We set off at around 6pm local time to Malaga. I knew this was going to be a great experience and also a difficult flight with the busy environment at Malaga. The route planned was a standard departure from Jerez and then direct to the Malaga VOR, joining into a standard arrival and then a VOR approach to runway 13. During the pre-flight briefing, I mentioned that we can expect runway 13 due to the wind direction at Malaga, given and predicted by the METARs and TAFs. Planning an IFR flight involves checking the weather, NOTAMs, studying the appropriate instrument plates, filing the flight plan and a pre-flight briefing. The pre-flight briefing is where I basically go through all my planning, highlighting key points such as any weather that may affect us, NOTAMs relevant to us and plate briefs.
Once the brief was done, we checked and signed the paperwork and went to the aircraft. Before startup, clearance for start up must be requested and then taxi and IFR clearance follow afterwards. Avionics management is something that takes a bit of getting used to at first – having to set and identify all the frequencies in use by morse code and having them ready to be used. This is something I’ve started to plan on the ground now so that I know exactly what frequencies I need and when, without too much thinking in the air, leaving me free to do other tasks. I’ll also usually draw the route on my VFR map, just to give me some reference to terrain if I need it at any point.
The flight started out slow and easy, and around 15 minutes before arrival, I obtained the ATIS information, which indicated runway 13 was in use, as expected, and other information such as the weather and QNH. Since we had some time, I gave the approach plate brief to my instructor after obtaining the ATIS – we were expecting to do the VOR approach to runway 13, so that’s the one I gave and set the avionics up for that. I also set up the avionics for the ILS as a contingency. Everything went smoothly, and soon we were given permission to descend and so completed the initial approach/descent checks and complied with the instructions. Malaga approach vectored us directly to intercept the 314 radial for the VOR approach. Unfortunately I couldn’t see anything outside since the screens were up… till my instructor let me have a quick peek outside – the view was amazing! I don’t have any photos yet, since my instructor has them, so I’ll put them up when I get a hold of them.
Just as we were established for the VOR approach, the wind suddenly changed to the opposite direction, and so ATC changed the runway in use! So, the controller made us carry out a missed approach and gave us vectors and to climb to an altitude of 5500 feet. Now they were vectoring us for runway 31. The environment was incredibly busy – we were number 6 to land, meaning there were 5 aircraft in front of the queue to land. All the avionics were set for runway 13, so everything had to be changed around for runway 31. The workload was quite high since we were being constantly vectored as well. We decided to go for the ILS approach in the end and did a relatively high speed ILS approach to runway 31. This is the first time I have ever flown an ILS for real – I’ve done it in flight simulator, so that helped a little! Once we were at decision height, I cut the power and let the flaps down once we were in the safe operating speed for flaps operation, to loose the speed, and touched down in Malaga.
The Tower instructed us to exit the runway at the next taxiway on the right and change to the ground frequency once we were clear of the runway. We then taxied to the general aviation apron and were greeted by a “follow me” vehicle. We then had one hour to reflect on the flight, de-brief and have something to eat! Time went by fast and we were soon in the aircraft again calling up clearance delivery for our IFR clearance back to Jerez. The SID we were given and requested was a relatively complicated one – the JRZ1C from runway 31 since many nav-aids had to be used and required slick avionics management, something that I’m getting used to. Nonetheless, it went well, and ATC soon vectored us off the SID, to give us a shortcut, directly to a fix and then from there to the Jerez NDB for the NDB approach.
The scenery on the way out was amazing – the sun was setting and the view was breath-taking. However, I couldn’t enjoy the view too much, as it was an IFR flight and so had to have my head down in the cockpit monitoring the instruments and flying the aircraft. My instructor kindly took a few photos for me to share here, so those will be up soon. As night set in, we switched on the navigation lights and the instrument panel lights. On the way, we practiced fix-to-fix navigation and plotting a fix on the map. Once we got to the Jerez NDB, we practiced a few holds and then were cleared for the NDB approach. This was a night landing and though people tend to flare high at night, I tended to flare a little flat! This is probably because of people telling me that I may have the tendency to flare high and so over-compensating slightly. I’ll have plenty of practice with night landings when I go to Faro soon!
Unfortunately I didn’t fly today due to the weather, which is holding all of us behind a little at the moment. I’m hoping for some improvement today so I can complete an IFR flight to Seville and a night flight that I must complete before being allowed to go to Faro!