Hours – 20.4
This was a fairly challenging but rewarding lesson. That seems to be the default description of flight school…challenging but rewarding. I remember the first time I did VOR navigation with Yigal. It made so much sense on the ground, of course things are different in the air. It helps that I am studying my ass off for the written test. The reading makes things a lot easier.
Today I learned how to track a course with the VOR (Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range) Indicator. I also learned how to intersect a VOR radial. What we actually did today was to fly to the destination VOR station and then change heading to a nearby airport, using the VOR signal. Ok, here’s how it went down:
We wanted to fly to the Huguenot VOR station (HUO) northeast of Port Jervis and then to the Resnick airport (N89) in Ellenville. We would be flying parallel to the Shawangunk Ridge with the Catskills to the northwest. On the ground with my chart and plotter, I made a line from our departure airport (MGJ) to the VOR station, so I knew the general direction to head after takeoff. The heading is 260 (magnetic). Then, I made a line from the VOR station to the destination airport. The heading is 037. You can see the compass rose surrounding the VOR station below. You can also see the little headings written on the outside circle of the compass rose.
After I wrote those two items down, I recorded the radio frequency for the VOR station. In this case, the frequency was 116.1. Each local VOR station has a different radio frequency. Just for your personal information (so you can talk about this at parties), VOR stations transmit within a VHF frequency band of 108.0 – 117.95 MHz. Keep that in mind because I am going to quiz you on this one day. I also recorded the UNICOM frequency of 122.8 for Resnick airport. Yigal and I did a practice flight with the simulator and then hopped in the airplane.
We took off from runway 26, so we were already headed in the right direction. After I climbed to about 3,000FT, I tuned the NAV portion of the radio to the VOR frequency of 116.1. I listened for the Morse code. After tuning into any VOR station frequency, you need to listen for the Morse code because sometimes the station might be down for maintenance. If you hear no beeps, don’t use that VOR. I continued climbing to 3,500FT. Orange County Airport was pretty busy today, so I wanted to get away from all the traffic. Also, this was a good cruising altitude.
Once the frequency was dialed into, I turned the OBS knob on the VOR Indicator so the little arrow pointed “TO” and the needle was centered. Below is a sample of a VOR Indicator. The “TO” and “FROM” are not showing. What you see is what it would like like if you were directly over the VOR station. See my previous post for what a VOR station looks like from the air.
When the needle is centered, that is the track you fly. If the needle moves to the left, that means you need to fly left because you drifted to the right and vice versa. The needle acts as the actual track and you don’t touch the indicator again until you reach the station.
Once we reached the station, and actually saw it on the ground, we flew over it. Right at the point of flying over the station, the “TO” flipped to “FROM” and I changed the indicator to read the new heading to Resnick airport of 037. Then, I turned the airplane to that heading.
Basically the idea is the same. You fly based on headings and what the VOR Indicator is telling you. At the same time, you use your chart and ground reference charts to confirm your heading. We decided not to go all the way to Resnick and to head back to Orange County. How did we know where we were, you ask? We just took the closest ground reference point and made a note of the heading from that reference point to the airport and then flew it. Easy. The hard part is that Yigal kept cutting the engine when we got close to the airport for simulated engine out practice.
Also, I learned soft field takeoffs. You need this when you are taking off from a grass or snowy runway. That is pretty straightforward…basically you need to set your flaps to 10 degrees and punch it like a normal takeoff. When you reach about 40KTS, you pull back just to get off the ground. Then, you use ground effect to keep the airplane about 20FT off the ground. When you reach climb speed of 70KTS, you pull back and climb, while putting the flaps back up in normal position. This type of takeoff is used to get you off the ground as quickly as possible because the grass or snow creates drag on the wheels and slows you down.
For next lesson I need to create my first flight plan for our cross country flight to an airport at least 50 miles away. Word.