We are now in to February and thanks to a combination of the weather picking up and our instructor losing students who have completed, we have started picking up the pace somewhat. It is still a little hit and miss, and there are days when we can sit around the school all day with nothing to show for it at the end, but happily we are making real progress in between, and are just about half way through the Instrument Rating by now.
We finally managed to get our first flight done in January, along with 3 others since, and hopefully another tomorrow. The first couple involve nothing more than a bit of general handling, just to get used to being back in the plane again, though from the second flight onwards we having been flying with instrument screens up, meaning we are relying solely on instruments (the picture illustrates this well). Our third and fourth flights have involved flying instrument departures from Oxford, and then joining the hold overhead before flying the NDB approach in. Pilots use these instrument approaches, such as the NDB procedure and ILS, to fly approaches when the weather is too bad. They can be flown just using radio beacons down to a decision altitude, at which point if the pilot sees the runway he can land, else he must go around. In fact the cloud base and visibility was so low on our fourth flight that we were only a few feet away from decision altitude when the runway came in to view, which was a welcoming sight! We have been flying a lot in and above the clouds which has been absolutely amazing. It is so nice that even when the weather is awful on the ground, we still get to see bright blue skies and sunshine every day!
Our lessons in the sims are going well too, and we have started flying the kind of routes we will be flying in our Instrument Rating test. The first was a route from Oxford to Bristol Filton, the next was to Bristol with a diversion to Gloucester, then to Cambridge with a diversion to Cranfield. The workload can be quite high at times, especially as the ATC is all pretty new to us, and I’m sure it will be even more difficult when we start doing them for real in the aircraft. We are also going to be throwing in engine failures soon, so I’m beginning to see why they say the Instrument Rating is so difficult!