Friday, 19 December 2008

Pancake Airlines at IFR minima

click title to see HD video on DailyMotion

Finally! Nice to have some IMC weather during Marijke's IFR training. During my whole IR training the weather had been to easy. The basics of IFR flying in solid IMC are exactly the same but we were really looking forward to experience what it's like. On this day the circumstances on EHGG in terms of visibility where exactly at the acceptable minima, both in terms of RVR, cloud cover and vertical visibility.

At the same time the cold front was moving from west to east, and visibility and cloud height at Lelystad were already above VFR minima (so we were able to return as well). At first we had to delay the flight plan a little bit because the measured cloud height at Lelystad was still a bit low. Only a thin layer is enough to keep you on the ground. We departed from Lelystad as soon as possible (nr.2 plane that day) to be able to return before the fog would increase again in the final hours before sunset.

Shortly after take-off we were already in VMC on top of the thin cloud layer with beautiful views of the sun playing with the clouds. Further up in the northeast corner of the Netherlands the clouds were getting thicker and the fog reached out to the lower levels.

Now we had to rely fully on the IFR procedures and the G1000 instrumentation during our approaches at Eelde. The local flying schools were not flying, except for a single Beech Baron from KLM Flight Academy. We were not sure whether it would be possible to land. Even if we had to abort or go around, it would already make us happy to be able to practise in solid IMC.

Because of the conditions we decided to make maximum use the G1000 and autopilot; it's able to fly the whole ILS approach on runway 23 down to the decision altitude. From that point at 200ft, if you are exactly on the right track, we found out that you still have plenty of time to make a descent landing. With our approach speed of 90 kts the RVR of about 650m is not a real issue as well. The only real issue in these calm conditions was the vertical visibility, seeing the runway lights on time to be able to continue the descend.

After a touch and go and a full stop, we checked conditions at Lelystad again before selecting the ROLDU1D back to Lelystad. Once in the air you can let the autopilot fly the SID again. The first few minutes after take-off are the most important in these conditions, especially in a single engine plane.

Once in the air we hear both Transavia 780 and 782 over the radio headed for Eelde. If we are not mistaking both of them had to divert to Schiphol in the end; we see one of them passing us on starboard.

Conditions on Lelystad were much better but you could already see the ground fog increasing. As Eelco explains, once the fog really start developing you can often see the ground from above but you loose all (horizontal) visibility when you try to land. The sun is straight over the extended runway, but we use the final part of the instrument procedure for Lelystad as a reference for the landing.


Pancake Airlines Crew is trained by Dwarf Powered Gliders (http://www.dwarf.nl/) and Wings over Holland (http://www.wingsoverholland.nl/). Information on the PH-PCA Diamond DA40 can be found on http://www.pancake-airlines.com/. You can click on the title link to see the HD video on DailyMotion.

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