Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bring on the Soup!

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
06 Mar 2016 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - 5G0 (Le Roy, NY) - GVQ (Batavia, NY) -
ROC (Rochester, NY) - SDC
2.5 1512.6

As January drew to a close, I logged a tenth of an hour in the clouds. I struggled to track the course assigned to me by air traffic control, though perhaps that was because I was extremely focused on whether my airplane was picking up ice. Whether this distraction played into my ability to hold a heading or not, I ended the episode concerned that my instrument skills had atrophied significantly since I last used them in September of 2015.

I spent an entire week ill enough to miss two days worth of work, but the forecast for Sunday was so perfect that I arranged to fly with Dave P from the Williamson Flying Club as my safety pilot. Fortunately, I was largely recovered by Saturday, though I found myself struggling to sleep Saturday night. When I met Dave at the airport Sunday morning, I felt alert enough, but wondered if that would still be the case in the air. I warned him that I might not be up to the task and that we would  abort if that was the case.

GPS ground track collected by ForeFlight and output to Google Earth

The plan was to launch from Sodus (SDC), track to the Geneseo VOR (GEE), execute a "hold in lieu of procedure turn (HILPT) to get myself turned around, and fly the non-precision VOR-A approach into Le Roy (5G0). Flying the published missed approach procedure would take us back to the Geneseo VOR for one turn in the hold followed by a departure to the northwest on the ILS-28 procedure into Genesee County Aiport (GVQ). We would fly the published missed approach, which requires tracking outbound on the localizer with the associated reverse sensing of the cockpit instrumentation ("drag the needle!"), then holding at POCZI, which is defined as the intersection of the localizer and a radial off of the Rochester VOR. From there, we would fly the ILS-22, the RNAV-25, and the ILS-28 at Rochester before returning to Sodus to fly the RNAV-28.

It was an ambitious plan considering my questionable physical and mental condition, but we flew the whole thing and it all went very well.

GPS ground track of HILPT procedures at the Geneseo VOR (GEE)

No one really likes holds very much, myself included, but I wanted to ensure that I did multiple hold entries for practice. Inbound to GEE from the northeast, I executed a parallel entry, did one full circuit in the hold, then departed to the northwest on the VOR approach into Le Roy while Dave visually monitored our position relative to a scattered layer of clouds that somehow managed to stay out of our way. There was a lot of traffic in the area as well and the TIS-B traffic display was useful in sorting it all out. After following the sometimes-squirrelly VOR signal until the Warrior crossed over the top of the Le Roy Airport, we returned to Geneseo, entered the hold using a teardrop entry, then departed for Genesee County. After all of these gyrations, both mental and spatial, I was surprised to find my airmanship tightening up and I decided to continue with the rest of the plan.

As we intercepted the Genesee County Airport localizer at POCZI, I could not help but reflect on the first day I flew that approach with Tom. It was my first ILS, I was exhausted, and it was a complete disaster. Not so today; all went well. Poor Dave was trying to visually acquire multiple traffic targets called-out by Rochester Approach and, while the traffic display in ForeFlight was very helpful, he still struggled to get a visual on everything (I'm glad I'm not the only one with this problem).

GPS ground track for the approaches flown into Rochester

The three approaches into Rochester went smoothly. Though it was early March, most of the snow was gone and spring-like thermals worked to increase distractions and workload. I turned past assigned headings a couple of times while receiving vectors from Rochester, but caught it immediately in each case. My actual interceptions of the final approach courses were much crisper than past examples.

After one RNAV (GPS) and two ILS approaches into Rochester, we departed eastbound for Sodus. Just for variety, I "failed the vacuum system" by covering up the attitude and directional gyros and flew the RNAV-28 approach back into Sodus on a partial panel.

I brought the Warrior to a stop at the fuel farm, soaked in sweat after nearly 2.5 hours of hand flying six approaches in the thermals while under the hood. "You're a harsh taskmaster," I accused Dave ironically.

I was pleased. I started the morning wondering if I was competent and awake enough to fly at all and, not only was I able to fly well, but I exceeded my own performance expectations after a long lapse (my last time flying under the hood was October of 2015, 1.8 hours).

Bring on spring and bring on the soup!


  1. And you did some partial panel to boot.... Way to knock off the rust tough guy. Sounds like a great work out, you'll be ready for the soup!

    1. Yeah, I was thinking about you and how your buddy Mike always tortures you with the unexpected. I think I did a pretty good job of working myself over this morning. Huge confidence boost, though. And, frankly, after being sick for a weak and lying around like a slug for much of the time, it was good to feel alive again.