Your last flight was 13 months ago, the coronavirus having curtailed your flying activities. Safely vaccinated, you’re itching to get back in the air but there are no instructors available where you normally fly at your home ‘drome. Instead, you have booked a few lessons with a new instructor quite a distance away at Van Nuys, CA (KVNY), an airport you’ve not seen in several years.
The FBO has some rentals to choose from … but, like you, they haven’t flown very much recently either. Your first two lessons are in a Cessna 172RG and you’re able to knock off some rust with takeoffs and landings and some air work. You feel good about getting some sky time and, anticipating a chance to make some of those COVID-delayed aerial outings with the family, you want to get some practice in actual instrument conditions.
After a short delay, your schedule and the desired weather conditions finally come together. The overcast ceilings are variable between 700-800 feet, there’s good visibility, and westerly winds at 15-20 knots. Tops are reported at 7000 feet. Today’s aircraft is a Piper Arrow, sporting a Frankenpanel with an interesting mix of analog and glass.
You review the power settings required for various phases of flight and your instructor tells you to expect some air work northwest of VNY followed by an ILS. After the ILS, you will try an RNAV approach. During your weather briefing you see a NOTAM that the approach lighting system for Runway 16R at Van Nuys is out of service, but the instructor interrupts as you begin to consider what that might mean.
The takeoff and climb into the practice area go well. You work on some climbs, turns, and descents. You want some practice with the autopilot but even after two or three attempts at engaging it, it doesn’t seem to work. Your instructor tries but has no better luck. He continues to fiddle with it as you check the circuit breaker panel and find no obvious fix. After some more air work east of the Filmore VOR (FIM), you are ready to try an approach.
Your instructor is getting a new ATIS and still busy working on the autopilot issue. He says to plan on the ILS Y 16R. You decide to request the ILS Z 16R as the new ATIS is reporting 500 OVC. SOCAL approach assigns a heading to join the 053-degree radial from FIM and then clears you for the ILS Z to 16R at 6000 feet.
As the pace quickens, more of the rust from your pandemic enforced rest from flying is becoming obvious. Can you make this work?