breaker... (No problem... I just flew by hand..)
3. Then he pulled the circuit breaker on FMS keyboard ... (No problem.  This was the first time I flew with this many things "failed" at the same time... But I did reasonably well)
4. Then he told me I had to fly the ILS27 back to McCollum Field in this condition... Yikes!  Just flying straight and level in this condition was OK.  But flying an ILS in actual IMC with 3 items failed, really pushed me!!!  I struggled to keep up with the radios and frequency changes using only backup instruments.

Fortunately,both Cliff and I survived!  Here is what the resulting GPS track looked like on Flightaware:

After a short break, I flew home and finished the weekend with ~ 10 hours on hobbs and a huge feeling of accomplishment!  Hopefully, I wont have to experience any of those emergencies for real.  But if I do, I now feel just a little more "ready".

== T.J.==

Friday, May 13, 2011

Off to Training in Atlanta

It's that time of year again.  Like most pilots, my insurance company "requires" (or should I say "financially encourages") me to take annual recurrent training.  The first few years of plane ownership, I would simply follow the basic FAA Wings program and do some 1-1 training with a local flight instructor.  This was enough to satisfy the insurance company and the FAA.  However, I rarely found it to be very significant.

Last year, I found a much better approach.  The Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) sponsors a 2 day program called the Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program (CPPP).  I attended one in Lakeland, FL last year and found it to be very worthwhile.  The program entails about 10 hours of ground school and 6 hours of flight school.  This weekend there is a CPPP in Atlanta.

So this morning I flew from Tampa to Cobb County McCollum Airport on the north side of Atlanta. The flight was uneventful until I got close to Atlanta Hartsfield's Class B airspace.  Then it got interesting!

The ATL Approach controller was busy orchestrating ~ 8 different aircraft and seemed a bit grumpy.  Every plane on the frequency seemed to be in the wrong position.  For about 10 minutes, there was not a single break on the radio with every transmission being rapid-fire instructions for heading and altitude changes.  When he finally got around to me, he seemed in a hurry to get rid of me.  He gave me a heading change, an altitude change, the Turbo 2 Arrival Procedure and a frequency change!  I repeated the whole thing back and was happy to change frequencies.  Thankfully, the next controller and frequency seemed to be much calmer.

I then tried to pull up the Turbo 2 procedure chart only to realize that it didn't exist!  However, there was a TRBOW 8 procedure.   I confirmed with the controller, who laughed and told me (in his southern drawl) "there's only one Turbo procedure 'round here and it's Turbo 8"  As you can probably tell, not only was this frequency calmer, the controller was much friendlier.  In fact, when he gave frequency changes, it was often accompanied with "Good Day Y'All"  

After he vectored me to a straight in RNAV GPS 27 approach, I flew a rather good approach but the landing wasn't great.  It was smooth but a little left of centerline.  Luckily, the long, wide runway was quite forgiving.  The line crew @ Preferred Jet Center towed me into a parking space next to 4 other Cirrus planes.  Made for a cool picture today:

By the time "school" starts tomorrow, there should be 2 dozen more Cirrus planes on the ramp.  Hopefully, I can get an even cooler picture and some videos sometime this weekend.

== T.J.==