A new chapter in training started this semester. So far we have only flown in conditions where we can see outside and navigate with the help of looking outside. Now we take it to the next level to be able to fly where we are blind to the outside. The idea is to get my instrument rating (IR) later this spring and it would be awesome to describe this phase in training as it develops.
So, what is instrument flying? Instrument flying, also referred to as flying under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), is basically a set of rules that you comply with in order to conduct a safe flight in weather conditions below certain limits. These limits are primarily based on visibility (how far you can see) and cloud clearance. There is more to it than this, but that will be a good introduction I think.
Learning to fly instrument has been quite different. Previously I have been taught to for about 90% of the time you look outside the window, but not that has drastically changed. We still look outside under certain phases of flight, but primarily we are learning how to look inside the cockpit to interpret what the aircraft is doing and what we should do to make the aircraft do what we want it to do.
So, if you were wondering, this picture illustrates pretty well what I am looking at. A bunch of needles indicating different things what the aircraft is doing and what I am doing to it.
So far in the course we have mostly been doing what we call holding patterns or holds. The basic idea is that you are assigned a fix, or position, in the air that you keep flying over, flying an oval-ish shaped circle around to come back to the same spot. This is quite simple at first glance, but when your aircraft is pushed by wind it gets a bit tricky. Now with some practice and discipline it starts to come together.
Since instrument flight has a lot to do with procedures and interpreting instruments, we do a lot of practice in simulators. That way we can pause if there are good learning opportunities to observe and we do not need to pay for the fuel cost in actual aircraft.
Hopefully you will continue to tune in to the blog as this semester might get very interesting.