Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lesson 25: Under the hood

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Broken clouds, 56 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 11 knots

I'll be brief about today's lesson. As we check off the remaining requirements in my training, Instrument work is one thing we had not yet practiced. While an Instrument Rating is a whole separate certification (including training, a knowledge test, and another checkride) I plan to work on in a year or two, the FAA requires anyone training for a Private Pilot Certificate to have at least 3 hours of Instrument training. Basically enough so you won't kill yourself if you accidentally end up inside a cloud. So today that's what we worked on.

As soon as I had taken off, Dave took the plane and had me put on the hood. It's just a view-limiting device that only lets you see the instrument panel and blocks the view out the windows. Unless you're actually in the clouds, you need to have your visual references (i.e. the horizon) blocked to really learn and use the instruments. Today turned out to be a great day weather-wise for practice as it was really bumpy with lots of updrafts and downdrafts underneath the cloud deck. Having to try to fly instruments while the weather tossed me around was good, realistic practice for if I ever accidentally get caught in some clouds.

This looks like the hood I was wearing

The main instruments Dave had me focus on were the Airspeed Indicator, Altimeter, Artificial Horizon, and Directional Gyro. When flying instruments, you have to keep your eyes moving in a constant scan of all the instruments. Fixate on any one and you can quickly get out of control. Having never flown instruments before, I started off fixating too much and also making bigger corrections than necessary. Over the course of the lesson, Dave said he could see me really improve to where I was making much smaller corrections and flying smoother. Similar to early training, I just made the basic maneuvers - climbs, turns, descents, and combinations of them.

Before flying home, Dave introduced me to what he says is one of his favorite thing to do to students. He had me close my eyes, put my head down to my chest, and then kicked the plane around quickly in a series of climbs, descents, and turns. Then he had me take the controls and, without opening my eyes, try to recover to what "feels" like level flight. The first time I ended up in a slow right-turning climb. The second I ended up in a rather steep right-turning dive. It was a great illustration of how you absolutely cannot trust your senses when you lose visual references. Use your instruments!

I'm off for the weekend, but will be back for my second short solo cross-country flight next Tuesday. The plan is to fly down to Kentucky and hopefully enjoy the scenic rolling hills.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 10.5 hours
Total Time: 41.9 hours

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