Knowing that my concentration wasn’t at its best I headed to the airport. There was no reason for it but even driving the car over the pass needed more attention, my focus simply wasn’t there. It happens very seldom but today was one of the days I possibly wouldn’t have flown solo. Because it simply didn’t feel right. With an instructor however, I gave it a shot.
I wanted to fly a few approaches at Rocky Mountain Metro because lately the wind was often too strong and turbulent. The airport lies just in front of the Rocky Mountains and if it is windy you don’t want to get caught in a rotor. First I had to fly an ILS with full panel. Due to busy ATC I almost missed the glideslope which made me feel being behind the plane. I descended to minimums, remained on localizer and glideslope until I turned South-East for the missed approach. This time for a VOR/DME into runway 30R with partial panel (post-its on “failed”instruments”).
I had to use the magnetic compass as primary indication of bank, a skill I had trouble learning. But it all made sense now and timing the turns was done without much thought. On a heading of 110 degrees ATC told me to turn left heading 350. The difference was 120 degrees, divided by 3° per second (a standard rate turn) the turn took 40 seconds to accomplish. During the turn the controller assigned me heading 330, another 20 degrees, which added another seven seconds to the turn. After levelling off minor corrections helped keeping me on the localizer. Despite the approach going well I still had the feeling that my focus was off. Even so, I kept doing the right corrections to finally end up at the missed approach point, at 50 feet above the minimum descent altitude.
This time, missed to the North-East, I was soon cleared to hold at the final approach fix. As you can see on the flight log further up, I received several clearances into Class Bravo airspace. It was extremely busy on the radio and I kept talking too much. Sometimes an abbreviated readback is the right thing to do. In Switzerland ATC appreciates to hear a full readback of the entire transmission, while in America it is all about efficiency.
During the holdings we heard another Cessna approaching the area for practice approaches. We decided to leave the hold and leave space for the other student. We headed back to Centennial and chose a RNAV (GPS) approach into runway 17L. Equipped with WAAS, we chose to fly the LPV.
Approaching the minimum height of 200ft above ground (60m) I could finally get rid of my view-limiting foggles. Enjoying visual flight, the short final, flare and rollout were right on centerline with the stall horn squealing throughout the entire roundout. At least once on this flight I felt entirely in control. After I shut down the engine, Joshua said I flew nice approaches, all within practical test standards and ready for the checkride. I asked him if he honestly meant it and he did. After I told him about my lack of focus I was struggling with, we both agreed that it was a good sign to fly within test limits on a bad day. The next few hours, until I hit the 40 hours required for the test, I will simply work on my confidence.