A journal of getting my dang IFR rating after flying VFR for a decade and a half...and 'glassing up' Flash's cockpit.

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IFR test status: taking practice tests
Dual w/CFII 6.0 hrs
Simulated IMC w/safety pilot 7.5 hrs


13.5 hrs

Welcome.  I'm currently studying for my IFR written exam.  In late 2007 I had about five hours of IFR training time in my logbook - training had stalled when I started building my RV-6 'Flash' back in 1996.  Now that the RV is finished and I have over five years of flying it behind me, I'm hoping to finally get my IFR rating.

In 2007, VansAirForce.net became my full time job, so I'll be needing to travel around the country covering RV events.  An IFR rating is a good thing.

Here I'll journal any thoughts as I prepare for the written, as well as document construction on a new EFIS-based IFR panel.

The adventure continues!

Doug Reeves

Relevant Links:
- IFR section: VAF Forums
- Glass cockpit section

- WX Page (VAF)


  Logged 1.5hrs under the hood today.  Will probably start removing older TruTrak autopilot tomorrow to install newer one that will fly coupled approaches/holds.

Summer/Winter 2009
  Here's the new G3X that is installed in our RV-6.   IFR training continues...and now I have a chance of actually understanding it <g>.
 Doug Reeves Contact  RV-6 RV-3B IFR Blog

Garmin® G3X™: An Affordable, Customizable Glass Cockpit for Experimental and Light Sport Aircraft ...the official company annnouncement.

Installation and More In-flight Picture of Garmin's New G3X (Tip: Click on link, maximize screen, click 'Slideshow' and use keyboard right/left arrows to view at your own pace.)

.5 simulated IFR in the RV.  Safety pilot Charlie Kearns (building RV-8).

Work slows.....economy and a -3B now in the mix.  My nav/comm done locked up, so I don't have a VOR in the RV right now.  Gonna install one of the 430W's into the existing panel so I can continue with the IFR lessons.

Progress at: http://picasaweb.google.com/VansAirForce/NewPanel

Rough cut done.  Felt good to crank up some air cutting tools and sweep up aluminum dust <g>.

Got some of the avionics a few days ago from Stein along with a nice file showing the layout...   Today drew out the grid on the new panel to cut the curve.  Used squares I inherited from my Dad.  He always had great tools.  As the new panel progresses I'll just add pictures to the online gallery linked below.  Feels good to work on something RV in the garage!


Sim'd IFR Time Logged: 1.3
Safety Pilot:___  CFII:_X_(Stan)

Shot the VOR RWY 31 approach at KMWL twice - told to go missed each time.  (2) procedure turns.  Was given permission to use autopilot on way down - told to be a 'meat servo' on way back...with partial panel.  Good workout - lesson learned on this outing was that I hadn't paid attention in the past six years of VFR flying to the quirkiness of the VOR head as the plane passes over the 'cone of confusion'.  I now have a better feel for holding heading and WAITING for the VOR to settle back down after you pass it.  The urge to chase the needle too soon has been broken (I think).  Great lesson. 

I've now logged 11.0 IFR training hours, half with CFII and half with safety pilot.

Went VFR solo to Denton and flew the ILS 17 approach (used the 496 as a psuedo-ADF to find the outer marker PINCK).  One procedure turn.

.1 logged sim'd IFR with Joe as safety pilot.  Just getting the brain realigned.

Flight with Ross Burgess as safety pilot.  1.8 under the hood (foggles on 38 seconds after takeoff).  We flew to the Mineral Wells VOR and then did the VOR RWY 31 approach.  Went missed and did two laps holding (parallel entry).  Back to 52F.  Danged up a hold and finished with a brain full of mush.

Later in the day back home I downloaded the demo for On-Top IFR Simulator by ASA v9.5, played with it for an hour and then bought it (demo's airspace is limited to a 75NM radius of Helen, MT.).  Lets you use a Garmin 430 (like my new panel will have) and lets you display an instructor's station on a 2nd monitor.  Hopefully should make the time in the plane less of a 'drinking from a firehose' type event.  Plan on shooting a virtual approach the day before we do it for real (with forecast winds).

Turns out hand flying a RV through procedure turns and holds takes skill (something I don't have an abundance of at the current time <g>).

SPOT returns from the lesson.

Fun times.  Stan left a message on my phone the night before telling me what we were going to cover the next day.  "Be ready for brief with a fueled and pre-flighted plane at 0700."  Five minutes after the briefing we were airborne, and 30 seconds after liftoff I was under the FrankenFoggles.  Took them off 1.3 hrs later.

Picked up the 310º radial out of RANGER (FUZ) and tracked it until about halfway to Bowie, somewhere around HIKAY intersection.  Switched over to BOWIE (UKW) and tracked the 310º radial on it.  Once past Bowie we turned around and, using the VOR/DME RWY 17 approach plate, tracked the 137º radial at 3,000' to the ENTUR IAF.  Used the 496 with the Bowie VOR loaded in the GoTo to determine DME distances, knowing full well we can't legally do this in real IFR conditions, but it's always nice to have a plan 'B'.

Stan made me check in with regional approach, get flight following, dial in the xponder, switch tanks and look up info on the GPS while hand flying under the hood.  His idea of fun I think....  Although Stan hasn't let me use the AP yet, I would currently consider not having a fully working dual axis AP a deal breaker for single pilot IFR flight in my RV.

15 DME from the UKW VOR we started holding (standard).  The wind was about 18kts at our altitude and it took me a couple of laps to get the feel for heading corrections.  By the fourth lap I was getting close, so we proceeded in.  Descended down to MDA by the missed approach point, then went missed and followed its instructions back to the Bowie VOR.

Having a clock that I can start/stop easily right next to the turn coordinator seems to be working for me.

After a few more minutes doing other things we flew direct 52F (me still under the hood most of the way), landed and debriefed.  I used my pocket digital recorder to record the debrief for my personal notes.  Having a CFII who spends his work days driving a Boeing means there is a real possibility he might spit out a few tips and nuggets of IFR info that will help me down the road.  My brain was mush by that point and I didn't want to risk not catching any tips that I might miss otherwise.

Stan said it was a pretty morning to fly - I wouldn't know...didn't see any of it <g>.

Special thanks to the controller on 118.1 that put up with my newbieish, tongue-tied drivel on the radio while I was 'foggling around'.

Later the next day I combined the output route tracks from the Garmin 496 with the approach plate using GPSVisualizer.com and Photoshop (image below).  Wanted to see if the real tracks were as bad as I thought they would be.  Furthest track left was the teardrop entry later in the lesson.  First hold was the second loop from the left, second was the third loop from left....got better as I interpreted correctly what the SE wind was doing.

SPOT returns from the flight.

Route of flight using Runwayfinder

A good lesson.  Fun times.

Currently in the running.  We'll see...

Took (2) practice tests yesterday for the IFR written.  Passed both.  A good sign... 

.5 with Ross Burgess as Safety Pilot
   (during lunch) So then Ross says, "I can go fly safety pilot with you if you want some simulated IFR."  Why not?  It's only 96*F.  Fifteen later I'm under the hood - logged .5 under the Frankenfoggles.  This trip was highlighted by 360 turns at 60* of bank  (many of them).  75kt full flap descents and climbing turns.  Recalibrated the compass on the EFIS a few days ago - it's running way smoother now.  I think Ross was easier on me than Stan, he knew I had a stomach full of food <g>.  I feel SO fortunate to be doing this training in my own RV - it's very sensitive, but I'm getting comfortable with it.  Literally putting on the hood thirty seconds after takeoff, 95% of each training flight is logged simulated IFR.
  This time under the hood was more solid than last time.  Progress made.  The avgas budget is blown for the week, but I got to fly with the jeweler and got some IFR sim time to boot.  Good times.  No planned flying next several days - gotta play grown up for a bit.

IFR Training Lesson #1 in Flash
  I haven't logged one second of simulated IFR since 8/15/97.  And as (cruel) fate would have it, one of the guys I fly formation with on a regular basis (Stan Price) is a CFII...and Boeing driver.  He knows that with a thousand hours in it I'm pretty comfortable now with the RV, and he's either had me on his wing or been on my wing a couple dozen times in the last year.  I suspect that might be the reason he gave me a little more to do on my first IFR lesson in Flash than I had expected.  You see, I had expected straight and level with a few turns.
   Yesterday I logged 1.5 hrs under the hood in one continuous stretch, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
   I showed up an hour early and gassed up Flash.  Took her around the pattern a few times, as I hadn't flown in over a week and wanted to make sure all the stuff was working and configured right.  .1 on the hobbs and all loose.  Let's do this thang...
   Stan showed and motioned me over to brief.  He spent a few minutes describing what he wanted out of me (don't kill us) and gave me an overview of the next few weeks.  Got in, started, taxied and took off.  Sixty seconds into the flight he handed me the foggles.  By foggles I mean 'FrankenFoggles'.  Think Silence of the Lambs night vision foggles.  Think work very well foggles.  Old school black out everything.
   I instantly felt like a 2hr rookie.  My brain actually ached as I tried to remember all the stuff that I had forgotten fifteen years ago.  He had me do straight and level for about two minutes and then we started on the vertical S's (climbs, descents, climbs, descents, etc).  Heading change left.  Heading change right (hold +/- 3*).  Climb and turn to heading this.  Descend and turn to heading that.  Track heading 350, then 270, then 090, then 360...give me ten degrees left.
   Turns out we flew all the way to Gainesville (who knew?) and then turned around.  Contacted approach, got a code and did a few laps holding over the PINCK LOM/IAF north of Denton.  First in my life...and they stunk a little, but I'm learning.
   Then we headed outbound and did a procedure turn - the little clock next to the turn coordinator worked out really nice for this.  Bang the top to start clock - bang the top to stop clock.  Got back on the localizer and shot the approach down to missed.  The approach plate called for an ADF to locate the LOM when you go missed (and I don't have one), but since it was simulated, we were VFR, and we were pretending it was an emergency, I used the 496 to identify it.  Can't do it for real but it's a nice plan B to have in my pocket.  There's an ILS that doesn't require ADF over at Alliance that we'll shoot next, I figure.
   After we went missed and I had climbed to pattern altitude, we headed back to 52F.  Stan took the plane for the last .1 and I slithered down to the floor into a pool of blubber.  I logged 1.5 honest to goodness hours of simulated IFR Wednesday.  My brain feels like Jello and my neck feels like concrete is setting up in there.
  I am GLAD I have around 1,000 hours in this RV already.  It is WAY easy to get all over the place in this thing without an autopilot and I found myself chasing it a lot more than I thought I'd have to.  I have to really watch the ball on climbs, because I tend to change heading if I don't.  When Stan told me to take off the FrankenFoggles and fly VFR again, I actually felt something go cha-click inside my brain.  It was weird for about five seconds - I'd read about that transition in the books, but didn't think it would be as pronounced as it was.
  Having your own plane that you can be flying in under 30 minutes is a Godsend for this kind of training.  Also, having your own plane can be a nightmare if your CFII wants to give you 1.5+ hood.  I now have 7.5 hrs simulated IFR time in the log, no foolin'.  Yeah, I bought Stan's lunch, and he earned it times 10.
  After lunch I went home, took a cold shower, put on a SteinAir T-shirt, started on paperwork and the normal workflow, then daydreamed about how nice it will be to have a 430 that flies holding patterns on autopilot.  My brain is silly putty...and you (and I) don't want to ever see the groundtracks of this flight.
  Later the familia motored over to El Chico to celebrate Tate finishing his basketball camp (and me not flying into the approach lights), where I ordered a margarita the size of my head.  My neck finally relaxed <g>.
  Looking forward to the next flight...

   related: The IFR section of the forums

Still studying for the written.  Not cramming, just picking up the book every few hours when the kids and site are squared away (or more accurately when I need a break).  One thing I did do in the last two days was discover the 'course notes' section in the King book that came with my DVDs.  These (54) pages are a tight summary of all the concepts needed to pass - just like you had taken notes while watching the DVDs.  I cut them out of the 4 lb book with my knife, drove over to Office Depot and had them bound.  Now I can keep that balanced on the armrest of the chair in the living room and have the computer testing supplement in my lap.
  I'm highlighting the key info in the notes section and also the parts of the figures that are referenced in the questions (third pic below).  Total weight for this 'travelling IFR study set' is about 10oz and it's now my primary study tool.
  After watching the DVDs one time I took a practice test with NO review at all.  Passed with a 78 - if the question involved calculations I just guessed and went on.  I'm going to go through these notes one time (1/5th of the way through a little more than 1.5 days into it) and take the practice test again.  If I pass I'm going to go take the real test.
  I'm not cramming too hard on this, just 30 minutes here and there maybe every other day while the kids and wifey are watching another episode of Are You Smarter Than America's Favorite Dance Video Idol Investigator Unit (or something to that affect).

  Q: Who's gonna make a 100 on his IFR written?
  A: Not me (but I'll pass it )

1. The book I cut out the 'notes' section from.
2.  The 'notes' bound at Office Depot ($2.50)
3/4.  The new, combined study package.

Flash is ready for IFR training.  The Dynon remote compass is installed, calibrated and functioning properly.  The Garmin 496 is talking to the TruTrak Pictoral Pilot heading autopilot (as well as the HSI function of the Dynon) and the ASA flight clock is mounted next to the TnB indicator.  There are a couple of minor housekeeping chores to do - readjust the compass on the far right side, label a dedicated power switch to the Dynon/496 and waterproof the canopy seal a little better.
  Nothing new to report on the 'new new' panel.  Stein will call me one of these days with an update, I suspect.  I'm on his schedule with this so no worries.  Whatever he says is fine w/me.
  Bring on those procedure turns!

Finished watching the King IFR DVDs all the way through.  Here's what is covered in the AIM section - the last one covered:

ATC Clearances and Services
- Contact Aproaches
- Visual Approaches
- Cruise Clearance
- Clearance to VFR on Top
- Clearances
- Radar Service

Airport Ops. And Traffic Avoidance
- Apts w/o Control Towers
- Traffic Avoidance and LAHSO
- Wake Turbulence and Hydroplaning

Runway Environment
- Runway Markings and Lights
- Airport Markings and Signs

Flight Physiology
- Spatial Disorientation
- Hypoxia and Hyperventilation
- Night Flying and Landing Illusions

Just for grins I immediately took the practice test without reviewing a single thing I've looked at since 3/27/08.  If the question involved doing a formula or mental gymnastics I just took an educated guess.  Total time taking test was (21) minutes.  I wanted to see how bad I'd fail...and I ended up passing with a 78.3%.  Go figure!  All this is amazing, as I would expect to get somewhere in the area of a 50% with my nine brain cells, having not looked at half the material in a month and a half.   No review at all - not one second.  A nice data point showing some of this King DVD stuff stuck in me noodle.

The hope is that with a couple of weeks review I might be able to consistently pass, which would be nice.  These DVDs were a good idea (at least for me).


Pics of the existing panel's IFR upgrades online at: http://picasaweb.google.com/VansAirForce/FlashPanel051308.  Gearing up for real, honest to goodness IFR lessons in the RV.  Dynon upgraded with remote compass, OAT probe and input from 496.  ADI installed on pax side, compass move over left one hole, wires cleaned up behind the panel and a nice box for AF/D, approach plates, etc ready for use.  Up next, hardwiring 496 into power bar and autopilot.

Finished the FARs section of the King IFR DVDs (screen capture below shows what was covered).  Did you know if you have (2) VORs and one fails in flight during an IFR flight, you MUST report that failure to ATC?  I didn't know either...(but I do now).  AIM section next...wish me luck <g>.

Finished the 'Weather' section.  Going through this got me to add some more links to the top of the VAF WX section.
  Starting FARs next...


A little progress to report on the rating.  I finished 'Flight Instruments' and have started 'Weather'.  Got to give a little shout out to Martha and John on these topics, as I had gone through the primary/secondary instruments in various flight scenarios before and it didn't stick.  After watching Martha lay it out I actually got it - and it was simple.  They have a way of saying 'this is how you remember it' that seems to stick in my 9-celled brain.
  Work begins on Flash next week to get the panel up to IFR lesson standard - installing a remote compass for the Dynon, adding a clipboard for approach plates, re-sealing the top of the panel for water, etc.  It'll be over at Monk's for most of the week I suspect.


About halfway through 'Flight Instruments'.  Still amazed at all the stuff I've forgotten over the last decade and a half of VFR flying.  I do have to give credit to Martha and John King for making me UNDERSTAND why the compass lags and leads - the graphics they use may make you sleepy after awhile, but they do work.  I have discovered I'm a graphical learner.  I'll never forget it again.
  Yesterday, while watching the DVD on my laptop waiting in the car for Susie to do some stuff, I re-learned:

  • Lag and Lead of the magnetic compass
  • Horizontal lift component, centrifugal force, vertical lift component (and skid/slip's effect on them)
  • Rates of turn (increases and decreases in rates and radii of turns and their relationship to increases and decreases in airspeed, bank and rate).

Onward to all the turn coordinator stuff I've forgotten now...then shortly into the primary/secondary instruments.  Holy cow, there's hope for me yet.

Tinkering still with the new panel layout.  IFR test prep study continues with the King DVDs.  Reacquainting myself with the use of the E-6B (IAS/CAS/Wind problems/etc).  On disk four now - working my way through true, pressure and density altitudes now.  Finished with both the 'Holding Patterns' and 'Flight Planning' sections.  Getting there!

Started and finished the 'Holding Patterns' section of the King DVD.   Took 1.6hrs.

  • Holding Pattern Speeds
  • Holding Pattern Timing
  • Holding Pattern Entries
  • Holding at a DME fix
  • Holding at a VOR

...and a couple dozen questions on determining which type of entries to make given various clearances from ATC.  My head hurts a little...

My scratch pad on some of the questions.  GPS has spoiled me.

Studying continues with Martha:  RMI, ADF, HSI, VOR, DME approaches.  All the three letter stuff...  Amazed at what I have forgotten flying strictly VFR for the past decade.

Approach plates section complete.  Here's the TOC of that part.  Each video is about five minutes long followed by questions.

The 'roadmap' continues...

First DVD complete.  Now on approach plates.  See Doug.  See Doug study.  Study Doug.  Study!

En route section of the King IFR Test DVDs complete.  I actually understood it, which is saying a lot.  Went through the questions at the end of each section and got 'em all.  I actually think I have a shot at this thing.  It's on a laptop I keep next to a chair in the living room - I plug the iPod ear buds in it and the kids can make all the noise they want.  A nice improvement from the please be quiet studying routine in a book.  Confidence level high.  Attacking approach plates now...

DP doesn't stand for Dr. Pepper anymore...

The King IFR Knowledge Test DVDs came in the mail today.  I installed the software on my laptop, went through the 'how to use' clip, then went through the following clips and questions over the next two hours:

Low Altitude Charts
Minimum Navigation Equipment
VOR Changeover Point

Airway Altitudes
Minimum En Route Altitude
Minimum Obstruction Clearance Altitude
Minimum Crossing Altitude
Minimum Reception Altitude

IFR Flight Operations
Class G
ATC Frequencies
FSS Frequencies
Airport Lighting
Localizer Symbols

First impression is very positive - making a difference with my retention percentage.  I'm sold.  Having someone point to a thing on a chart in a video and explain what it's for allows my feeble brain to absorb the info a little better for some reason.

Was talking with Rosie a couple of weeks back and he said he was using the King IFR training DVDs to study for his test and checkride.  He's a visual kinda guy (his words).  I must admit, studying for the test using the ASA Written Test Prep book can get pretty dry for me, I've found.  In an attempt to get the written out of the way a little sooner, I have an IFR Knowledge Test Course and IFR Rating Checkride Course (DVD) inbound to the house as of today.  I'll let you know if I retain stuff better...
I only have about nine good brain cells, and four of those are dedicated to reminding me to put food in my mouth and not my ear.  Anything that helps me understand all this will be appreciated.

Feb - Mar '08
Holding pattern.  Life....taxes...spring break....sick....and a thousand other excuses.

New panel blank arrives.  I'm committed...

Talked with Alex DeDominicis.  He has agreed to be my CFII.

Talked with Tim Hass of approachfaststack.com Wednesday.  I'm thinking about using their modular wiring system.

Studying continues.  Currently re-wrapping my brain around primary and secondary instruments in pitch, bank and power.  Fun stuff (not).  Today I ordered a new RV-6 tip up instrument panel blank from Van's - I'm $42 into the project.

Bought IFR exam test prep and related books from Tina's Pilot Shop at 52F.  The journey begins (continues....actually).

New workbench on side of garage completed.  Swings down to allow entry into passenger side of my car.

Delta Romeo, LLC.