Back in the clouds!

On 11 June, for the first time I failed a flight test, an IFR renewal (private pilots have to refly the IFR test every two years in Canada). I resolved immediately to get my rating back, so I went up twice with a great instructor and fellow Cherokee owner Jean René de Cotret from Rockcliffe, after which he was comfortable signing me off for a retest.

The retest

With Jean’s letter in hand, I did my complete IFR retest on 29 June. Without a rating, I had to scud-run my plane in marginal VFR the 7 miles from Rockcliffe to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier under a low ceiling to meet the examiner. We zipped through the ground portion: sadly, the simulated emergencies were things I’ve actually experienced in IMC, like a failed ASI, and trying to get ATC’s attention when I have ice accumulating on the airframe, so I didn’t have to think long about the answers.

We took off into actual IMC for the flight portion of the test, which lasted an hour including taxiing, clearances, etc. This time I did the radio work, since we were on an IFR flight plan (many thanks to the Ottawa terminal and tower controllers for reserving me a slot at noon on a busy IFR day!). I was a lot more comfortable talking directly with the controllers, rather than doing simulated radio work with the examiner in VMC conditions. I won’t bore you with a play-by-play, because this was my fifth time flying the IFR flight test, but everything went great (including a shuttle descent in the hold), and I have the IFR endorsement back on my license.

Filing IFR again

I’ve accumulated several hours of actual IMC in the week and a half since that exam, including a flight from Ottawa to Waterloo last Saturday (the return on Sunday was VFR), a flight from Ottawa to Rivière-du-Loup through a low-pressure system on Tuesday, and the return flight to Ottawa through the same low-pressure system yesterday.

I canceled a baseball flight to Toronto City Centre on Canada Day because I don’t like embedded thunderstorms that I can’t see coming (that’s the same reason I waited overnight in Rivière-du-Loup), though I could have flown it with my StormScope and ATC advisories, and have done that before — it’s just that it’s not fun. Without my instrument rating, though, all three trips would have been canceled — it really does make a huge difference in the ability to travel, and I’m feeling much more confident hand-flying in the clouds after a couple of hours of review training. I started on my instrument rating right after I finished my PPL, and have never regretted the choice.


About David Megginson

Scholar, tech guy, Canuck, open-source/data/information zealot, urban pedestrian, language geek, tea drinker, pater familias, red tory, amateur musician, private pilot.
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