Last night I attempted to do an IPC with the instructor (Lenny) who I did my instrument rating with.
I’d booked our club’s Dakota because we’d just upgraded our GPS from the 530 to the 530W and I wanted to try a LNAV+VNAV approach in it to see how it compares to an ILS.
Because I’m the sort of geek that I am, the first thing I did was download the new 530W manual and the 530W simulator, and read through the manual and try a couple of approaches in the simulator. The new upgrade gives the 530 significantly more information, especially guidance through approach holds and procedure turns, and turn anticipation, which is pretty cool. One thing I couldn’t find was information about doing ad-hoc holds, like at an en-route VOR. Unfortunately, the simulator simulates an HSI which our plane doesn’t have, so I wasn’t sure if the method I worked out to do them on the sim was going to work with the Dakota.
It was a beautiful day, bright sunshine, very light high cirrus, and winds on the surface light and variable. I told the controller that we were going to the nearby Geneseo VOR to practice holds, and off we launched. As we were on our way to the VOR, Lenny gave me a fake hold instruction on one of the airways, and I briefly flipped on the autopilot as I copied it and checked the chart for the inbound course, then went back to hand flying. I tried to be all official and slowed down when we were a minute out, but that threw off my altitude a bit, so I climbed back up to our cruising altitude and tried to retrim.
(One aside here: both Lenny and I are big guys, so in a PA-28 cockpit it’s a bit of a problem reaching the trim wheel – man I prefer the Lance!)
When I got to the holding fix, I hit the OBS button on the GPS, turned the CDI to the inbound course, and did a parallel entry. I used the timer on the GPS to count out a minute and a half, and turned 225 degrees to the left to intercept. Watching your representation march around on the moving map screen just makes it so easy. I intercepted the inbound course and used the CDI and the “DTK” field on the screen to track. When the flag flipped, standard rate turn to the right and waited until “TRK” showed I was flying the opposite of the inbound course. None of this debate whether you want to double or triple the wind correction on the inbound crapola, just fly the ground track. Wait for the required time or distance, and turn inbound – and between the moving map and the CDI, it’s really easy to see if you need to stop the turn to intercept or maybe steepen it up a bit. I remarked to Lenny “man, I never want to fly a hold any other way”. So of course he covered up the GPS screen and made me do another turn around the hold the old fashioned way.
On the outbound leg, he asked “do we have an altitude restriction?” No, I said, we’re VFR. “Ok, give me a stall.” No problem. I did one recovering at the first shudder, and he said he wanted a full stall, so I did one where I felt the nose drop. Then he asked for the controls and told me to close my eyes. Oh oh. I hate doing unusual attitude recoveries, and I especially hate doing them with Lenny. Most instructors will do maybe one yank and bank and then give you the controls. Not Lenny. He prefers to give you the whole roller coaster ride. I counted three hard positive G pulls, three “hit your head on the ceiling” negative G pushes, a couple of skidding turns, and the stall horn went off at least twice. Then he gave me the controls back in a steep turning dive. Ok, I recovered, although I was a little shook up, and he said “that’s good, let me try another”, and proceeded to do the same thing again, this time leaving me in a very steep turn in near level flight slowed down to near stall and badly out of trim. I recovered, but then I realized that I was very air sick.
I turned back to the outbound heading and turned on the autopilot. I told Lenny that I needed a break and took off my foggles, opened the vent, and tried to breath deeply. But it wasn’t working. I was covered in sweat, and I started that coughing that usually means that you’re getting ready to barf. I reached into my flight bag to dig out the barf bag that I bought way back when I was a student pilot. I thought I was getting better, but after a few minutes I had to say “forget it”, and I asked Lenny to take over and fly us home.
Every little updraft or downdraft or altitude change was enough to start me retching. I got very close, but I never actually puked, but I did get bile in the back of my throat. At one point I had to fart and I had a very bad flash back to my first ever flight. But sometimes a fart is just a fart, and I got away lucky.
After we got the plane parked, I wobbled out of the plane and helped as best I could with the tie down and stuff. We discussed plans to finish up the IPC next week – we’ll just do a couple of GPS and ILS approaches and some ground review, and we’ll be done. We also discussed turbulence and spatial disorientation – I always thought the unusual attitude recovery is more of an upset recovery thing, as if you got hit with one really bad gust or up or down draft, but Lenny sees it more as a compressed simulation of a long flight in turbulent clouds. We also discussed our flight home from Oshkosh in 2003 when I decided to stop in Muskegeon overnight but the group that Lenny was with decided to push through. He said he’s never been so scared in a plane as that day. He said it was worse when they stopped for fuel in Buffalo and discovered that the area they’d just flown through was reporting tornadoes.
I barely managed to drive home, and for the first time in years I didn’t back into the driveway because I didn’t want to turn my head that much. Then I went upstairs, changed out of my soaking wet shirt, and lay in bed shivering.
It’s 17 hours later, and my head is still feeling like I don’t want to turn it too fast, and my throat is raw from the bile.