Head in the Clouds, Delta


A lot of interesting things happen to you as a pilot at the 90-day mark of being stuck on the ground, both from a government/regulatory standpoint and a club standpoint.
The weather here has been pretty not-VFR for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been getting antsy about the fact that I may be getting close to hitting the 90-day mark. I pulled my logbook the other day to find out when I last went up, and it was January 24th, for a Bay Tour (with mento, actually!)
I’m not even close to hitting the 90 day mark, but I’ve been on the ground so long, it feels like it’s been 90 days.
Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear I’m hopeless.
Fortunately, looks like I’ll be going up today, which is good, because I need to remind myself how to land.
(Surprising factoid: it turns out that finding yourself 1000 feet above a runway is a pretty good motivator to remembering [or figuring it out again], because… you’re coming down one way or another, eventually.)


In other IFR-training news, my instructor turned me into a cat last night.
That’s right, a cat.

I’ve made reference in the past to the skill of the IFR Scan ™.
I Googled for a picture to help to explain it, but couldn’t find one.
Basically it’s the method by which you scan all of your instruments to make sure the flight performance is what you a) expect and b) actually want.
It is arguably the hardest skill to learn and it’s the first to go if you don’t practice it.
I’m still learning it. In the simulator, I tend to fixate on either my heading or my altitude, and when I concentrate on (fixing) one of them, the other tends to go to hell.
After a couple of… interesting mini-flights in the sim last night, my instructor said “I’ve always wanted to try this…” He got up and left the room, to go get something.
“Oh great,” I thought.
He comes back with a laser pointer; “Ok, let’s try this again.”
We take off from Concorde Airport and I start trying to intercept airways and fly my clearance.
As usual, my heading was good—because I was concentrating on it so I could intercept the course—and my altitude started going to hell.
He shined the laser pointer on my altimeter. I saw it, and corrected.
Then my course interception started to falter: laser light on the directional gyro and turn coordinator.
The next twenty minutes were pretty much spent like this: he’d shine his laser pointer at whatever instrument I was missing in my scan, and my head bobbed and darted around, following… like a cat, amused for hours with the red dot against a white wall.
Lamentably, there was no catnip after I successfully navigated to the Oakland VOR.