Sunday, December 3, 2017

Partial Panel

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
02 Dec 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - ROC (Rochester, NY) - SDC 2.5 1744.0

Lacking a functional attitude indicator (Garmin claims shipment for the G5 on December 15), I have not flown actual or simulated IFR in many weeks. Feeling that my proficiency was aging poorly -- my most recent approach in actual IMC was to Parkersburg, WV in August -- I decided to don the hood for the first time since July. As a break from the usual routine, I would need to fly partial panel for the entire duration of the practice session because...well...my airplane only has a partial panel at the moment. Tom C was willing to fly as safety pilot. One of the perks of basing at Williamson-Sodus is that when I need a safety pilot, I usually get more offers of help than I can accept.


I arrived early that morning as the sun was just breaking over the trees surrounding the field. It was glorious.


I was the only one at the airport, nothing else moved except tendrils of fog dissipating over the runway. Chris' Bonanza was beautifully highlighted in the golden morning rays.


Tom and I launched around 9:00. I flew a southwest heading on the Genseo 050 radial to perform an overdue VOR check. For a morning that began in such breathtaking fashion, the rest of the day unfurled in a hazy and uninspiring VFR-ish manner. With the VOR check completed, I turned the Warrior northbound, put on the Foggles, notified Tom that he was responsible for visually clearing the airspace around us, and contacted Rochester Approach. While I was be-Foggled, Tom indicated that I was not missing much in the haze.

Without an attitude indicator, I relied on altimeter and vertical speed indicators to provide pitch information while the rate of turn indicator and directional gyro provided indirect bank information. I chose not to display the AHRS data from the Stratus as a digital artificial horizon in ForeFlight. That would be too easy and I wanted to work for my approaches

Ground track from ForeFlight

We flew Rochester's ILS-22, ILS-28, RNAV-25, and RNAV-28 approach procedures before departing eastbound for Williamson-Sodus. I did the hold in lieu of procedure turn (HILPT) at WALCO to establish on the Sodus RNAV-25 approach, flew the procedure to LPV minimums, then the missed approach procedure to GOYER where I established in the missed approach hold. From there, I flew the RNAV-28 approach a second time into Sodus for a full stop landing. In 2.3 hours under the hood, I hand-flew six approaches, all without an attitude indicator.

I remarked to Tom that I felt like I was S-turning all over the place the entire time.

"It's not as bad as you think," he assured me. The ground track above supports that, though the occasional wobble is visible. My interceptions were all crisp and I did not detect any mistakes flying any of the approaches. Though my flying was not as crisp as it would have been with an attitude indicator, I was pleased with how the morning progressed and, despite a lapse of several weeks since the attitude indicator failed, I still felt proficient flying my ship on instruments.

All in all, it was a satisfying way to spend the morning. I view this kind of early December practice session as being akin to winterizer fertilizer, fortifying my IFR skills prior to their going dormant for the next couple of months.

Then again, as club president Steve reminded me recently, there's always the simulator.