Day by day – Accelerated Flight Training
So I’ve decided to get my instrument rating, after waiting quite a while to have both the time and money at the same time. I searched high and low for what would be the right way for me to do the training, and finally decided that an accelerated flight training course would best fit my schedule. There are many accelerated Instrument training schools throughout the country, though they can get pretty pricey…and also it has to be factored in traveling there and having a place to live during the training as well. So I looked high and low to see if there was an accelerated course closer to where I live, hopefully close enough that I could commute daily, rather than have to pay for a hotel as well. Somehow, I came across an ad for Ellsworth Instrument Flight School, located in Timmonsville, SC. Only about a 45min drive from where I live…so I decided to look into that a bit more. I found there was a web page (https://www.instrumenttraining.com/) for the school that answered a lot of the questions I would have about my instrument rating. The price was by far the cheapest I had run across…40 hours in a nicely equipped Cessna 172, no simulator, for $4795. The instructor, Gerold Ellsworth, is a retired Air Traffic Controller, and has been instructing for longer than I’ve been alive…sounds good so far. I went up in February to meet him and take a look at the plane, after seeing the operation and getting to know him a bit, I was satisfied and put down my deposit money for a 10-15 day course at the beginning of April. The first hurdle was getting the written test out of the way prior to starting the class. Studied pretty hard for a few months and got a good score on the test in March. Otherwise, I needed to get a little more PIC XC time prior to starting as well, trying to get that time up to around 40hrs before starting the course. After that was accomplished, it was a waiting game for a couple weeks before the course started…and so it begins.
DAY 1 – Monday, Apr 2, 2007
The course started with a little ground school. Then we went up for 1.8 hrs. Began with some attitude inst flying, climbs, descents, climbing/descending turns, etc. Began with ILS 9, followed by GPS 1. Starting to figure out this garmin 400. He handled most of the comms…felt like I’d never been in a plane before and was way behind everything. Came back to land, couldn’t find the grass strip too easily, learned some landmarks for downwind, base, final, etc. Came back for lunch and more ground…he said I was doing very well, that’s good I guess. After lunch, went over appch, and set out for more approaches. Started with ILS, followed by GPS, then a VOR. He suggested I take off the blinders and fly vfr for a while, did a full stop ILS at FLO and took about a 30min break. Went back up, proceeded with a GPS, then VOR, and finally one more ILS before heading back home. He did most of the comms for the day, but started giving me more of that responsibility as our flights went on. Second flight was about 2.5 hrs. I’m still thinking my biggest problem will be with the comms…just not that used to the lingo and dealing with the tower, but Mr. Ellswoth took the time to teach me the proper phraseology. Forgot to mention that we had to swing the new vertical card compass, so learned how to do that too. Overall, a very demanding day, but lots of fun as well. Learned that the instructor is pretty picky on things, but I consider that a big plus…will make me a safer, more precise pilot…”more right rudder!!” Anyway, was pretty worn out by end of the day, especially my right leg.
DAY 2 – Tuesday, Apr 3, 2007
Approaches, approaches, approaches, and a lot of holding patterns. Spent the day doing all of the above. Worked our way up through published missed procedures and holds and finally to intersection holds with both two and one VOR receiver. Was a good day overall, though very tiring. Overall, did about another 4 1/2 hrs of flight for the day.
DAY 3 – Wednesday, Apr 4, 2007
Had planned to head out to Myrtle Beach. We were going to be spending the day out there doing approaches. After arriving, about 1.3hrs, went out to eat at a nice little “breakfast all day” type of place, then back to the airport. We then decided we’d head to CAE. On the way to CAE, had a strong headwind…got passed by several cars along the roads from what Gerold was telling me…didn’t go direct, but it took us about 2.5hrs from CRE to CAE…long time to be under the hood. Going into CAE we did a visual to 29 on the localizer, since my glide slope and second radio “failed”. Also to give me a bit of a break from the hood for a few minutes. Landed at CAE and stretched our legs for a little while, then did up another flight plan back to FLO, where we’d shoot a few more approaches before calling it a day. Went in to FLO on the GPS 9 approach, went missed and followed up with a GPS 27…missed, then back to Timmonsville. Was a very long, grueling day and 5.9 hrs of flight. Forgot to mention that Gerold scheduled my checkride for next Wednesday…one week from today. Seems pretty quick to me, but he’s confident that I’ll be ready. That’d only make the checkride on my 10th day of instruction.
DAY 4 – Thursday, Apr 5, 2007
Wow…another 5.9hrs for the day. One day of that was enough, two is a killer. I hope we don’t do that much tomorrow. Anyway, today was spent all our time at FLO doing approaches. We started into the partial panel holds and approaches through the day, then moved on to steep turns and unusual attitudes. Our plan for today and from here on out, other than the long XC, is pretty much checkride prep doing everything as I will on the big day next Wednesday. Also near the end of the day, we did my first VOR DME arc approach…didn’t go too badly, sounds a lot harder in the books than actually performing it. The partial panel took a bit of work to get used to, but after adjusting to the new scan, it wasn’t all that bad…plus it makes you appreciate the vacuum system that much more. Well, my brain is pretty well mush for the day, so I think this is about all I’ll write about it.
DAY 5 – Friday, Apr 6, 2007
Started with approaches at FLO…checkride prep. ILS 9, published missed and hold, then in on the VOR-A, followed by Full GPS 1. After all that, out to the practice area for steep turns and unusual attitudes. In the afternoon, we did approaches to other places around the area. First we were off to Darlington for the GPS approach, then to Marlboro county airport for another GPS approach, then back in to Timmonsville and called it a day. Total for the day was 4.8hrs.
DAY 6 – Saturday, Apr 7, 2007
Did our long XC today. Went to the FLO VOR, then along V259 to CRE for a touch and go…30kt crosswind, was glad I had an instructor with me because that was rough. Never would have tried that one myself. After the touch and go, we headed SW along V1 to KIMMY intersection before heading westbound towards the VAN VOR. Had groundspeeds of about 60kts going west with a strong headwind. We ended up landing at OGB for lunch and gas. Ended up meeting my examiner while there, seems like a nice guy. Also bumped the checkride up to this coming Tuesday, rather than Wednesday since the weather looked bad. After that, we headed back towards FLO for the ILS…of course about halfway into the approach we had a sim failed glide slope and finished up the approach with localizer only. Headed back to Timmonsville after the missed approach and called it a day, finishing up with 4.5hrs. Only a few days left till the checkride, so the light is at the end of the tunnel.
DAY 7 – Sunday, Apr 8, 2007
Continuing with checkride prep and just building up the hours towards the min requirements since we’ve covered everything. Approach after approach was the deal for the day. Our checkride prep involved taking off on 14 at 58J, picking up the FLO ATIS during our climb, turning westbound and calling approach, and then getting vectors to the ILS 9 approach. The approach went pretty smooth, though it was again a pretty turbulent day outside…also a little cold once again. After reaching our decision height, I’d follow with the published missed procedure and hold at the VOR. I flew about 3-4 laps in the holding pattern, and “poof” just like magic, I had a vacuum failure and we were then into the partial panel portion of the flight. I flew a few more laps in the hold partial panel, then extended our outbound leg prior to turning inbound for the VOR-A approach partial panel. My instructor had tightened up his tolerances quite a bit by today, so it felt like I was on day 1 again with all the corrections/adjustments he threw my way. “Watch that altitude!”…”don’t let that needle swing out of center!”. Following the VOR-A, we magically got our vacuum system back and proceeded to the full GPS 1 approach with the full panel. Everything here went pretty smooth. After the GPS 1, we headed out to the practice area for the steep turns and unusual attitudes…a few of each with the full panel, then a few of each again partial panel. After going through this entire list of things once, we did it a couple more times before calling it a day. Total flight time for the day was 3.2hrs. Only one more training day left before the checkride!
DAY 8 – Monday, Apr 9, 2007
Today’s training was a little more realistic in a way apart from the usual round of approaches. We had to go up to FAY to get his GPS worked on, so we’d be doing another short XC. I drew up our flight plan and called in to get a quick briefing before we headed out. Looks like the weather today would be quite a bit better (turbulence wise) compared to the last several days. It was a glass smooth trip up and back. We hung out there for a few hours while getting the work done on the plane and while we grabbed a bite to eat before heading back. Before calling it a day though, we went through one more round of the “mock checkride” at FLO before landing back at 58J. Last day of training has come and gone…I hope I’m ready! Gerold assures me that if I can fly to his standards, I’ll have no problems…let’s hope so. Total flight time today was 3.3hrs.
DAY 9, Tuesday, Apr 10, 2007–THE CHECKRIDE
Well, it’s checkride day, and I hope I’m ready. I show up today about 11, the appointment with the examiner is at 1. We go over a bit more ground school while lounging around the office and making sure all the paperwork is in order. After that’s wrapped up, we kick back and watch the King IFR DVD to see if there’s anything good in there that might be useful for my checkride. The examiner showed up at about 1:30 and we started in on the oral portion of the test. Everything here went pretty well, several questions about enroute charts and approach plates and weather. After the Oral we strapped into the plane and I made sure to get everything done on the ground that I could. Made thorough explanations of everything I was doing with the preflight and run up before departing. While climbing out, I tune in the ATIS and hear “ILS 9 not operational”. What?? I had to hear it again to see if I heard wrong. This isn’t good, the last thing I need on the checkride is some out of the ordinary, but at least it’s a realistic problem. We call up approach and ask about how long the ILS will be down. While waiting on a reply, my examiner explains that the ILS needs to be done, and the next closest one is at MYR. A bit of a flight out of the way, but I guess if we have to do it, we have to. Approach comes back on and informs me that the ILS is still useable and that it is scheduled to be worked on later in the day, so they clear us for the vectored ILS 9. Great…back to the plan. The ILS approach goes flawlessly, probably my best one yet. Though by this point I also notice that the Lgt-Mdt turbulence is again back today…hope it doesn’t get much worse though. After the ILS we wanted the published missed and hold. We didn’t get to do it exactly as published, but pretty close, so it went ok. Had a good entry into the pattern, then departure asks me to climb to 2500, rather than the published 2000. OK, no big deal, will just have to keep in mind that there’s an extra 500ft to lose when we go inbound for the VOR-A. After 2-3 circuits in the hold, the vacuum system fails and we do 2 more holds partial panel. I extend my outbound leg by a minute before turning inbound for the VOR-A…and losing that extra altitude. The VOR approach went much better than it had on a few other occasions, though this turbulence is trying to get the better of me. Constant power changes are in order to keep our speed where it needs to be while gaining/losing altitude induced by thermals and downdrafts. After passing the VOR inbound, I forgot to start the timer and began my descent to the MDA. It took about 20 seconds before I realized it…and after the examiner asked how I’d know when we got to the missed point. I started the timer and explained that I would subtract 20 seconds from the 2:36 listed on the approach plate as an approximation. Everything else on the approach went smoothly. After that, we headed out for the full GPS 1…no problems at all. Next, we headed out to the practice area for the maneuvers. We started with the unusual attitudes, both full and partial panel, then the examiner told me to head back to 58J to land. After landing, we taxi back up to the hanger and shut down. The examiner tells me that I did great and he’ll meet me inside while working on the paperwork for my temporary certificate. I made it! The flight lasted about 1.3hrs all together, and I’m now an Instrument rated pilot!