First IFR


An hour into the flight already. At 7,000 feet we were in and out of the clouds. That didn’t matter much, outside the sky was so bright you had to stay on the instruments. The random cloud terrain wasn’t giving any upright clues to be of any help either. All those IFR training flights and we never got an IFR day as good as this one. Overcast 1000 feet and 4 miles visibility with tops up to 10,000. This was real, no peeking up or around the foggles to catch a glimpse of the ground or using your peripheral vision. But it was actually easier and strangely more comforting without the tunnel vision of the vision limiting device. Just like my first solo, my flight instructor was still with me. His comments were echoing continually as I made the rounds of the panel, “100 feet to go…”, “watch that heading”, “get in the next comm frequency”. I had worked at this IFR rating about a year and just got my ticket about six weeks ago. I don’t know why I waited so long, 22 years and 500 hours since my solo. But now I had it and we were going to make use of it. My wife and daughter had been flying with me about five times but this was the first real IFR trip. The previous trips had been limited to punching through some scattered clouds that happened to get in our way during climb out. My daughter really liked the “bumps” in the clouds, she’d laugh into the mike. As we descended inbound to Latrobe for their ILS 23 approach it started getting darker. There weren’t any storms around but some fine mist started streaming on the windshield. Just the usual water in the clouds I had seen in training. With no turbulence and increasing darkness I would have thought we were almost taxiing into the hangar. But then the mist stopped and the outside got brighter. With the pre-approach briefing done and radios tuned and identified, we were ready. A few vectors later and we were cleared for the approach. Now, it was just a matter of following the needles to the runway. Again my instructor was riding on my shoulder with his comments, “hold that descent rate”, “not too much correction”. As the approach continued I could see that my passengers had that nagging feeling about where the ground was after being in the long cloudy descent. There are peaks and mountains in Pennsylvania. How high are those hills below us? It sure is a lot quieter with the engine idled. And just then the gray soup yielded to a view of the airport. “It’s right there, in front of us where it’s supposed to be! This IFR stuff really does work”, I kidded. Sometimes it just takes a demonstration to prove the point that all that training and those charts and instruments really do work.


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