I need 3 hours of simulated instrument time for the private pilot certificate. I had only done 2.1 up to now so, the goal was to finish it off during this lesson. I put the hood on while we were still climbing out of the airport and didn’t take it off again until we were back inside the Waukegan airspace. That 1.1 hours under the hood seemed like a very long time to me.
Sandy has me start out by finishing the climb to 3000 feet and leveling off there. We are getting some small updrafts so I have to constantly work to keep from climbing. Once I am stable in straight and level flight, Sandy starts giving me level turns, then climbing and descending turns. Those went pretty well so next she has me turn while dialing in a VOR frequency. The idea is to fly the airplane first and not get distracted by the other tasks. I gain a hundred feet or so during the process but get it back down quickly.
With the frequency set and the station identified, I adjust the OBS to center the needle and track into the station. That goes OK so Sandy next has me tune a different VOR, set the OBS to the 270 radial from the station then intercept that radial and fly it outbound – while holding altitude of course.
Next, she tells me that I have been out flying around and not paying enough attention when I suddenly find myself in clouds. What will I do? First, I turn on the autopilot to hold my heading and altitude then set the heading bug to turn me 180 degrees. This should get me back into the clear air that I was in before my “cloud encounter” but, I know it isn’t going to work today. Sure enough, I fly the reciprocal heading for a little while then Sandy let’s me know that I’m still in thick clouds. I dial in 121.5, the emergency frequency, and declare an emergency. I don’t push the PTT switch of course but, I simulate the mayday call.
Sandy plays the part of Chicago approach and tells me that they have me south of the Burlington airport and that airport is reporting VFR conditions. I start a turn to the north with the heading bug and ask if the controller can help me by looking up the VOR frequency for the Burbun VOR, which is on the field. Sandy gives me the frequency and I set it in. As I track into the station, she asks what else I can use to find the airport. I have the GPS so I use the direct to function to get the course to Burlington. I hear her calling Burlington traffic to let them know we are overhead so I know I found it.
The autopilot is too easy so, Sandy has me turn it off then turn back to the south to get away from Burlington. Once clear, she takes the controls and has me close my eyes. I know what that means, unusual attitudes are coming up. I feel the roller coaster ride that I have come to expect. Up, down, turns left and right – getting me disoriented so I won’t be able to predict what she is going to do. When she tells me to open my eyes, we are in a dive with the airspeed rapidly approaching red line. I pull the power, level the wings and pull back on the yoke to slow down. I put the power back in and climb back to 3200 feet. She has me close my eyes again while she sets up the next attitude. I know we are nose up this time because the stall warning goes off about the same time she has me open my eyes. Nose down, full power and level the wings. Again, I level off at 3200 feet without any problem.
Sandy tells me to relax and just hold straight and level for a little while. She tunes in the ATIS and gets the weather at Waukegan then has me turn a few degrees to the right. A couple minutes later, she calls the tower to let them know we are 10 miles out. She has me descend to 2500 feet and continue on the current heading. Finally, she tells me to take off the hood and I see that we are on a 45 degree angle to the active runway. I start my turn to downwind and call the tower. The controller clears me to land and Sandy asks for a short field landing. I don’t manage to get the speed slow enough and end up bouncing a couple times on the landing. We will have to do some more work on those short and soft field landing before my checkride.
This lesson was exhausting but very educational. Hopefully, I have just enough instrument skill to get myself out of trouble. More importantly, I realize that I am not really competent to fly on instruments and will do my best not to get in a situation where I have to.