In my last post, I detailed how I took the easy way out, choosing to go back to Stockton instead of challenging myself with the Concord (CCR) VOR 19R approach. Well, last Friday, we went ahead and did Concord, and, all in all, it went okay -- I certainly reached my overload points, especially when arriving over the Concord VOR, where I must turn to the final approach course, start the time, twist the outbound course from the VOR, descend to the stepdown altitude, and report to the tower. That's all 5 T's: Turn, Time, Throttle, Twist, Talk. It got overwhelming, but John was able to snap me out of it by just prompting me: Turn. Time. Then I was on it. Again, on the missed approach, similar problem -- turning climb, twist the VOR, throttle full, and report -- twice (once to the tower, once to the approach controller).
We then set up and did the LDA 19R approach -- LDA is a localizer that is offset from the runway, or "Localizer Darn Angle" as the King DVD puts it, and as John reminded me. Localizers are easier than VOR or even GPS approaches -- you know there can never be a turn once you're tracking the localizer. That went OK as well; we did a touch and go at Concord and flew home VFR.
I felt alright about that flight; I got overloaded, I fell behind the airplane, John picked up the slack and did almost all the radio work. But it was a new experience, so it didn't bother me -- it was fun, actually.
Today was a different story. We did exactly the same two approaches, but I flew the procedure turn for the VOR 19R beautifully, all by myself, and didn't need a prompt until I was past the VOR as the final approach fix, and needed to turn more aggressively toward the final approach course. Other than that, I flew it pretty much perfectly; John picked up the radio on the missed approach, but I flew it, and did not get overloaded.
We then got vectors to the LDA 19R. I could feel myself getting kind of tired, but I just made myself concentrate. I almost missed the fact that I was supposed to intercept the localizer all on my own, but I picked it up. I chose the wrong altitude to descend to from the approach chart, but I figured out why -- the altitude I chose was for the procedure turn, that we didn't do since we were vectored. Here, John made a suggestion: There are certain things you can do a little before you get to a fix, and certain things that can wait till a little bit after. Reporting when crossing the approach fix does not have to be done directly over the fix, when you're starting your time and turning and twisting a new course; it can be done early. Turning to the new course can and should also be done a little early, since otherwise you'll overfly the new course and increase your workload trying to reintercept it. So, for the VOR 19R, I could have reported and started my turn 0.3 miles or so from the VOR, start time when crossing, twist the new course just afterwards, and throttle back once established. There's a flow to it that I'm starting to get.
On the way back to Palo Alto, John covered up my heading indicator and my attitude indicator, and I flew it partial panel. It was actually not very hard! I'm sure it'd be a lot more stressful in actual clouds, all by myself, but for what it was, it was not bad.
It just felt good to feel like if I'd been by myself in actual instrument conditions, I would not have killed myself; I would have in fact done quite well.