Sunday, 21 November 2010

The IR Journey

The usual IR course day is composed of one flight and one backseat, with all the planning that comes along.
Unfortunately this week has been pretty busy at PAT and despite the great efforts to fit me in, I didn't get to fly a lot.
We visited three new airports (Exeter, Bristol International and Alderney), which are all exam routes.

A typical test profile starts off with a 45 minute planning (that's the time allowed to fill in the logsheet, the mass & balance and take-off/landing performances calculations, the flight plan, and a quick study of the route and the approaches procedures).
If some of this is not pre-filled in advance, it is close to impossible to do everything properly in less than an hour.

To make things a bit more interesting, we don't fly the inbound leg as a straight line towards the destination. Instead, we usually depart backtracking a beacon (BIA NDB at Bournemouth), to intercept a radial from another beacon (usually SAM VOR), leading to a waypoint (THRED, MULIT, EXMOR, ...) and/or an airway (N864 between Exeter and Cardiff, Q41 between Southampton and the Channel Islands towards ORTAC), before joining the arrival at destination.

Once there, we either do a procedural approach or a radar vectored (by ATC) approach. A procedural approach is drawn on an "approach plate" and is allocated to one particular type of approach. And there is actually plenty to choose from. They can be "precision approaches" : ILS/DME or ILS only (using Markers), or "non-precision approaches": Loc/DME, VOR/DME, VOR timed, NDB/DME, NDB timed, Rnav (GPS), etc ...
The VOR and NDB approaches usually imply a final track offset to the runway axis, we come down to an angle with the runway, and once we become visual we make a small adjustment in turn before landing. (cf picture below)

Before commencing the approach, we usually go into the "hold", a pattern aiming at delaying the landing time. Not that we need to delay the arrival every time we fly, but as this is one of the not-so-easy parts of the flight, we get to fly at least one hold every flight. The tricky bit being to achieve the inbound track by the beacon, after a correction for the wind in the outbound leg. It probably doesn't speak to anyone who hasn't seen one.

I got the chance to do some rather fast descent to save some time (and money) in a more commercial way. Hence some indicated airspeed of 170 kts, and .. we had up to 220 kts ground speed at some point.
We then fly the approach in itself, and when coming down to DA (decision altitude) or MDA (minimum descent altitude), usually somewhere between 200ft and 400ft above the ground, we abort the approach and go around as if we didn't become visual at that point (which, in reality, would trigger a go around as well). That's where we get a simulated engine failure (the instructor pulls randomly one engine back to idle during the climb out).

After dealing with the engine failure and upon completion of the emergency drills, we then have to follow the "missed approach instructions", which we would have requested before commencing the approach. Heading back home (i.e. Bournemouth airport), we either get radar vectored (if we flew a procedural approach at destination) or fly the procedure if we were radar vectored at destination. Particularity here, the whole approach is now flown on one engine.

If we flew a precision approach (i.e. an ILS) at destination, we fly a non-precision approach back in Bournemouth (usually an NDB approach) or the other way around. The "screens" are kept until DA/MDA, point at which the instructor removes them while we continue the approach a bit further, before going around again, on one engine this time. Continuing visually (VMC), we fly a "circle to land" below a simulated (or real ...) cloud base of 700~800ft, still on one engine.

Other than for that last circuit, the whole flight is flown on instruments (IMC), and unless the weather is absolutely awful, the outside view is hidden by "screens" at all times.
However, the view from the back seat is usually very enjoyable, made up from orange sunrays in the early mornings or late afternoons, exiting clouds surfing, or even exotic landscapes...

Airbone life continues...


Sandra said...

wooo it's seems really hard... but worth living!! your pictures are amazing!!! it really is beautiful!! good luck! keep up the hard work ^^

LJ35 said...

Sympa Alderney... sauf qu'en vol IR simulé, on ne profite pas beaucoup du paysage ! :-)