Learning Holds & flying in IFR conditions

Happy late Valentine’s Day everyone! Hope you all spent some time with that special someone, or if you’re like me you went out and treated yourself the day after Valentine’s Day by getting chocolate at ridiculously low prices (singles life, what can I do). Even though I may not have that special someone in my life just yet, I did spend my week doing something that I truly love; yep you guessed it flying! And this I got to do two different instrument procedures since I’m working towards my instrument rating, by doing holds and flying in Instrument meteorological conditions(IMC) or commonly known as IFR flying.


So, what exactly is a hold or commonly known as holding. Well typically a hold is a fixed point typically   a radio beacon such as a non-directional beacon (NDB) or VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) which is shaped like an oval (or a race track) that is published on IFR charts. Typically, when you are in a hold this may be due to bad weather in the area, spacing of aircraft, or you calling a missed approach and you need to circle back around for another landing; again, there are multiple situation that you could be put into a hold, and a lot of pilots don’t like being put in a hold.

(This is what a hold typically looks like on a holding chart) Photo Credits to Emerald Air VA

So, on Wednesday and Thursday my instructor and I went up and did two different types of holds on each day. On Wednesday, we did a GPS hold in various spots throughout the practice area. The great thing that I liked about GPS holds was that when I dialed a certain hold (example Boulbi) the GPS already had the hold pattern already in the system, so when I entered it in, the GPS would tell me to fly a certain heading (example 360) for a certain amount of time and then fly the reciprocal heading (so 180) and I would be established in the hold.

Then on Thursday, my instructor went back up and did a VOR hold in the practice area. Because the University of Oklahoma is only about 20 miles to the south of Will Rogers World Airport (KOKC) we decided to use the Rogers VOR (IRW) to do the hold. To do this type of hold you must track and intercept a certain radial off the VOR your using and be a certain number of miles away from it, for instance we used the 155-degree radial and we made sure we were 17 nautical miles away from the VOR. My instructor told me that timing is everything during this type of hold because you wanted each leg of the hold to be exactly one minute, if not you had to add or subtract however many seconds you were early or late to the next leg, which was very confusing at first and can be when you first learn it. After a few times in the hold, on my final attempt I was able to get the hold within two seconds of the desired time of a minute.


Flying in IFR conditions

The other cool thing, and another first to my introduction to instrument flying was flying in IMC weather conditions. One of my dad’s business partners owns a Meridian Malibu aircraft (It’s the plane that I took my senior pictures with back in High School) and was taking a short trip from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and back, and asked if I would like to go with him. Of course, I didn’t pass up the opportunity to go flying with him and I also wanted to experience flying in IFR conditions for the first time.

(This is the plane that my dad’s business partner owns and the one I flew in yesterday as well as took my senior pictures with in 2015. Photo credits to Randy Coleman, which thanks again for amazing senior photos Randy!)

So yesterday (Saturday) morning I got up and met him at Wiley Post airport in Oklahoma City. We departed shortly after 10 a.m. while there still was a thick layer of cloud cover only about 1500 feet above the airport. Once we got into the clouds we hit some pretty severe turbulence, but once we got up to about 4,000 feet we busted through the clouds which every pilot talks about being one of the best feelings ever and it sure felt incredible. During the short flight, we climbed to 15,000 feet (the highest I’ve ever gone while being in the cockpit) and my dad’s business partner gave me some tips on instrument flying like how to read approach charts, how to set up both RNAV and ILS approaches, victor airways, and so much more; most of which I barely knew since I’m still learning the basics of instrument flying.

As we began our decent into Tulsa, he told me that for this landing we would do an RNAV approach into Tulsa Riverside Airport. We then entered the thick cloud layer and we were in it for quite a while, to the point where once we got out of it we were literally right over the Tulsa skyline only about 1,200 feet above the buildings. After our short visit in Tulsa we flew back to Oklahoma City under pretty much VFR conditions (only time it was IFR was when we left Tulsa) and on the way back we decided to do an ILS approach back into Wiley Post. I had never done an ILS approach before, so my dad’s business partner decided to have some fun with me and told me to not look outside, simulating that visibility was less than a mile and told me not to look up until we reached 1,290 feet (which is the decision height when landing at Wiley Post) and told me if you don’t see the airport we go missed approach. Once we got to 1,290 feet, I looked up and I could clearly see the runway, but it surprised me how close were to the runway since we literally touched downed a few second later.

I  the end I’m glad that I went and got to experience a little bit of actual IFR flying conditions as well as being showed how to set up RNAV and ILS approaches, even though most of the stuff I don’t know how to do just yet, but hey I’m still learning!

Well guys that’s it for this week’s blog, Also, make sure to check out https://blog.globalair.com/  for other great blogs and featured stories on other pilot stories as well as other reviews on aviation related articles. As always guys remember that “adventure is out there!”


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