I’ve written before about my doing practice approaches with a safety pilot in order to be current for IFR operations. Well, there is another way to restore your currency, and that’s to perform an Instrument Proficiency Check with an instrument instructor (CFI-I). The main difference between doing 6 approaches with a safety pilot versus doing an IPC with a CFI-I is that you can only do the 6 approaches with a safety pilot if you’re still current (ie. you’ve done 6 approaches, holding and tracking courses in the last 6 months), and you can do the IPC up to 6 months after your currency expires. Also, the IPC has a list of tasks to be done, but doesn’t specify how many approaches you have to do, so if you’re sharp and complete your tasks quickly and without any bobbles, you can do it pretty quickly.

Our club’s Dakota got a new Garmin 530 GPS and a new engine this winter. Over the summer, the club arranged a ground school on how to use the GPS, instructed by a CFI-I who is a member of the other club on the field who put Garmin 530s in all their planes. He seemed like a very good and patient instructor, and knew the 530 pretty well, so when the engine break-in was finished on the Dakota I decided to kill two birds with one stone and have him give me some air instruction on the 530.

I was still within currency, so at first Jim said we’d just do the 6 approaches. But we went out and did a couple of GPS approaches – RNAV (GPS) RWY 28 and RNAV (GPS) RWY 25. One of them we did the full approach, including the missed approach hold. I can’t believe how easy it is to fly approaches with this thing. Even the hold was easy – it told me what hold entry to do, it showed me the hold legs on the map, it timed everything and showed me the distance. After the second approach, Jim said that as long as I didn’t blow the next approach, he’d be willing to sign me off for an IPC if I didn’t want to do a full 6 approaches. He called for an ILS to a full stop.

Then, before I got established on the localizer, he went and slapped covers over the DG (Directional Gyro) and AI (Atitude Indicator). Oh oh. It was hard trying to use the “TRK” reading on the 530 to stabilize on the course, but it wasn’t good. I went full deflection, but Jim let me continue because we were still outside the FAF (Final Approach Fix) in VMC. I brought it back, and soon settled the sword fight down to keep both needles within a dot or two of centered. I think for partial panel like that, it’s probably easier to use the HSI on my hand-held. But for normal approaches, I like the panel mount GPS.

Man, I wish they’d put one of those Garmin 530s in the Lance. The Lance’s carrying capacity and roominess make it my favourite plane, but I’ve got to say with its smooth peformance, beautiful paint job, and great panel, the Dakota is a very close second.