I think something finally clicked, where I've realized that it's just not that complicated to fly approaches. There's a lot of process, yes, and getting the process right requires a lot of attention, but it's not difficult really. My last two lessons have been really good. I've been very far ahead of the airplane, experienced very little self-doubt (maybe even not enough!) and have I think found the right level of analness, basically.
Last Tuesday, John and I went out to Stockton and flew the GPS 29R approach, followed by the ILS 25R at Livermore. The GPS approach went very well, but about 500 feet above decision altitude we were instructed to discontinue the approach and fly the missed approach. John was annoyed enough with this that he asked for a reason. The answer? One word: "Traffic." Seemed pretty suspect from my POV, but whatever; in any case I flew to the missed approach point. Here there was a bit of a misunderstanding on my part; as I approached ORANG intersection to hold, NorCal asked me what I'd like to do next (Livermore ILS 25R) and told me to expect a clearance at a certain time. So I dutifully went into the holding pattern, set up my approach, and waited for a clearance. And waited. And continued waiting, before John eventually asked me what I was waiting for -- this is when we discovered my error. I had not, in fact, asked for a clearance, so I wasn't going to get one. The earlier communication was so that the controllers would know what to expect in the event of a radio failure.
So I asked for a clearance, got it (actually, IIRC I got only part of it but John got the rest) and flew to Livermore. The ILS approach went pretty well, and I did a nice touch and go before flying back to Palo Alto, skirting a diminishing cloud deck at 2500'.
Today was even better. While my ILS performance on Tuesday was OK, it was not great, and John figured we should do some serious ILS work, so today we flew the Stockton ILS 29R, published missed, hold at ORANG and then back to Livermore for the ILS 25R. Things went very smoothly intercepting the localizer at Stockton, and I flew the ILS very nicely. We got to our DA of 232' and flew the missed approach, which went well (John had to prompt me to not overfly the course I was heading for); in fact, I was set up for Livermore before even completing one full holding pattern. This was in large part because I am now so familiar with that hold that I don't even have to look down at it any more, but also because I'd stopped over thinking the avionics setup. It's an ILS approach; I may very well not need my second navigation radio tuned to anything, especially since the outer marker was an NDB (which I can use my GPS to identify).
So I flew the ILS at Livermore very well, much better than Tuesday, and we executed a missed approach. My initial thought was that John was testing me, knowing that I'd spent less time studying the missed approach procedure, but in fact he was just expediting (I know how to land) and getting us out of there, so we got the left turnout and flew back to Palo Alto.
John was very complimentary, and the one thing I need to do is that when I finally get down time, to double check my avionics setup. Twice it happened that something was not quite right (I really think that the #1 navigation radio has a glitch, because twice, the same frequency ended up in both the primary and backup frequency boxes, and I know I didn't do that), and double checking would've caught the error.
So, I'm encouraged. There isn't anything I feel like I can't do, even now getting clearances in the air is a little easier. Next Tuesday..onward and upward!
A track of the flight is here: