IR(R) Training Log: Lesson 3 & 4

After a good night’s sleep it was time for day 2 of my IR(R) training. The previous day was very exhausting and so I was a little worried about my fatigue, I definitely didn’t feel as fit as the day before, but it all worked out fine in the end. Once I’m in the plane and moving, all the blues goes away!

Unusual Attitude Recovery

Briefing

This day’s morning session was all about recovering from unusual attitudes on a limited panel. There are three unusual attitudes to consider: a spiral dive, a nose-up attitude near the stall and a prolonged turn which fools your senses into believing the plane’s wings are level.

First the pilot must detect what kind of unusual attitude the aircraft is in. A spiral dive can be recognised by increasing airspeed, wings banked way beyond the rate-1 turn and a rapid loss of altitude, whereas a nose-up stall comes with low speed and gaining altitude. The prolonged turn is not something that has to be discovered, rather the pilot must prove that he trusts the instruments more than his senses. More on that later.

Exercise

We took off again in CY, my now favourite aircraft. Soon after take-off I was given the foggles to put on, and from there on Jerry was giving me directions and altitudes to fly in, similar to how air traffic control would pass them to me. Unfortunately that means I have absolutely no clue where I’ve been that day. I swore that on the next day I would record my track using SkyDemon!

After performing a HASELL check, Jerry demonstrated the recovery from the spiral dive once for me before I had to do the same. I thought to myself that the first thing would be to look for the airspeed in order to find out whether it’s a dive or a nose-up attitude. To recover from the spiral dive one must follow the PRP-rule: power, roll, pitch. Power means that the power must be set first, and in a spiral dive that means closing the throttle in order to stop accelerating. Then comes rolling the wings level using the turn coordinator, before slowly raising the pitch to catch the descent on the altimeter and slow down the aircraft. Once the airspeed is 100kts or below the power will be reset to normal cruise settings.

Next came the nose-up attitudes, and the recovery here also follows the PRP-rule: full power on the throttle to gain airspeed, roll the wings level on the TC, then lower the nose the stop the climb. Once normal cruise speed is reached, reduce power.

So far so good, pretty much the same as in the PPL test, except a few instruments missing.

The final task was to transition from a prolonged rate-1 turn into level flight. This sounds very easy, but one should never underestimate the sensual illusions the body is capable of when half blind! It takes about 20-25 seconds for the vestibular system in our ears to get accustomed to any orientation in space when no acceleration is applied. In a perfectly balanced turn, every lateral force is removed by using the rudder pedals, and so the brain is under the illusion of being straight up. The weird thing then happens when the aircraft is rolled into the ‘real’ level attitude, when there’s actually some rotational acceleration being applied to our balance system. The brain is being tricked into thinking it’s not straight anymore, and we feel a strong desire to get back to where we came from, which actually was a turn. My task was to prove that I don’t give a rat’s ass about my senses and fully trust the turn coordinator as a source of where we are in space. It feels very weird, but it worked.

I recovered several times from each of those attitudes successfully and so it was time to head back to Wellesbourne for a break and briefing for the next lesson.

VOR Tracking

Briefing

Lesson 2 on that day was VOR tracking. VOR stands for ‘Very high frequency Omni-directional Radio’, and it’s a beacon on the ground used for radio navigation. They’re basically the same as lighthouses for pilots. The exercise consisted of the following segments: setting and identifying the radio beacon, intercepting and tracking a ‘radial’ (a course if you will) to or from the beacon. For this I learned the SIDPIT mnemonic:

  • Set: tune the radio to the appropriate frequency
  • Identify: check that the beacon is working by listening to its morse code (yes that archaic method to transmit letters in excruciatingly slow speed)
  • Display: make sure the instrument to use for the VOR is working in the correct manner
  • Parallel: fly a heading parallel to the desired track
  • Intercept: once flying parallel and the location relative to the desired track is determined, fly a new heading to intercept the radial
  • Track: fly along the radial, making small corrections every time we have moved away from it (the wind is often to blame here)

Exercise

We decided to use the Daventry VOR (DTY) for our exercise, and Jerry asked me to intercept the 240 radial coming from DTY. I’ve planned the flight to go easterly at first, until the VOR needle would come in, then intercept and track until reaching the VOR, then track the relative outbound radial 060 afterwards.

The VOR station wasn’t identifiable on the ground, so I did this during the take-off climb. Frequency set, morse code identified and display checked. All good. Except I forgot to do the same with the (separate) DME radio, which provides the distance to the station. Bad mistake!

Flying along the easterly heading the needle soon started to move in, and when it was about 5 degrees off I started a turn towards the left to fly parallel to the radial. Once aligned, a glance at the OBI (omni-bearing indicator) to figure out whether I’m left or right of track is enough, and a few degrees of course correction are done to intercept again. Once the needle is perfectly centred I took on a heading of 240 to fly along the radial.

Jerry asked me not to do any corrections for wind, and so we were quickly blown off the track. This was observable through the OBI needle moving left. We were right of track, so another course correction to the left by a few degrees until the needle came back… and so on.

Soon we reached the beacon and the to/from marker went flipped around and now showed a ‘from’ indication, meaning we’re going away from the beacon. Tracking away from the beacon is exactly the same as tracking to the beacon, so no difference here.

We did a right turn and I intercepted the 270 radial towards the beacon again, all without problems. Next was position fixing using DTY and the Honiley VOR (HON), which was a bit tricky. Jerry has positioned the aircraft somewhere in between Daventry and Wellesbourne, and I had to figure out the radial from DTY as well as HON, then draw those lines onto a map. This is trickier than it sounds, an IFR pilot is not supposed to look away from the instruments for more than a few seconds. I quickly drew lines, and between each step glanced at the instruments – put the ruler down, check the instruments, grab the pen, check instruments, draw line, check instruments, and so on. I guesstimated my approximate position quite well, only about 2 miles away from the actual position!

After that it was time to head back to Wellesbourne.

Conclusion

I have to admit that the second day was much less exhausting than the first day was. Recovery from unusual attitudes is not too complicated if you know what to expect and how to handle them. VOR tracking is also easy if you’re good with map reading and having a virtual map in your head. All in all a quite successful day.

Course Time: 5:50h
Under the Hood: 5:05h

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