Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thoughts of a New Instrument Pilot

...on a calm CAVU day.

I've had some interesting reactions after completing my checkride on Friday, in part because I'm about to go on a vacation for a week, which has put me in a very relaxed zone, but in part just from the experience of the checkride itself, and the feeling of being done.

The first is that I spent quite a bit of time dissecting my checkride. It was instructive, and John has put me in the habit of dissecting every flight to make sure I keep learning, going so far as to mentally re-fly the flight. One thing that came up was that as I approached SNS from PAO (my clearance was SNS direct), I had not yet been cleared for any approach or given any further routing. I realized that I didn't know what to do next, and thus slowed down to give ATC more time, but in retrospect I should've queried ATC. "222MF, Salinas VOR." I couldn't go into an approach structure, and I needed to go somewhere...

Second, I got somewhat chewed out by ATC for descending too soon off of the DME arc onto the final approach course on the ILS 31. Except...I didn't descend too soon. I've been through it many times, and I did the right thing, so ATC was just confused.

Third, I thought it odd at the time that Sherry had me treat her like a passenger and give her my passenger briefing prior to start-up. But, what that did was that it established that I am the pilot in command. It put me in that mindset, which ended up being really helpful the rest of the flight. I've used the briefing before with new passengers of course to impart important information, but also to establish my role, almost as if to say, "up here, I'm in command, and if I ask you to do something, please do it." And that helps them, too, feel like they have a competent pilot in the left seat, not just their buddy who just learned to fly planes. Still it was odd telling a DPE that "in case of an emergency, do not panic, and do not touch the controls unless I ask you to." Also I think she enjoyed my headset mic explanation: "The mic will activate when you speak, and only I can hear you, unless you press this button, in which case the whole world can hear you. Please don't press this button."

Fourth...this is the weirdest one: Very suddenly, I'm really excited about flying again, and instrument flying in particular. I'm finding myself studying approaches, reading my textbooks, just for fun. This is interesting -- I seem to have some differentiation in my head between work and fun, and the idea that when I *have* to get something done, it *can't* be fun. This shouldn't be the case -- I'm interested in it; it IS fun, whether or not there are expectations of my performance. An interesting lesson that I'll take with me to my job and to my commercial training.

And yes, I want to get my commercial license. But, I want to do it differently. I went back and re-read my flight blog from my initial PPL training (at, and found that I had a level of excitement and drive that I did not display in my instrument training. When I started PPL training, I was ready, raring to go. I studied frequently, I drove my own process, I made plans for remaining flights, from the very beginning. I was goal oriented, but I was also having fun (until the end, when those expectations crept in). My instrument training, by contrast, started with a lurch. I already had an appointment scheduled with John when my life turned itself upside down. At first I clung to those lessons -- it was the one thing in my life I felt I could be good at; it was an escape from life rather than a part of it, and as such, never really got integrated into it.

As the rest of life got more complicated through the year, I needed the escape less and less, and what I needed more was free time. Thus the training became more of a nuisance than a pleasure, even though I enjoyed the actual training and flying. I know that this frustrated John too; he saw what kind of person I was, and reasoned accurately that I should be excited and passionate about my training, and was concerned when I was not. That I embarked on one of the most difficult journeys of my life at a time when I was not ready for it was not only a disservice to myself, but also to John.

So, what I'm saying is, I'm at the point now where I can get my life in order, get the free time I need, take care of my own needs, and when I'm ready, begin my commercial training. I can drive the process, I can know exactly what's in the PTS before ever going to an instructor, I can probably even teach myself a good portion of what's in there. But step 1 is to wait, until I'm ready, until I am excited and passionate about the process. I have no idea when that will be -- could be next month, could be a year from now, could be never (but I doubt it -- I'm already getting excited about it!).

The other thing is, speaking of being goal-oriented, is re-evaluating what I really want to do with this. Realistically. Right now, the most realistic-sounding option is that I become a part-time CFI, and otherwise pay for my own flying. I don't think the airlines sound all that appealing at the moment. Actually what sounds really appealing are "odd jobs" relating to aviation. Good practice for that might be to join Angel Flight West, which actually does sound very appealing and would allow me to write off some of my flight time, gain interesting experience, and help people all at the same time.

Stepping away from reality somewhat, I'm also really interested in building an IFR-capable RV-7A. I'm sure that sounds ridiculous -- I'm sure once I'd flown one I wouldn't want to fly a lot of hard IFR in one of those, but on the other hand, we don't get that much hard IFR around here anyway; it's mostly marine layers and the like. And the thing is really efficient; it's very possible to net over 30MPG! I'd feel pretty good about that. But again: If I'm going to do something like that, I have to understand the size of the commitment (two years, maybe more, with their quick-build kit), and the repercussions (no way I do that AND go through additional training at the same time), and really commit to the whole thing.

Until then, I am on the verge of getting myself a Lightspeed Mach 1 headset. I use in-ear monitors with my band, and love them. Way back when I bought my first headset, I had pondered the possibility of somehow using my band monitors instead of a headset. Well, now that product essentially exists. I'd told myself a while ago that I'd get myself one when I passed my instrument checkride. That day has come! I'm just still freaked out about money; hence the hesitation. There's a used one on EBay right now, with new ear-foams, which would save me a couple of hundred dollars, seems kind of gross -- this is an in-ear set.

Anyway, so those are my thoughts. No matter what, flying is awesome. Pilots are awesome. Planes are awesome. And the thrill of taking a passenger up in the air for the first time, the joy of taking a friend and showing them their home town from thousands of feet above, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from nailing an approach and greasing the landing at the end of it -- there is no parallel.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Unbelievably, Instrument Checkride Passed!!

Well, it's finally happened. And before you ask, no, I don't know anything about the frogs falling from the sky, and I did not see those four dudes riding down the street on horseback. I most certainly did not see a four legged piece of other-white-meat traveling through the air, snout upraised, without a clearance. And I may be going straight to hell, but if so, I'd better go out and get a nice thick winter jacket.

Yes, it's finally done. I'm not trying to be melodramatic about it, but it's been a really, really long time. It's APRIL!! Of 2008!! I started my instrument lessons in March of 2007. Now, what I've learned from this is the following:

  • You have to take control of your own training. No matter how much of it the CFII handles, it won't progress until you take control. You're pilot in command, not just of the airplane, but also of your life.
  • Don't attempt this rating when there's too much else going on. I started my training in the middle of what was a really rough time personally for me; I wasn't emotionally ready to really focus on anything. In addition, I moved twice and bought a house, I was heavily involved in my sister's wedding festivities, I trained for and ran a race, I went to Europe for three weeks....don't do it this way. Focus on it, get it done in 6-8 months.
  • I'm a much better pilot than I used to be. I fly so much more precisely, I'm so much better on the radio, I know so much more about aircraft systems and ATC. I still feel like I have a lot to learn, but still.

I feel like there's so much more I want to do. I want to fly something other than Cessna 172s. I like 172s, don't get me wrong, but man, I'm bored with it. Something bigger, something smaller, something with a tailwheel..whatever!!

Anyway, I'm going to give a short account of my checkride experience. I'm not going to go into great detail, but I would like to thank Sherry Diamond for, first off, being sympathetic to my situation and accommodating my schedule on very short notice, and secondly for being very much a professional and a pleasant person to fly with, as well as a thorough examiner.

To review: Last Thursday, April 17, I had a checkride scheduled with Mike Shiflett, but he had to cancel due to a personal situation. Unfortunately that cancellation happened very close to the time of the checkride, a little over an hour beforehand, so I was pretty disappointed by that. We rescheduled for Tuesday. On Tuesday, Mike and I completed the ground portion of the exam, and it was a good experience -- however, I can't help but think that if we'd started earlier, we probably would've been able to complete the flight. Furthermore, I've since learned that not all examiners insist on conducting their checkrides in VFR conditions, and Tuesday would've been perfectly good IFR weather to fly in. Anyway, what's done is done.

Mike is a very good examiner, and as such, his schedule for the rest of this week was full. I am going to Hawaii next week, so the prospect of just not completing the checkride until afterwards, however unpleasant, was seeming more and more likely. Mike did offer a time on Sunday morning (at 5:00am!), but that wasn't going to work for me (5:00am!!). There was a possibility of Saturday, but...Sherry had talked to John on Thursday and offered that she could complete my checkride today (Friday). So I went that route.

I met Sherry at 1:00, exactly on time (yes!!), and she proceeded to give me a full rundown of the plan and her expectations. I really appreciated this. She'd given me a list of three approaches to prepare the previous night, which was also very helpful. Sherry, unlike Mike, conducts her checkride almost entirely within the IFR system: I file, I get a clearance, we fly three approaches IFR, I talk on the radio. It's almost like....REALITY!! What a concept.

We flew SNS ILS 31, SNS VOR 13 and WVI GPS-A. The plan was to do the ILS 31 pilot nav with procedure turn, but ATC told us they were unable. We ended up on the DME arc, which I flew pretty well, and intercepted the localizer. There was some weirdness with ATC, in that they gave me an altitude alert and chided me for going below 5500 before being established..except, I WAS established. Whatever. I told them so and they didn't argue, so I'm fairly confident it wasn't my mistake (besides, if it were, that would've been a failure!). I flew the LOOONG ILS quite well, and executed the missed. I never did hold at MARNA, though; we were worried about ATC delaying us again so we went straight into vectors for the VOR 13, partial panel. I set up for this quickly. Oh, and I remembered to start my time on both of those approaches. I flew the missed, and once again went straight into vectors for the WVI GPS-A. Here I fell behind; I didn't get the minute weather beforehand, and at some point along the final approach course she prompted me: What's your plan? So I got the weather, and got in a radio call asking if any runway was active. She asked what my circling plan was, I told her, and that was that.

Since we never did hold at MARNA, she basically had me set up for the hold at OSI (Woodside VOR) on the way back to PAO. And we did unusual attitude recovery, which I did very well.

So that was it! It, I say: 2.3 hours on the Hobbs meter. That's a long ride by anyone's standards. But, it's pass, and it's a pass with compliments from the examiner. So I'm done!!!

I'm getting increasingly incoherent (or, perhaps decreasingly coherent) so I'll stop here, have some fun in Hawaii and go from there!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oral: Done.

And for you gutter-minded folk out there, I'm just talking about the ground portion of my instrument checkride. I met with the examiner today at 2:30, as the weather deteriorated, and after we got done with the paperwork, and checking through my log book to make sure I qualified, and then BSing about alternative energy and various other unrelated topics, we got down to questions.

The first was about maintaining currency, and I immediately stumbled. I eventually had to find a copy of the FAR and figure it out; the examiner complimented me on my ability to interpret the FARs, but also made a point of noting that "most people already know the rule." I knew the basics, just not the intricacies.

We moved on to aircraft systems, what a vacuum failure would look like, what to expect from the airspeed indicator in a pitot ice situation, and what the gyro instruments are. He also asked me about RAIM and what to do in the event of a RAIM failure. I stumbled here, too, but he helped me think about it and I came up with the right answer.

He asked me to explain the difference between a localizer and a VOR, and I was doing alright until at one point I was looking for words, and he said, "A localizer's a totally different technology; it's not a radial" but I heard "not a radio" and was very confused for a while. Eventually we figured out the misunderstanding, and what he wanted to know was how a localizer indicates that one is left or right of the course line, which I knew.

We talked about my planned flight, from Truckee to Palo Alto, and I explained about the obstacle departure and the climb rate. We used this to discuss alternate airports and rules for selecting them, and also weather concerns.

Then we went and checked the now-fully-deteriorated weather -- it was borderline, but ceilings were showing between 2900 and 4000, which would've made it very difficult, if not impossible, to conduct the checkride in VMC. So the flight portion of the ride has to be rescheduled. I'm not sure when that's going to happen, but in any case, at least I'm through the oral.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

...or, not.

Checkride was canceled by the examiner. Still working off the excess adrenaline. I went ahead and took the plane (since I had it reserved) down to Salinas and did a practice AP-coupled VOR 13 approach, held at MARNA, and back to PAO for a practice GPS 31. It was easy. Makes me wonder what my problem has been all this time.

(caution: venting ahead)

In fact, I think that's the biggest problem with all these delays. People get this rating done in 10 days. People with day jobs get this done in 2-3 months. People go only twice a week and get it done in 9 months. It's. Been. Thirteen. Months. I've spent at least twice what most websites put up as their estimated cost for the rating. I'm not rich -- I'm not poor, obviously, but I'm not nearly loaded enough that this doesn't really hurt. So, basically, the question is WTF is my problem?

And how exactly am I supposed to take it, karmically speaking, when I finally do schedule a checkride, and first the plane disappears entirely and somewhat mysteriously, and then the examiner has to bail right before the checkride?

A very large part of me just wants to drop it. I'm a pretty bad investor, but I do know when to cut my losses. Fuck it. What exactly has to happen for me to get the hint and just fucking quit? Right now I'm rescheduled for Tuesday -- between now and then, what's going to happen? Someone accidentally puts battery acid in the plane instead of oil? My log book gains consciousness and goes to the federal government for amnesty, and files a restraining order against me? The FAA decides to instate a maximum name length? Tell me. Maybe during The Relay this weekend I'll develop gangrene in my leg, and have to cancel. Maybe I'll get arrested for being too ugly on a public road.

And why do I seem to get stuck with a high level of unprofessionalism when it comes to anyone I fly with other than my actual instructors? Phase check instructors are hours late, rude, vocally racist, or just plain wrong. Examiners don't show up and drop off the face of the earth, or are really late multiple times in a row, or, as in this case, have something entirely legit come up but that they don't know about till 1.5 hours before my checkride, and can't get out of?

Anyway. I digress, but I think my point was that aviation can go fuck itself. I'm really good at a lot of things, and though aviation is one of them, my passion for it is not so intense that I'll allow myself to be walked all over by the fuckers who have been in it for so long that they forget how to have respect for the time and space of other people.

Well..this post is all over the damn place; I'm obviously just venting and will probably just delete the damn thing at some point.

Pre-Checkride thoughts

My instrument checkride is in three hours, so I thought I'd spend some time writing in my blog. Logical, right? I'm just waiting for my stomach to settle down before I hit the road toward the airport and begin prepping. Yeah, I'm nervous, but only in a way. I know I not only can do this, but have done it consistently for the last month. I am only nervous because I get that way about experiences I don't believe will be pleasant. I have never had a pleasant phase check or checkride, but at least some of that is because of my own attitude about them. Hopefully this one breaks the trend.

I have completed my flight plan from Truckee to Palo Alto, but I still need to get the POH and check my climb rate up to 11,500 to decide whether to use the TRUCK2.TRUCK departure procedure, or the published obstacle DP. I'm undermotivated to do this since I'm not actually going to be flying this plan.

I do need to grab the POH and do a quick review of vacuum, electrical, fuel and pitot-static systems on the 172SP. From there, it's all checklists. If I just remember all my checklists and remember to talk out loud from the start, things will be fine.'s time for my inner badass to head for the airport. More later!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another great flight

Today's flight had all the initial indications of a complete failure. I didn't sleep well last night thanks to my messed up rotator cuff and a head heavy with the possible symptoms of the cold that I've been surrounded by for weeks. By the time I got to the lesson, I felt fine, but just a little light headed, and my stomach had been upset all day. When I arrived, John asks me, "What's the plan?" Now, it turns out I'd anticipated this and actually had something of a plan, but I was not quite in the mindset to completely take charge of the flight. I was not channeling my inner badass.

It was apparent as we started the engine, and I vacillated between wanting to take off IFR or VFR. I'd filed IFR, but it's always such a waste of time, so eventually I decided on VFR (there was an amusing moment when John didn't pick up on that fact and asked ground for our clearance).

We took off, I foggled myself and then the fun started. John had me enter an intersection hold -- I got it all figured out, and with 25 seconds before entering the hold...I realized I had it wrong!! So I quickly figured out the proper entry, turned left instead of right, and then should really have had it...but then turned right instead of left to intercept the course. Duh. OK, more practice on intersection holds.

Then came unusual attitude recovery. I'm generally very good at this, and today I was OK but not great. It's really very simple. Airspeed high/accelerating = power idle, wings level, pull up firmly but gently (aaahh). Airspeed low/decelerating = power full, nose down, wings level. That's it -- nothing to it. I was just being very slow, and came out of the experience feeling very disoriented, discombobulated, and like I was just going to fall apart, as used to happen so often. So John upped the difficulty level and rushed me: He called Stockton and asked for the VOR 29R approach, pilot nav from Manteca, which was only a few minutes away.

Paging Mr. Badass, Mr. Badass to line one! I quickly set up for the approach, including the briefing, and got everything all set to go about a minute before reaching Manteca VOR (ECA). I turned outbound, and was told by the controller that he'd call my turn inbound, and that the published missed approach/hold at ORANG was not an option, so we asked for a left turnout toward Livermore.

We were outbound for about 10 minutes. Thankfully I'd slowed to 90 knots and wasn't going the full 120 -- I feel silly even saying that; thankfully I was in a Skyhawk and not a Cirrus or an Eclipse jet or something. Anyway, eventually we turned back inbound, and I had to ask a question about altitude limits, despite the fact that the answer was right there on the approach plate. OK, stupid, but I got the next stepdown right, tracked the VOR inbound, passed over it, reported and tracked it back out...but forgot to start the time!! Again!! I was so upset. But no matter, the GPS was still working, I had my DME distances, so I got to the MAP and made the left turnout as planned. I told tower "missed approach" and they told me to contact approach control. So I did, and as I did so, I realized that I had to tell them what I wanted. What I really wanted was a holding pattern somewhere, but I decided just to go for the gusto and request the Livermore ILS 25R right then.

So again I had very little time to set up for the approach, but I did it, just went through the lists and got it done. I had the localizer tuned, identified and twisted long before it needed to be; I'd delayed getting the ATIS because of poor reception but even managed to get that done before I really needed it.

This approach was the best I've ever flown. There were gusty winds, so I had to do a lot of pitch/power compensation along the ILS to keep the glide slope centered. It was not hard. At the FAF, the marker beacon sounded, and John said, "What's that noise?" which usually means I've forgotten something, but I'd already started the time and checked my glide slope altitude, and we were flying VFR so I didn't have to report. I thought maybe John had again forgotten that we were not IFR, so I said, "If we were IFR, I'd have to report." He said, "Why?" I responded, "Final approach fix inbound in a non-radar environment." I think my ability to sound like a textbook while successfully flying an ILS shocked both of us.

Several great things from today: 1. I got to that falling apart point, recovered and had one pretty good and one fantastic approach. 2. Setting up for approaches is getting much easier. Lists, lists, lists. 3. I was able to focus on a day when I didn't feel great. Now I absolutely know I can do it when I feel any less crappy! An exciting day, and I'm psyched for the next flight (Saturday, solo!).

Friday, April 04, 2008

The importance of self-confidence

It's been a roller coaster of a couple of weeks, and a real lesson in how important it is to have confidence in one's skills. Frequently, flight (and especially instrument flight) is a microcosm of life, and the lessons learned in one apply equally to the other, and this is no exception.

Last week I had a couple of cancellations, the first because John had an emergency and had to cancel, the second because I was so tired that I was having dizzy spells after climbing a flight of stairs. Nothing a couple of good nights of sleep didn't solve, but definitely good I didn't attempt to go flying that day -- hooded flight is disorienting enough without random dizziness!

So this Monday, I dragged myself to the airport. I say "dragged" because that's exactly how I felt about it. In my last entry, I noted that instrument flight is a whole lot of work, and I've been too tired to work. I work all day, trying to squeeze 10 hours into six, leave early to go to flying, and then it's more work. It's exhausting!!

So I was sitting on a sofa organizing my charts when John showed up (he was on time, I was early). I'm sure I've mentioned this, but I do not have the ability to hide much from John -- he can read me like a book, and did so in this case. We proceeded to have a long talk about my motivation level, which he knew was approaching zero. We talked about my financial and environmental worries, which lead me to wonder exactly why I'm doing this; we talked about the fact that I'm simply too busy right now, with my job at a startup quickly ramping up into frantic mode, plus having to do my taxes and also training for a race (running), both the same week as my scheduled check ride; and we talked about how I was just sick of the whole process and viewed it as work, not fun.

He asked me why I'd started doing this to begin with, and we reflected on my initial goals. Goal #1 was to become a better pilot. Mission accomplished -- the difference between now and a year ago is night and day. Goal #2 was to not be stopped by minor layers of clouds that come over the bay area. Mission accomplished; I can certainly fly well enough to get through those on an IFR flight plan. Goal #3 was to maximize my capabilities based on how good I think I am. I think I'm really good at flying -- this is the key, and I'll talk more about that in a bit. Goal #4 was to set myself up for potentially pursuing aviation-related career options, either as an instructor or with an airline. I just turned 34, so while I'm still young, it's not like I'm 22 and have a lot of time to sit and consider my options.

So after this long conversation, we decided to go out and fly LVK ILS 25R and OAK ILS 27R. I filed a flight plan and we went to Livermore, and I set up for the ILS. Many things went right -- I'd set up properly, I intercepted the glide slope well, I followed it alright...but I missed starting the time at the FAF, and John had to remind me. He also had to remind me of something else...I can't remember what that was, but something important. The approach terminated with a circle to land runway 7R, which is what I messed up on my phase check last month, so I got a chance to redeem myself.

All in all it went alright, but I was really mad at myself for missing those two things and needing any reminders from John at all. For once I successfully hid this from him, thanked him for the reminders, and he had me fly a box pattern over the hills as I set up for the Oakland ILS. I took my time on this -- this is one thing I'd found on the last solo flight I took, is that I can help myself by actually committing to being slow. Too bad, I'm slow. If I'm too slow, someone will tell me, but until then, I'm just going to be slow. So I took plenty of time, made sure I had the radios all set up, ran through my checklists at least twice, fully briefed the approach (I'm getting the hang of this), and then finally we called up and requested the approach (we were VFR at this point; we had canceled IFR toward the end of the LVK approach).

We got a vector and I twisted the localizer. I intercepted the localizer, and then the switch flipped. I am doing this approach perfectly, I told myself. I found my focus, and stayed on it. I've intercepted the localizer. What's next? I was way ahead of the airplane on the step down fixes, and down to 1500 where I intercepted the glide slope. I started the time at the FAF, and stayed on the glide slope. My scan finally showed up; I was now flying the attitude indicator and using everything else as performance instruments. I made all the small corrections. John tried to joke with me; I ignored him. He asked me if he should shut up, I said "yes, please." We did a touch and go, and a right 270 back toward Palo Alto, and he noted that I'd anticipated this and put Oakland's South Tower in my reserve frequency in COM2. Basically I was a complete badass. What I call badass, John calls "Pilot In Command."

And there's the lesson. The FAA focuses on the following hazardous attitudes:

1. Antiauthority ("Don't tell me!") - Don't like anyone telling him/her what to do. Resentful of rules & regulations.

2. Impulsivity ("Do something - do it now!") - Need to do something, anything, quickly. Don't stop to think about better alternatives.

3. Invulnerability ("It won't happen to me.") - Accidents happen to other people, not to me. Therefore, I can take chances.

4. Macho ("I can do it.") - Always trying to prove themselves better than others. Take risks and try to impress others. Yes, women, too!

5. Resignation ("What's the use?") - I really can't make a difference. It's going to happen anyway, why bother? Leave actions to others.

But, they forgot one: A lack of confidence. I'm the type of person that's simply not going to suffer from these attitudes as listed. I know, some of you are reading this and saying "That's exactly the type of attitude that'll get you killed!" but seriously, if you knew me, you'd agree that I'm just not that kind of person -- it makes me a very antistereotypical guy, but that's very much who I am. However, I occasionally suffer from a lack of confidence, especially when overwhelmed, and that is just as hazardous an attitude as any of the above when it comes to instrument flight. If I'm in a situation where I have to figure out what to do, and I can't trust myself -- I'm a goner. This is where the belief in one's own abilities, the casting of oneself as a badass, comes into play. It may be exactly the wrong thing for some people to do, but it's exactly the right thing for me.

John and the new badass me went up again yesterday, and flew the Tracy GPS-A and the Hayward VOR DME 28L. Right from the start, my radio calls were fluent and easy, which is a good indicator of my confidence level going into a flight. I listened as many other pilots were struggling with their calls and testing the patience of ATC; there were a lot of people out there who were having trouble with their radio calls for some reason. It made me feel even better about mine when I said, "Approach, Skyhawk 21705, level 5000, request Tracy GPS-A, pilot nav, published missed, we have weather" all in one breath. We were cleared direct Manteca VOR, and I slowed and made the 340 degree right turn back on course. The approach was great EXCEPT I forgot to start my time at the FAF!! Argh! But John didn't even catch that; everything else was perfect. The missed approach was perfect, the hold at Tracy was very good.

As we entered the hold, Approach asked us our intentions. I wasn't ready for the question, and what would usually happen is that I'd let John take the call and then I'd lose confidence in myself because I felt like I didn't handle something I should have. But not badass Mayank. I took the call, fumbled it a little but got my point across that we'd want the Hayward LOC DME 28L but would hold for a few rounds to get set up. John's response: "Who are you and what have you done with my student?" which is very much a compliment. After a couple of minutes of holding (I'm slow at setting up!), Approach pinged us: "Let me know when you're ready for Hayward." "Will do." and I said to John: "Don't hold your breath!" Not only have I committed to being slow, I'm proud of it! What a great defense against feeling rushed and making errors.

After I was set up and briefed, and re-briefing myself, John said, OK, you only get one more turn. But I was done anyway, so I called up Approach and asked for Hayward LOC DME 28L. Here there was a bit of a fumble; I'd forgotten that I was still on an IFR flight plan, so really I needed a clearance to Hayward, which is what the controller gave me, and to read it back, which I did badly. But whatever. I got a vector, and twisted the localizer. I nearly overflew it, but did alright getting back on it and began my descents. I made my descents at 800-1000 feet per minute, I had all of my checkpoints lined up, I had my GPS set up for DME distances to the localizer to identify was great. Slight fumble -- the last stepdown is inside the FAF, and I did not add 50 feet to the altitude, so I ran the danger of busting it (but didn't). We terminated early and turned left toward Palo Alto, where I made a nice landing.

I've gone on long enough, but I've definitely noticed the results in various aspects of my life of believing in oneself. Instrument flight is no exception. I'm so ready for my check ride; I wish it were today. In the mean time, I'm no longer dragging myself to the airport; I'm excited to take every approach and completely kick ass on each one.