Prepping for CAP Instrument Form 5 – Flying Sim

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or links to show ausio, please check the other posts.

The CAP Form 5 instrument check is tomorrow. So I headed in the DCT Aviation to fly some sim and do more preparation. As many of you know, I took the Form 5 ride in August in a C-172P. I opted not to go for the full IFR ride because I was unfamiliar with the panel and didn’t want to waste the check airman’s time. As it was, I flew a lot of the VFR checkride on the gages and I think I would have had a 60-40 chance of passing the instrument version of the Form 5, but that’s not how I roll. I don’t like walking in less than fully prepared.

Cole, my FO, went with me. As is wise before a grueling sim session, we hit grabbed breakfast.

I flew a lot of sim prior to my instrument rating checkride in 2007 and it helped a lot. Not least because the airplane is a heck of a lot easier to fly than the sim. It was so nice to get back in the airplane after flying hours and hours of sim.

Anyway, I shot the ILS 23L at KYIP twice, the VOR 24 at KARB twice, and then the VOR A KYIP with a circle to land on 32. Things really improved after the first approach and I seem to have dialed it in pretty well. Some of it was getting the throttle settings for various phases right. It turns out that the sim is pretty accurate in terms of performance. 2100 RPM and 10 degrees of flaps gets you 90 knots maneuvering and about 1700 RPM gets you a nice ride down the glideslope at 90 knots over the ground in most wind conditions.

Here’s the inbound leg of the parallel entry for the hold at SVM prior to shooting the VOR 24 at ARB. The simulator doesn’t lie. There are parts of my flying that I like and parts that I don’t. The turn here was nice. The outbound leg was offset very uniformly, which tells me that I just accepted the offset all the way out without correcting. Not the worst thing in the world, but I should be better on that. Altitude is very sawtooth-looking, but I’m not going to complain about that. I’ve never met a sim that was any good whatsoever in pitch. Pitch works so much better in the actual airplane.

Here’s how Cole spent much of the sim session. When I flew sim at DCT in 2007, Cole came along and sat at a desk and watched DVDs on a DVD player that I brought in. DCT has taken this idea to heard and there’s a DVD player in the sim room. You can bring your kid along, hook him or her up with headphones, and let him or her watch DVDs while you fly. Cole’s watching Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag. For the 20th time. Not kidding. And he loves it. Love my boy, I do!

If you’re near Oakland County International Airport (KPTK) and you want a really good and friendly sim environment to polish up for a checkride or anything else, check out DCT Aviation.

DCT Aviation
6226 N.Service Drive
Waterford, Michigan 48327
Monday-Friday – 8am-8pm
Weekends – 8am-5pm

Checkride Update 6 October – T-minus 5 Days until Checkride

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Flew more than two hours of sim today. Lots of approaches. Some partial panel. Here’s a shot just after breaking out when shooting the ILS 27 at KFNT. Even went on to fly the miss to PETLI even though N920TA, the aircraft I’m going to fly for the checkride, doesn’t have an ADF in it. I might have to fly the miss for this approach using the GPS to itendify the holding fix. Crap! The more I prep, the more I realize how much I don’t know and how much the checkride is going to depend on the examiner having the same idiosynchasies and predilections as my flight instructor have had over the years.

Here’s the whole unit. There’s a curtain that comes out to sequester the student and hide the instructor’s workstation. I usually just keep the instructor station there and don’t look at it unless I’ve exhausted all of my options there at the console (which usually means that I placed myself too close to the approach course and have long since flown through it).

There are four or more of these at DCT Aviation in the back of the Pontiac Air Center on Airport Road southeast of the approach end of 27L.

Like all other simulators I’ve flown, these suck in pitch. But they suck less than the Frasca 142 at Tradewinds. Plus, this pretty well simulates the C-172R where the Frasca has an HSI and an unfamiliar communications stack.

The airplane is so much easier to fly! Trim actually works in the aircraft. It’s really tough to trim the sim.

As much as I bitch, though, I’ve really improved in the cockpit after starting to fly sim reasonably regularly. A lot of instrument flight is establishing and maintaining routines and you can’t effectively establish routines unless you walk through them regularly. The sim lets me fly six to eight approaches per hour and lets me build the routine. That packs the routine into my available bandwidth and lets me stay a little but ahead (or less far behind) the airplane.

Here’s the ground track for the hold at KATTY, which is about 10 miles east of KFNT. As you can see on the right hand side of the screen, I set up a pretty fierce crosswind from the north (which is pretty common in my experience) and then proceeded to fly mutant-kidney-bean-shaped patterns as the wind ate my lunch. I nailed the last time around by flying a 60-degree offset heading on the outbound leg and then hit the intersection at just about exactly a minute inbound. Query where that minute starts because the outbound leg and the turn inbound were pretty nonstandard, but I’ll take it.

At least I didn’t have to fly this. This old unit has been sitting in the sim room for as long as I’ve been flying the sims there. Really mechanical. I wonder how effective it is/was.

Cole joined me at the FBO. We went directly from a soccer game. I set him up with his DVD player and a Speed Racer DVD and some food. He sat still for two hours plus and even asked a few questions about the sim.

On to more study! Five days to go!