Home > Uncategorized > The Rain Stops, so I Fly Under the Hood and Can’t See Anyway

The Rain Stops, so I Fly Under the Hood and Can’t See Anyway

After nearly two weeks of dismal rain, low clouds and just gruesome weather it finally cleared up! Yay I get to fly! So what do I do…instructor sticks me under the hood ’cause I need the hood practice time, and on this nice scenic night I get to see (…wait for it) nothing. To refresh your memories the hood is a plastic visor thing you put on over your head to simulate flying under instrument conditions. Basically you can’t see out of the plane and must fly only using the instruments. You need a total of 3 hours of this training and I only had 0.2. After today I’m up to 1.4 just about half way there.

We take off from Gaithersburg (KGAI) and as soon as we exit the depart to the north I’m told to put on the hood. My instructor tells me to head direct to KGAI and I punch in the GPS to set up that trip and then he immediately changes the GPS screen so I can’t fly the magenta track and wants me to fly using the VOR needles. Actually the VOR is slaved off of the GPS (which I have always wondered about…more later) and I just chase the needle a strange process using this analog method which has a LOT of lag time. You wind up turning the plane to the direction of the needle and invariably I turn too far or too steep, the needle centers and then continues on to the other side of the dial and I have to turn the other way. Actually after a little while of this I mostly got the hang of it. However recall that I’m doing all this while trying to maintain 2500 ft and all under the hood. Everything actually went fine for most of the outbound trip to Fredrick (KFDK). As we approach KFDK he says that he is going to call out instructions and I just follow what he says turning to a heading and then decending to 1800 then 1300 all while under the hood then as we get close to KFDK he says take off the hood, so I push it up and lo and behold we are damn close to the runway! We didn’t land and did a go around and just heading off to our next destination.

As soon as I started to climb away from KFDK I put the hood on and we were off to Carroll County (KDMW) airport. He again instructed me what altitude to climb to 2000 ft but this time we dialed up the VOR at Westminster and I chased the needle to that VOR.

A Mechanical VOR indicator

Mechanical VOR Indicator with needle centered (vertical)

(Recall that VORs are stations on the ground used for navigation that transmit a signal in all directions and you fly TO or FROM it.)  He asks me how do I know when I’m over the VOR and I say I guess the TO indicator flips to FROM…and he says “very good perfect” so I nailed that one 😉

He talks me to KDMW and a little bit away tells me to again take off the hood at which point I actually land (not too bad) and we do a touch and go. There was a decent amount of cross wind so I landed a little cockeyed but not horrible. Didn’t rip off the tires, always a good thing. Climbing up and away from KDMW I put the hood back on and head home to KGAI. I dial it up on the GPS and again chase the needle and don’t use the GPS track. I wound up asking something I was very curious about on the GPS and VOR. The VOR dials can be slaved to the GPS unit.  I wonder why on earth would anyone in real life use the VOR with a functioning GPS? I learn that you might want to be doing something else with the GPS, like looking up frequencies or some of the other info in the unit and you can stay on course by keeping the needle centered. AHH HAAAA finally a real life reason for the VOR needles!! Other then emergency usage of course when  your GPS fails.

The instructor talks me into KGAI since I’m still under the hood and when we were ready to go to the downwind leg I’m told to take off the hood and come in for a normal landing. During this last minute of flying I get to see that it’s a nice scenic night, would have been fun. Actually the hood stuff was fun anyway. That’s about it! Soooo glad I didn’t forget everything 😉 Hopefully the weather will permit some more frequent flying and postings.

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