Monday, April 29, 2013

First Instrument Flight Lesson/Training

I had a flight lesson yesterday which was my first introduction to instrument flying. Normally, one does instrument flying along with their dual cross country flights to save time and money. Might as well fit hours for two requirements into one flight! Yesterday I didn't have enough time for a cross country flight, so we just practiced learning the basics of instrument flying. 

Instrument flying tips from Sporty's: 

Before the flight yesterday, my instructor and I had some ground school time where we went over the instrument systems for our specific aircraft, the Tecnam Sierra. He quizzed me on what would happen if the pitot tube were to get clogged or frozen due to ice, other failures, etc. We went over techniques for instrument flying, ie. how you want to scan all of the instrument vs. becoming focused on only one. 

Yesterday was really smooth flying which was nice. There was light rain, which was actually pretty fun to fly through. I had never flown through rain before, so that was another first. After we departed the airport and arrived in the practice area, my instructor took the controls and I put the hood on for the next .7 hours. 

Same type of hood I used

Here is what we practiced during instrument-only flight: 

  • straight and level 
  • climbs and descents
  • turns to a heading (maintaining altitude and standard rate turn)
  • unusual attitude recovery 
  • climbing turns
  • descending turns
  • steep turns (45degree bank, within 100ft. of altitude)
  • navigation while IFR (basically the same) 
  • ILS approach to runway 16 at KOFP Hanover

I actually really enjoyed flying with just instruments. It added a whole new level of thinking and wasn't even that challenging. If anything, I was actually maintaining altitude, attitude, and heading better than if I had been flying VFR. It was weird not being able to see anything outside of the plane, felt a little strange, but nothing too bad. One really interesting test for yourself is to close you eyes completely (with an instructor) and try to maintain straight and level flight. Some really strange things happen when you do this. You don't feel the true motions of the aircraft. It's turns, banks, climbs, etc. are extremely hard to notice. That is the real danger for someone not instrument trained in IFR conditions, they will tend to believe their body's feelings vs. the instruments. 

Flying IFR Example

It's definitely a mental challenge trying to monitor all of the appropriate instruments and make adjustments when needed to correct for errors to maintain a perfect flight. Luckily, because the air was smooth, flying went smoothly, and there was never a time (except during steep turns) that my altitude was off by more than 30-40 feet. 

I had no idea we were going to do an ILS approach, and it turned out to be pretty cool. After running the approach, at the minimums of 800ft, I took the hood off and the runways was right ahead of us... straight on course. It was the best feeling having shot the first ILS approach perfectly. That was another extremely rewarding moment, having flown to a runway, perfectly on course, without even looking outside. 

After a nice landing (the air was finally smooth yesterday), we de-briefed on what we had done during the flight. In all, I did .7 hours of hood time, contributing to the 3 hour requirement for a PPL. 

Thanks for reading,
Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation


  1. Swayne, I really like flying instruments too. Just remember to always follow them. Unless they are wrong. :) Seriously, this is where your intellect must overpower your feelings. It's a powerful lesson.

    Fly Safe!

    1. Thanks for the comment! It definitely is a powerful lesson, one which I learned a few weeks ago. It is a strange feeling to believe you are flying straight and level when you could be in some pretty unusual attitudes and speeds.

      Thanks again,
      Swayne Martin

  2. Im flying this lesson tomorrow. I have already done two previous lessons. Its a great feeling when the hood comes off. I tend to chase the needles too much. Would not like to do this on a hot summer afternoon. Still air is best.


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Many Thanks, Happy Flying,
Swayne Martin