So what was the biggest complaint of my instructors? And what is the number one thing every flight instructor drills into the head of every one of their students? LOOK OUT! This is VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Do not get stuck on your instruments. Look out, check for traffic etc. Look/glance at your airspeed when – and only when – you need to. Look at your Heading Indicator when you need to. And so it goes. Well, supposedly, I had now learned to fly visual and I needed to forget about this advice for a while; it was on to instrument flying. There was a couple of objectives behind our exercises: My training required for me to be able to do a controlled 180 turn, if I by accident I got myself into clouds or other “IMC” (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) such that I could get out the way I came in. However, I want to take a basic instrument rating as soon as I get home; I will find it impossible to fly in the UK without it. So Gerry had agreed to do more than required to start to get me acquainted. As soon as I had taken off, Gerry took control while I put on “the hood”. It is a device, which obstructs the vision out through the windshield so you can only observe instruments. Gerry would (I hoped) look out for other traffic, while I followed instructions flying purely on the instruments. I enjoyed it. I started out attempting to do timed standard turns. If you do a standard rate turn, you will turn 3 degrees per second and thus a 180 in a minute and 360 in 2. So the secret is simple: Keep the turn angle constant at standard rate. That can be really hard, particular in turbulence, but I managed in the end to consistently get within 10 degrees (3 seconds) on a 180. Then it was on to timed descents and timed climbed. Either by a constant descent/climb rate or constant speed. We then worked on combinations where while climbing I would do a timed turn… all only using instruments. It was all going well and I could feel Gerry getting bored. I still had no idea where I was and he then requested that I descended from 3,000ft to 1,500 ft while turning onto (and maintaining) a heading of 020. I did this. The instructions then started to come in fast. Descend to 1,000ft, turn 5 degrees to the left. Keep 1,000 ft, turn 45 degrees to the right. Keep 1,000 ft turn 90 degrees to the left. Ahem. This looked familiar. “Come on Gerry, you are not making me land this thing under the hood” I begged. “Fly it!” It came uncompromising from Gerry. Decrease power to 1,700, 25 degrees flaps. Turn 90 degrees to the left. My altitude was going down 500 fpm and I was at 500. “Remove Hood”. I knew it. I was on final to 29. “You’re at decision altitude. Will you land?” It was VMC and then some, so no problem. I landed. On the second session, I tried VOR triangulation to find my position. I knew how to do that having been prepared to do it if I got into trouble on my XC, so no problems.
Third session of the day was night flying. What a downer. It was as if I was back before I knew how to land! Landings were so hard. It did not help that there were 9 knots of cross wind but the perspective of the runway was completely changed at night. On my fourth landing, I made the call on final: “Winter Haven Traffic, Warrior, 444HA on final for runway 04, Touch’n’Go, Winter Haven”. I landed and the lights at the end of the runway looked a bit different. Before it had clicked what was wrong… “F****** Hell, Gerry said, took the controls and steered us straight into a taxiway calling: “Winter Haven Traffic, Warrior 444HA has left the active runway due to opposite traffic, Winter Haven”. Some idiot was actually landing on 22, which is the same runway as 04 but opposite direction. He did a go-around and as we took off again we saw him turning around the airport and land on 04. Without making a single radio call. We heard him on the ground asking for fuel, so he had the frequency! After our final landing when we parked, we saw him parked 50 yards away. You feel like leaving a note on his windscreen: “Nice flying, idiot”. The problem is that what he did was not illegal because we are in uncontrolled airspace. It’s poor airmanship; but not illegal.