I was scheduled to take our club's Arrow out for a stroll, but unfortunately it remains down for the annual inspection that seems like it will never end. I guess this is the joy of the club having an older plane that seems to need some TLC. It's gotten a lot of love, and so it should be leveling out soon. I'm told that one can spend a year or two with undetected gremlins. I was going to scrap the whole thing, but cloud time sent me to the schedule to find that our very capable Archer was available.
I blasted off from DuPage (KDPA) around 10:45 into marginal VFR conditions, and before long was chugging along in the clag at 3000 until I was clear of O'Hare's arrival stream. Up to 6000 and eventually heading toward Illinois Valley (KVYS), I continued to run mostly into and occasionally out of clouds. I briefed the RNAV 18 approach and made said request to Chicago Center (nice to have those folks back up and running). I allowed the auto-pilot to do its work while I briefed and set up, and then took over hand flying as I arrived at the initial approach fix. I kept the needles relatively pegged the whole way down to the minimum descent altitude (despite having vertical guidance, this was an LNAV+V approach and therefore non-precision). Sweet.
Although I had the runway clearly in sight, I executed the published missed as communicated to Center. Flying the missed approach gave me the chance to enter a hold that conveniently served as the procedure turn for the RNAV 36 back in. Two currency birds with one stone.
While flying the missed, there was a helicopter on approach to 36 and then some other traffic, so I was sent to 5000 MSL despite a holding pattern of 2500. That made things "fun" later. While I got myself turned around and fully prepared to do a few laps around the holding pattern, I was instructed to descend and start inbound. This gave me about 6 miles to get down 2800 feet, but since the Archer flies like a rock that was not too much of a problem. I don't like idle descents, and fortunately this was avoided.
I was again on my way inbound and the needles were pretty close to pegged. Breaking out about 1500 feet AGL, I went ahead and executed the dreaded downwind landing (5 knot wind) as sometimes you just don't get a choice, and these are of course different. Landing at 75 knots ground speed verses 60 is quite a difference in picture and performance.
After taxiing to the ramp, I attempted to call Chicago Center and Kankakee Radio to obtain my IFR clearance back to DuPage. After no success, I elected to take off and obtain my clearance in the air. I was about to regret that.
An Expensive Lesson
I departed 18 and headed south since there were rain showers directly to the east that didn't look like fun trying to punch through VFR. I called up Chicago center, and after making radar contact asked me if I could maintain visibility and avoid hitting anything until I was at or above 3000.
Yeah, so that's the wrong answer. Turns out that this whole blasting off without an instrument clearance in marginal conditions - or at least with ceilings below the minimum vectoring altitude - will result in hanging one's cowl in shame as he returns to the airport. I don't recall learning that at any point in my instrument training; only that one had to be able to fly VFR or out of controlled airspace and obtain a clearance before entering controlled airspace or IMC.
I wonder if I had a growl in my voice as I announced my positions in the pattern.
After I returned and taxiied to the ramp, I called up IFR Clearance Delivery. I spent about 10 minutes on the phone with them - 7 of that was on hold. Don't they know the hobbs meter is running? This is one of two reasons why I don't like calling on the ground. The other is waiting for release when someone has not cancelled IFR.
With clearance now firmly in hand, I again took off from VYS and turned on course toward PLANO. It was a different controller on the Center frequency, so I was glad that I could avoid reliving my embarrassment. Motoring along at 5000, I took a few pics of my view out the wind screen.
|Somewhere over Ottawa, Illinois|
Conditions were very marginal at DPA due to low ceilings and light rain, and I was vectored for the ILS 10 approach. I was told to expect a circle to 2R, which made no sense to me given that the winds were 110 at 8 according to the ATIS. However, I figured I would take that up with the tower. A King Air was vectored in front of me... I can't imagine why. They could fly the approach at 90 knots to clear out the stall horn, right?
Again I was pleased with my flying of the approach as I was always within 1 dot and I broke out looking at the runway right where my needles said it should be. It's a very comforting feeling.
At about 2 miles from touchdown and just before breaking out, the tower asked me to pick my speed up. I was miffed by this because I am set up stable at 90 knots and preparing to slow once I have the runway in sight. I said I'd keep my speed up and probably waited until about a mile out before slowing the the Vref of 66 knots. I have a bad habit of getting high once I break out, but other than this I was pleased with the approach and landing.
2.6 in the log book along with 2.0 actual, a hold and three approaches. Not bad.
Now, if I could ever get that long cross country in...