I remember doing my IMC training and struggling hard to get my head around VORs and NDBs and how to interpret the instruments to figure out where I was in relation to them. I used a program called RANT to try to figure it out and it help a bit. Now there’s an app for it – Radionav Sim - written by a friend of mine, Vincent Lambercy. It’s pretty cool and much cheaper than RANT. Well worth getting if you’re studying for an IMC or IR or just trying to learn radio navigation.
- JAR Single Engine Piston rating renewal. Somehow, stupidly, I had let this lapse. I can still fly N-reg aircraft on my FAA CPL but I like to keep all my ratings current so I decided to renew it.
- JAR IMC rating. This rating lets me fly G-reg aircraft in clouds in the UK. It has to be renewed with a flight test every couple of years and my rating was due to expire later this year but it made sense to renew it now because it doubles up with some of the FAA tests.
- FAA Instrument Proficiency Check. You can keep an FAA instrument rating current by performing six approaches, some holds and some tracking in actual IMC (or under the hood or in a sim) within the past six months. However, this is a pretty low standard of currency. You could fly them all in January and then do nothing until July. I don’t think you’d be very current at the end of it. My preference is to fly with an instructor or do an IPC every three to six months. That way I know I’m legal and current.
- FAA Biannual Flight Review. I passed my CPL in October 2007 so I didn’t need to do a BFR until later this year but it seemed to make sense to wrap it up with the other stuff because so much of it overlaps.
So off I went with John Page from TAA UK in N147GT to do some holds, tracking and approaches at Southend. The sneaky so-and-so had fixed it with the controllers to switch of the glideslope on my second approach so I had to revert to a localiser-only approach. It wasn’t elegant at first as I had to check the plate for the heights and so on but I made a good recovery and would have landed safely.
This is why I prefer doing checkrides with instructors because you learn something each time. Left to my own devices, I would have done a radar-vectored, auto-coupled ILS approaches and it would have been a cake walk.
Then we went off to the local area for the dreaded compass turns. I can master computers and GPS systems with manuals 500 pages thick. But a simple magnetic compass, a stopwatch and some schoolboy maths does my head in every time. Then some other VFR SEP/BFR type stuff: practice forced landings, stalls, steep turns etc.
After that, recovery from unusual attitudes. With foggles. On the back up instruments. In turbulence. My gyros toppled completely and I was nearly sick but this is good practice. It was a pleasure to get the circuit portion of the checkride over and land after nearly two hours aloft.
Then the paperwork. As Wernher von Braun said “Going to the moon is easy but the paperwork is very difficult.” (His biography was called “I aim for the stars” but some wag suggested that the subtitle should be “…but sometimes I hit London.”) Anyway, I’m back on the top line now and good to fly.