Day 1: IFR Training @ KAPA, Cirrus SR20 315AR
Objectives: Attitude instrument flying and basic flight maneuvers
I arrived to KAPA at 9:30 on Friday morning after 4.5 hours reporting from the 16th St. Pedestrian bridge over I-25. It was a cold morning, a bit windy, but it had that feel of fresh new potential that I usually associate with flight training. When I have in my mind that a trip to Centennial is in store things seem to fly by quickly, effortlessly. I have finally found an instructor that gets my learning style, his name is John Post and he is the ripe ole age of 21. Wise beyond his years, he is serious in the cockpit to the point of great learning, but when it comes to poking fun at the fact that we get to fly an amazing airplane, he gets it. He makes fun of my manicured nails and my periodic meteorological terminology quizzes I administer during flight, but he still gets the fact that I am there to learn and to be a safe and competent pilot. As I walked upstairs I saw that John was already in the training room, prepping our space, Jeppesen syllabus laid out ceremoniously to page one. The moment had that first day of school feel and the first thing out of my mouth was, “I told you I’d be back”. He smiled and we got started on our morning flight. We talked costs and timelines, objectives and weather. At this point we grabbed our headsets and walked out to the most beautiful plane ever made.
Sliding into the seat of the Cirrus transforms me. Stepping up onto the wing and popping the door open is such a fresh feeling; nothing matters except for weather or not YOU can fly THIS plane. Deciding factors like flight planning, weather, mental clarity all truly make or break your flight and it is real sensation that I don’t find in any other aspect of my life. Back to sliding into the seat… it grips me. It feels like a luxury car, only with panache. This plane is filled with potential and thus turns me from Amelia to Amelia Earhart, the woman that is training for a flight around the world. Is that silly? Perhaps but it is a feeling I refuse to ignore or pretend doesn’t exist.
The flight started with a slight delay, as another Cirrus blew a tire on runway 17L, thus closing it down for about an hour. We eventually got our call from the tower to follow 2 other planes to 17R for an immediate take off and departure to the South West practice area for maneuvers. Winds were 17 gusting to 22 from 160, essentially straight down the runway which makes things pretty easy. Line up and wait, brakes held, full throttle and off we go, rotating at 70 kts and up into the sky, where anything is possible. Flaps up at 80 kts, slight turn to the West and before I know it, John is giving me directions in a new language. During our Cirrus transition training, John would say, “Alright, head west, let’s climb to 8,000 feet and then do some stalls”. Something has changed. John was now giving orders as if he were the control tower and it sounded more like, “Cirrus 315 Alpha Romeo, maintain heading 360 and climb to 8,000” and “Cirrus 315 Alpha Romeo, turn left heading 230 and descend to 7,500”. It came as a surprise, but I got it… understanding that IFR training is all about trusting what the controller tells you to do. He gave directions and I took orders, mostly staying within 100 feet of his desired altitudes, and plus or minus 5 degrees of my heading. I think I kept a giddy grin on my face the entire flight. About 50 minutes in, John called the tower and asked for an approach that I do not yet understand. He said the language will come with time and we will spend a lot of time going over tower communications. As we entered the pattern and landed the plane I realized that this was a fresh start, filled with possibility, without limits. However, starting is easy and finishing is hard and I need to stay focused on the goal, which is to take my training to a safer, more devoted level.
John and I chocked the plane, walked back to the hangar and debriefed. Plans were locked in and we scheduled for my next 3 weeks of flights.