Instrument flying

Instrument flying

Visibility: right around 1.5 kilometers
Temperature: 11°C
QNH: 1014hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: Cessna 150 (D-EALX)

It is a miserable day with visibilities so close to the VFR minimums, that only the fact that it is Saturday is getting aircraft in the air. I arrive at the flight school and we start our morning with an extended theory lesson.

Around mid morning we go out to fly a few patterns to see if the visibility has improved. It has not. In the down wind leg we are just about able to see the runway.

Back in the briefing room, we continue theory of radio navigation. Today I am introduced to the concept of the VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Radio). This is a network of ground based radio stations. Their signal can be picked up by the VOR receiver in the aircraft which displays the relative position of the aircraft to the station.

We go through the theory. Then we simulate a trip on the computer. After that the flight instructor looks out of the window. The fog has not lifted. “Today would be a great day to get some real life experience” he says refering to the poor visibility. I’m game.

Our half hour trip will be a triangle to the south. My job will be to follow VOR and compass and to fly the aircraft without looking out of the window (there is not much to see out there anyway). The job of the flight instructor is to tell me the new headings at the way points.

We are departing to the south, following the VOR receiver in the cockpit to a close by VOR station. I hold the course and maintain the correct altitude. Maintaining the correct attitude with the artificial horizon is something new to me. It requires a lot of my concentration.

We use the VOR station as our first turning point and change the course to the north east. Again we follow its signal, this time to guide us away from the sender.

The next turning point, which will bring us on a western course back to the airport, is more complicated to find. We calculated the time after which we should get there and we know the heading for the last leg of the trip back home. As we are getting closer to the turning point, we start calling in to the airport to get our bearing.

At about 30 degrees south of the final bearing, I begin a left bank onto the new course. I peek out of the side window. Beneath the clouds and the fog I see something dark which may or may not be the lake that markes our way point.

We keep confirming the heading to the airport and before long, we see our home field through the mist. This was great training. I’m sure I will be tired tonight!

To be continued…


(originally posted on November 10, 2011 by tilbo at

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