Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Old-fashioned IFR

Here it is, a nice IFR panel from the 1990s.  Two VORs (ignore them; I was being radar vectored when the picture was taken), ADF, DME.  No database, MFD, HSI, RMI, GPS, RNP, WAAS, SAAAR, or even useful autopilot.  The only problem is that this wasn't 1990, it was 2008.  Yesterday, in fact.

I said that I was reluctant to file IFR in this airplane, not because it was unsafe or even unwise, but because there are so many services in the current IFR system that it cannot use.  I was forced to file a circuitous route.  I wasn't sure of the legality of the route, since the nearest navaid to our departure airport was more than 50 miles away, so I would be starting well outside of its service volume.  There is an intersection close to the direct route, but I had no easy way to go direct.

Actually, I could have found the intersection using a sequence of cross fixes; been there, done that.  It's pretty simple when you have a VOR beside the desired course.  You draw the "direct" line on the map, then measure the DME distance where this line crosses various radials from the VOR to your left.  If you are 33 DME along the radial when the course is 35 DME, then you are to the left, so you adjust your heading to the right and try again in a couple of miles.  You can back this up with a handheld GPS, but mine is so old that it still has gears and belts, so the intersection wasn't in the database.  I could have defined the intersection as the crossing point of two radials, or by radial/DME, but I was not willing to file this way. 

Like I said, I have done this, in IMC, but with a good autopilot to hold heading.  It's just too much work.

So, I filed for the VOR way out of my way to the left.  We started up and taxied to the one spot on the ramp with cell phone reception, and I called Lockheed-Martin's Clearance Delivery line (888-766-8267).  The call got dropped the first time, but the second time I spoke to a person who told me that I was "cleared as filed."   There was no void time.  I asked again to make sure.  There was no void time.  We really were in the middle of nowhere.

Right away we were IMC.  It took a while to contact center, who immediately gave us a radar vector direct to our destination, so all I had to do was hold heading and altitude for the rest of the afternoon.  As we moved east we were in and out of the tops, but it was smooth and there was no ice.  As usual, there was a King Air passing overhead (there's always a King Air passing overhead when I fly). Center cleared them to 8000 (we were at 7000), but we never saw them, and they were unloaded and tied down by the time we landed.

So what was the problem?  Our real destination, where fuel was a dollar a gallon cheaper, only has a GPS approach, so we had to go to the "big" airport (radar coverage, but not Class C) where there is a long taxi and expensive fuel.  So, again, the lack of modern avionics wasn't unsafe; it was inconvenient and inefficient.  

Still, it beats scud running.

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At May 21, 2009 at 3:06 PM , Anonymous John said...

Welcome to my life. :-) This is how 95% of all my IFR time is spent, in a plane just as you described. Atleast you had an ADF though. The plane I fly, doesn't even have an ADF. And you would be surprised how many ILS approaches on the west coast require an ADF (mainly for the missed approach). It's frustrating. And yet, it is so much fun too. :-)


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