First IFR flight

mach zehnder modulatorстоловеIt was a beautiful VFR day all over the state of Florida, high pressure dominated the area, but I filed IFR for the first time since getting my license (not the first time flying IFR since then) so I could get the practice.

I filed direct KPIE to KOPF, received clearance on the ground and was cleared as filed.  I took off on 35R and flew runway heading to 2000 ft., and was then routed over Tampa before release direct to KOPF.  Very nice flight at 7000ft, but I needed to get down to 5000 to get under a hot MOA. I was in and around a lot of smoke the last half of the flight and eventually got in and out of some clouds as well.  With some work I could have flown higher, lower or even around some of the clouds to stay in VFR, but I wanted the practice. Was vectored for the ILS runway 9L and broke out at 3000ft.  I followed the localizer and glide slope down to 400 for my simulated break out, then I called my spot for landing and was long by only 50 ft or so.  I’ll keep working on those spot landings.  It was a great flight over.

On the way back, I again filed direct.  We then taxied away from the ramp and called the tower.  The tower gave me “Cleared direct to KPIE via the Miami 9 departure, 2000 ft . . . “, a clearance that included a SID (standard instrument departure), after reading it back wrong, I finally got it right.  To be honest, I wasn’t ready for a SID at all.  After read back, I told the tower I needed a minute to program the GPS before I was ready to taxi.  In reality I was figuring out what I was getting in to.  After looking at the SID, I figured I could do it.  It was to fly runway heading to 2000, then to Dolphin VOR, which was to the southwest of the airport, then 3000ft. to WINCO, which was Northwest of the airport, then direct to my destination.  OK, easy enough, programmed the GPS and was ready to taxi.  Take off was normal, again runway 9L, so I was heading east, then when I was handed off, ATC turned me North.  Not what I expected, but no problem.  Then I was told to turn 270 and “join the WINCO departure��?.  I replied back asking for direct to WINCO since I was already north of the airport and WINCO was at about 300 anyway.  No dice, so 270 it was.  I then overheard another pilot given the same vector, and heard his confusion as he asked if he had to go to Dolphin first or if he was allowed to go straight to WINCO.  Departure clarified and said to fly the heading assigned until he was on the outbound radial of Dolphin and then to turn to WINCO and proceed outbound.  The exchange was very interesting to listen to and ATC was very nice in explaining it to the pilot.  To be honest, it took me a minute to understand the instructions before I understood it as well, maybe I got lucky.  So now, both me and the other pilot are flying the same departure and he is overtaking me as we are in and out of clouds, so since we couldn’t see each other, ATC sent me 20 degrees right until we where far enough apart.  Just past WINCO, I was thick in the clouds when I was handed off to Miami center.  When I was, center asked me if I could do the Bridge 5 arrival in to KPIE.  I had just “mastered��?, ok, not mastered, more like survived the SID, so I’ll take on a Standard terminal arrival (STAR).  I said yes, and he said to fly direct to Labelle and expect the Bridge 5 arrival.  I programed direct to LVL and then spent the next 5 minutes bouncing around in clouds trying to find the STAR.  See, the SIDS are in with the approaches and the approaches are in alphabetical order by airport city name.  The STARs are in the front of the book in alphabetical order of the name of the arrival procedure.  Makes no sense what-so-ever to me.  So, after I found it, it took me the next 5 minutes to program it in to the GPS.  I would be bumping along, program one fix, then go back to flying and make sure I was going the right way and at the right altitude.  Then I would program the next fix and so on.  The only way I could have done this at this stage in my flying is with the help of the autopilot.  Not a minute after accomplishing all that, and feeling pretty good about myself, I was out of the clouds, and the rest of the trip was cloud free.  This lead to a beautiful red sunset for the rest of the trip.  Upon starting the bridge arrival, I was then vectored over the skyway, west of KSPG and in to KPIE.  Didn’t use any of what I programmed except for the BRDGE waypoint.  Cleared for a nice visual landing, a little too much float, but a great day.

I really felt like a “real pilot��?, for lack of a better term, being able to take the plane on a business trip and not stress about the weather, or whether or not I would be delayed either way.  In other words, being able to take the plane where I needed to, when I needed to.  I am really glad I took the time to get my instrument rating (2 years I think it was).  Thank you Walt for making me an IFR pilot.  I would say teaching me, but it was more than that, he really made me.

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