My First “Actual” IMC

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.


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