Practising instrument approaches

IFR – RNAV – Maryborough – Bundaberg – Hervey Bay – QADCAPS

It was December 2020. I’d decided it was time to brush up on my instrument approaches. Private instrument rated pilots have to practise them at least once every 6 months to stay current but it’s best to do them more often. I had a chat to Mike, the owner of MSF, and we decided Friday 4th December looked like a good day to fly. Mostly clear, not too hot, and only the chance of a thunderstorm in the evening, well after we’d be back home. It was a good excuse to go flying and practice makes perfect as they say, so off we went.

I am instrument rated on RNAVs only. These are aRea NAVigation approaches that use the GPS system to direct you through a series of waypoint and then specify at what altitude you should be to stay well above any “obstacles”. They allow you to fly into airports even when there is low cloud. The cloud base can be as low as 500ft above ground level. This gives you much great freedom to land and fly even when the weather is not good. Not that I really want to fly in bad weather as you can’t see much anyway, but sometimes on longer trip you have to deal with bad weather so it’s a very useful skill to have and to retain. There are plenty of other ratings you can obtain such as ILS (for large airports with jets), NDBs (almost all removed) and VORs (slowly being removed) but the GPS (or more correctly GNSS) RNAVs are by far the most common now and most useful. They are relatively easy to set up and maintain, having no ground based hardware. It’s all based on satellite technology. All good as long as the satellites remain functional.

I submitted my IFR flight plan and we flew out of Redcliffe, climbing to the northwest and obtaining a clearance from Brisbane Departures to climb into controlled airspace. As we settled into the flight to Maryborough (chosen as our first destination as I expected the airport to be quiet) I donned the “hood” while Mike acted as safety pilot, so I could simulate flying in IMC (cloud) and record some instrument time in my log book.

There was no traffic around so all was good. We were on our own. At 25 miles from Maryborough I obtained traffic from Brisbane Centre and tracked for waypoint SB, briefing the RNAV on RWY35 using the QADCAPS acronym as we went.

Q: QNH was obtained from the AWIS

A: Aids – The GPS showed that RAIM was available

D: DG and Compass were aligned

C: A review of the RNAV chart showed entry level as 3100ft, top of descent after SI and 4.2 miles from SF, minimum descent altitude 600ft. missed approach straight ahead to SH with climb to 3100ft and turn left onto track 163M

A: Audio – the correct CTAF and area frequencies were selected

P: PAX and PAL – Mike was OK to continue acting as safety pilot and no runway lights were required

S: Speed was slowed to 120KIAS for entry into the approach

I switched to OBS, did a sector 3 entry, turning left onto heading of 163M for 60 seconds then left again onto 343M, flicked off the OBS, passed through SB, on to SI, made a 10 mile call on the CTAF, slowed to 30% power, extended 50% flap and at 4.2 miles to SF started the descent. Mike assured me all was good as we passed SF and at 3 miles from SM I made the 3 mile call on the CTAF. Still no sign of any other traffic in the circuit. We could continue with the straight in approach. If there had been other traffic around we’d have had to break off and join the circuit as normal. Descending to 600ft I held that altitude until we passed over SM and then put on full power, climbed and carried out a missed approach.

We climbed out to SH and turned west. Levelling out at 2000ft AMSL I turned right turn and headed for waypoint ND on the RNAV on RWY17.

By this time it was starting to get a bit busy on the radio. My plan of doing a straight in approach and full stop was foiled partly by a bit of a tailwind blowing from the north and water bombers arriving from Fraser Island to be refilled with water. So, after turning at waypoint NI and descending to NF I removed the hood and joined downwind for RWY35. On the ground water bombers were coming and going and the local fire brigade was coordinating the refilling of them with water. They were obviously very busy dousing the flames of a bushfire on Fraser.

After a short break Mike climbed into the left hand seat and flew us to Bundaberg.

Departing Maryborough

We passed overhead the airport and he tracked for waypoint NC, doing a sector 2 entry (teardrop) for the RNAV on RWY14.


As we started to descend the radio became active and the traffic situation was busy again, with a large Canadian water bomber arriving from the south. Mike broke off the straight in approach and joined downwind for RWY 32.

Short final at Bundaberg

On landing we topped up with some fuel and tried to buy a coffee but the terminal was deserted. COVID is still a latent threat so there’s not many flights in or out of Bundaberg.

Canadian water bomber

So it was off to Hervey Bay at 3000ft where Mike could practise another RNAV and we could buy a coffee. This time it was via waypoint WE and once again there was traffic arriving from the south. He broke off the straight in approach again and we joined downwind and landed from the south. And of course there were more water bombers. The terminal was deserted there too so we walked 500m up the road to the IGA for some lunch. Back in the plane Mike climbed to 9000ft for the return trip to Redcliffe, arriving in time for the monthly club barbecue.

Back at the club

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