March 16, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Lucky you. It’s instrument proficiency check day!
In honor of spring, this ride will also count as a rental checkout at the FBO.
First stop is the classroom, where the chief instructor goes over the aircraft, then asks you to ponder this IFR scenario for any questionable elements.
“An airplane is flying a straight-in instrument approach to Runway 22 on a wild and bumpy evening, holding 25 degrees correction for a strong, direct left crosswind. As the airplane nears the missed approach point, the pilot clicks the mic and beholds the happy sight of high intensity runway lights dead ahead, and the rotating beacon. The pilot idles the throttle and performs a normal landing.”
Aw, shucks, that’s an easy one to pick apart with the corny, overcooked clues.
First, the airport won’t be dead ahead. There’s a 25-degree left crosswind correction going on here. The pilot will spot the runway off to the right.
No, says the CFII. The airport will be dead ahead.
Come on, now. (This is almost like taking your checkride again.) Maybe the guy is trying to test your faith in your convictions. Perhaps he’s probing how well you deal with conflict, or something.
Now he drops another irritating bombshell, insisting with straight face that the heading you’d be flying for Runway 22 in this “direct left crosswind” is 224 degrees.
OK, look… there are other places to rent airplanes.
You’re about to chuck your instrument approach plates back in your flight bag and bid the bully goodbye when your eye catches a detail of the approach plate for the procedure you were going to fly today: The final approach course is 249 degrees.
Had the course been slightly more offset from the runway bearing, it would not have qualified as a straight-in approach.
Well, as the saying goes, read the whole question.
Now you’re dialed in. It won’t be a normal landing, you say; it will require an aggressive transition from the crabbed approach to a wing-low touchdown.
Another thing about your scenario, you tell him: It says here in the Airport/Facilities Directory that the rotating beacon is out of service indefinitely. And the airport has MIRLs, not HIRLs.
“Okay,” says the chief instructor. “Good job. Let’s go fly it.”
Earning an instrument rating is guaranteed to be one of the most challenging, rewarding, and fun projects a pilot takes on during a lifetime in aviation. Each week, this series looks at the IFR experience from a new perspective. Catch up on what you may have missed in the IFR Fix archive.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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