All in-flight photographs were taken in accordance with the L3-CTS Operations Manual. Consent to publish them was sought from L3 Airline Academy's communications team. All flights were dual, I was not the pilot flying at the time and the instructor gave his/her permission.
Flight Twenty Three - 31/05/2017
Following basic instrument flight one, this lesson covered the procedures in the event of instrument failure. Deemed a "Limited Panel" this means you have to fly with reference to the remaining instruments and join the dots to predict what the other instrument would be saying, or make use of standby instruments. The option available to you depends entirely on the aircraft you're in and the instruments installed within it and due to the fact L3 make use of two different aircraft in New Zealand it also depends on which aircraft you were allocated for the basic flight phase. Frequent readers would know I've been assigned the Cessna 172, although the majority of my course bar one other are on the Diamond DA20, a.k.a. the Katana. The setup to these aircraft vary significantly and for completeness I've included a photo of both cockpits with a description of exactly which instruments you lose during this exercise. First up... the Cessna.
The Cessna is equipped with an electronic setup powered by Garmin's well-regarded G1000. The left hand display, called the PFD (Primary Flight Display) contains indicators for Attitude (Nose Pitch), Altitude, Airspeed, Vertical Speed (how quickly you're climbing/descending), Bank Angle and Heading to name a few. It does a lot more than this, but i'd be here for ages should I have listed it all. The right hand screen, called the MFD (Multi-Function Display) contains all performance indications such as engine RPM, oil temperature and pressure, fuel tank contents and the pilots best friends: GPS and Traffic Avoidance systems. On top of this the G1000 also manages aircraft radios. It's a beast of a machine and as such L3 make use of it in all of their aircraft in New Zealand / Arizona with the exception of the Diamond DA20 which I'll talk about in a moment.
So... what exactly do you lose in a limited panel situation? Well, it's not as clear cut as simply losing the entire thing because in a real world situation you may only lose a slight component of it. What's more, Garmin have built so many redundancies in to the kit it's pretty unlikely it'd happen at all and you can even switch the entire left display to the right hand side should the PFD itself fail. However, for the purposes of flight training we presume we've lost all functionality provided the PFD and thus revert back to standby instruments. These are highlighted green above. With this failure we then have use of indicators for Attitude, Airspeed, Altitude and Heading. It may seem catastrophic to lose any part of the digital setup, but with the aforementioned instruments remaining you're simply reverting to analogue gauges and that's it. It isn't really anymore taxing to fly, but in the Cessna it's certainly uncomfortable given the placement of the instruments requiring that you constantly move your head up and down.
Comparing this with the Katana, the first thing you'll notice is the lack of any digital equipment at all. Well, there is some but it's considerably less than in the Cessna. Pretty much all of the control and performance instruments are analogue and you may have spotted there aren't any standby instruments at all - common of traditional setups. A limited panel in the Katana sees the pilot lose their Attitude and Directional indicators meaning they no longer have reference to their nose up/down pitch nor general heading. Okay, well maybe the latter is a small lie as the Katana still has a magnetic compass (top instrument in the second green band) but they're prone to several errors. Flying with a limited panel as a Katana pilot requires you make use of the other instruments to infer attitude etc and as a result I feel I've had it rather easy compared to my peers in the Katana.
Now that's out of the way and you have a better understanding, i'll quickly round up this bit with the lesson itself. I took-off and departed to the eastern training area as normal before then having to wear the vision blocking hood for the majority of the lesson to simulate instrument flight conditions. We began by recapping the contents from the previous instruments lesson with a few climbs, descents and turns before my instructor then covered the PFD with a bit of card to simulate a failure. The remainder of the lesson was essentially a repeat of the first instruments lesson although using the standby instruments and magnetic compass. Designed to be 1.5 hours in length, we managed to cover most of the concepts much quicker so I couldn't help but think the Katana pilots would have needed more time given they had a complete loss of their attitude indicators.
Flight Twenty Five - 31/05/2017 - CANCELLED DUE TO FOG
With today being the equivalent of my instructors' Saturday I was rostered in for two solo flights instead. Known as general handling flights, these provide the opportunity for me to go over practice forced landings, stalls and steep turns. Unfortunately for me though, the clearer mornings were over and the fog had returned.. grr... Whilst I'd consider it more of a mist around Clearways, it was incredibly thick around the airport to the point where you could only just see the car bonnet!! With that in mind, my first flight of the day - alongside many other people's - was cancelled and I swiftly returned to my bed to catch up on sleep. Should both flights have gone ahead then it would have been my seventh and eighth flight inside of five days! With a wake-up time of 5am everyday this week the tiny of bit of beauty sleep I managed to get worked wonders. I certainly felt much better returning to the training centre in the afternoon.
Flight Twenty Five - 31/05/2017
With flight twenty five and twenty six being identical and thus no complications existing in regards to air traffic control slots, the former was simply moved to replace that in afternoon and the latter pushed to another day. Most General Handling (GH) flights are two hours in duration and include a 30 minute circuit slot at the start. With my assigned aircraft coming back late and requiring a refuel I then only had time to complete one circuit by the time i'd left the parking area, conducted engine run-ups and taxied for to the runway holding point. However, having had plenty of circuit practice over the last few weeks I wasn't overly concerned with this and simply left the controlled airspace to practice my weaker areas.
Compared to the morning the weather was simply stunning and with no clouds to be seen the CTC operation could be spread over a much larger training area. The great thing about that was the fact that trainees didn't get in each others way allowing us to focus more on the goals of our flight than traffic avoidance. I'm pleased to say that I the more I practised each handling maneuver the better I got yet, out of everything, the thing that surprised me the most was just how much more confident I felt in an out-of-circuit situation. When I compared the flight to my previous solo I felt much more relaxed as if I'd done it many times before. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable flight and I'll be sure to return to that part of the training area in future.
Thankfully, tomorrow is my day off and I'm soooo looking forward to having a lie in. As for the day after, I expect I'll be booked in for another GH solo and perhaps a lesson on basic instrument flight 3. Here's hoping the weather will be good. I've no doubt it'll be another busy week for me as I continue to be scheduled such that my progress realigns with the rest of my course and I look forward to refining things some more.
All the best,