As a VFR pilot — to be specific, a regulation-following VFR pilot — earning my IFR ticket, I’ve never experienced flight in the clouds before. (Unless, of course, you count gazing out the window of a commercial airliner, haha.) And up until today my IFR training has been solely “under the hood” with a view-limiting device. Today we had absolutely perfect, bona fide IMC just above minimums: about 500′ overcast, with 6 miles of visibility. Low enough to be truly interesting.
We took off on 34R and within only moments entered the cloud deck. I wasn’t under the hood but I was, of course, amply occupied with my piloting tasks, the radio, and so on; I didn’t have time to gape out the window. There was a fleeting montage of fragments: ground-cloud-ground-cloud…and then whiteness. The stratus layer was quite smooth and easy to fly in, and not much later we broke out into a clear layer between the decks above and below. It was really quite grand; it felt a little like tasting some sort of forbidden fruit that VFR pilots aren’t permitted to have, and was enormously satisfying in a “ha ha, I’ve been let on to the secret” kind of way.
Our maneuvers and holding patterns went very well, and dealing with Center was made easier due to a very quiet airspace; radio work was light. Nonetheless there was a great deal to do, and I can only imagine that the workload is something I must acclimate to. Learning to plan one or even two steps ahead will benefit me greatly as I progress.
Our VOR approach to Paine’s 16R was just as thrilling; we broke out of the clouds as if on cue, runway in sight and well aligned. “Bam! Land,” said my CFI, and in we went with a mild but not alarming crosswind. Altogether, it was a memorable flight — just as much as my first solo! A fine time, and an experience to savor.