Lesson 40 – VOR Navigation

This lesson started in the classroom where we spent an hour going over the VOR system and how to use it. I learned about tuning in and verifying the stations, using the OBS and CDI to locate myself, intercepting radials and tracking to and from stations. I all seemed pretty simple while sitting at a desk. A good place to get some practice with VOR navigation without leaving the ground is Tim’s Air Navigation Simulator.

After the ground session, we got in an airplane to go practice what I had learned. The airport at Burlington, Wisconsin has a VOR on the field and is close to Waukegan so we chose that as our destination. Once in the air, Sandy first had me tune in and identify the O’Hare VOR. We used that station to demonstrate how the OBS and CDI worked by determining TO and FROM radials. Seemed easy enough.

Next, she had me tune in the Burbun VOR at Burlington and rotate the OBS to get a TO indication with the needle centered. That told me that my course to the station was 310 degrees. I turned to the heading and held it until the needle started to move to the right. That was what I was expecting to happen since the wind was coming from our left. I turned right to re-intercept the course then held a heading of 305 degrees as my first attempt at wind correction. The needle was still drifting slowly to the right so I corrected another 5 degrees to the left. That kept the needle centered. Sandy had be verify that we were on course by using pilotage. I matched landmarks on the ground with the sectional to confirm that we were where we should be.

Ten miles out, I called Burlington traffic and reported that we were inbound for landing. At five miles , I repeated the call and heard another pilot report three miles west. Just south of the field, I called again and advised that we would be overflying the field at 2300 feet (500 feet above the traffic pattern altitude) to set up for a right downwind for runway 29. The other aircraft was on short final by then so wasn’t a factor. My plan was to cross the runway at mid field, fly north of the pattern then make a left descending turn to enter the downwind at a 45 degree angle.

Everything went as I planed and I got on the radio again to report that I was on a 45 for the right downwind. A pilot in an experimental aircraft called to say he was south of the airport and would be entering the right downwind. We saw him above our altitude and expected him continue north and enter the pattern behind us. Instead, he flew over the runway and turned directly onto the downwind about a quarter mile in front of us. Luckily he was still higher than we were so it wasn’t a close call. Sandy said a few choice words about people who don’t follow recommended procedure when they enter the pattern then announced on the radio that we would be making a 360 degree turn for spacing. The other pilot kept announcing his position but never gave any indication that he knew we were there. Did he have the volume turned down on his receiver or was it that he just didn’t care if he cut us off?

We made our circle and got back onto the downwind. Like on Sunday, the approach looked good but I flared too high and bounced. Again, I pushed in the power and went around. Next time around and the landing was firm but not bad. Sandy said we would stay and do one more landing. Again, it is firm to the point of being just short of hard. I seem to be in one of those post solo landing slumps I have heard read about.

On the way back to Waukegan, I tuned the Kenosha VOR and set the OBS to 90 degrees. I intercepted that course and flew to the VOR for a few miles before turning toward home. The final landing was better except that I floated a little more than I should have.

The VOR navigation part of this lesson went very well. I enjoyed using the radio to find my way. I need to work on my landing more so that I can get over this slump. Sandy and I talked about it in the post flight briefing and decided we will spend the next lesson working on it. No normal landings though. If the wind is blowing, we will find a runway where I can practice crosswind landings. If the wind is light, we will go to a short and/or soft field. The idea is that the more challenging landings will get me back into the swing of it quicker.