Tuesday, February 17, 2009

IFR Hood Reviews

For a long time, I have been in search of the best hood. Yes, those pesky things we have to put over/around our eyes to pretend we are in the clouds. Most of them have one problem or another. I have not seen a good comparison of IFR hoods, and I think it could be useful. So, I thought I would post a review of different IFR hoods I own or have borrowed and used. Most on-line shops have some in their catalog. I found a decent selection of hoods at pilotstore.com and a decent selection of hoods at aircraft spruce and a decent selection at MyPilotStore with reviews, but not a consolidated view of a person who has tried many.

IFR Hoods I Have Used:

  • Best Ifr Hood (Own it) BestIFRHood IFR Hood
  • Viban (Own it) Viban IFR Hood
  • Hood Lamb (Own it) Hoodlamb IFR Hood
  • Foggles (Used it) Foggles IFR Hood
  • Asa Overcasters (Own it) Overcasters IFR Hood
  • Asa Jiffy Hood (Used it) JiffyHood IFR Hood
  • Francis IFR Hood (Used it) Francis IFR Hood

Things To Look For In A Hood

Most of all, it should restrict your vision to only the instrument panel. That is the whole purpose, and if you plan to really use your IFR in the clouds, you want to simulate that effect as best as possible. Cheating and seeing outside only hurts your practice of your abilities, and real IFR is not forgiving.

Under the hood, it needs to be comfortable to look at the instruments. To me this has been a factor as well. I find that two things have caused problems with this.

For comfortable view of the instruments, I find that black hoods are not as good as white hoods. Black causes a big contrast between the hood and the instruments and is not similar to outside unless you are at night.

The other thing for comfortable view is I do not like items that block the vision near my eyes. It messes with my eyes focusing a little bit. Most of the time it does not, but my eyes can try to focus on the near object instead of the instrument panel. It is subtle, but I do not like this. This occurs with Foggles, Overcasters, but not full hoods; Vibans are in between.

Next is to look for one that is comfortable. You sit with these things on for a while, and the last thing you need is a distraction from your main task of navigating by the instruments. If the hood is heavy or does not interact with your headset well, it can be a pain literally. I find that some cause pressure points around my ears under the headsets and others do not interact well with sunglasses.

Also, it is best if the hood is easy to take on and off. You have to only do that mainly at the beginning and the end, so it is not quite as important. But it is a pain if it is awkward. In the beginning, it might also be useful to take off when you are at your minimum altitude, but you can always leave it on and move your head and peak at the runway.

Finally, storing the hood is hopefully not hard. It is nice if it is not bulky and is not easily damaged.

Comparison Table:
IFR Hood comparison table
Click Image for better view.

My preference:

Right now, my preference is the Best IFR Hood. It is my favorite because it seems to do well with all the categories. It goes on easy after you get used to it, it is not heavy, the strap goes on over your headset, works with/without sunglasses, and folds up smaller than any other hood. It is cheap and I think everybody should try a pair at the bargain price of $5 with shipping. And I have no ties to this company.

Next choice would probably be the Viban for me. I was using this before getting the Best IFR Hood.

And of course, remember to get some time in the real clouds! Nothing substitutes for the real thing. Of course, after the appropriate practice and/or with an instructor.

If you have other experiences and feelings on hoods, please let me know especially if you have tried some of the ones I have tried.


Monday, February 16, 2009

IFR Refresher Notes

This weekend, I got a chance to practice some approaches. It had been a while, so it is a time for me to review general IFR procedures, mnemonics, acronyms, and jot down notes. This seems like a good thing to write down somewhere so I can refer to in the future and maybe it would be useful for others too. This is not all inclusive, but these are some things I think of for review during an IFR flight.

IFR Preflight Extras:

  • Is VOR check current
  • Is Pitot/Static check current
  • Am I IFR current if flying through clouds
  • Is GPS database current?
  • Are charts and approach plate current
  • Is annual/100 hour/transponder check current
  • Do full weather briefing checking including IFR chart/approach notams

IFR Taxi Checks:

  • Check airspeed 0 knots on ground
  • Level wings on attitude indicator
  • Check Altimeter within 75'
  • Check ball centered on turn coordinator
  • Check check turn coordinator left and right
  • Check DG left and right and no precession during taxi.
  • Check 0 point on Vertical speed indicator

I usually refer to a panel picture to think through different things to do while on the ground.
Here is my previous blog post that I refer to about my panel.

CRAFT (Clearance note taking procedure before takeoff)

  • Cleared to ???
  • Route is ???
  • Altitude (cleared to altitude and expected altitude in X minutes)
  • Frequency for approach
  • Transponder code

Watch the scan. This is harder from right seat for me which is what I was doing this weekend. Bounce back and forth to the Attitude indicator. Hit all instruments in the 6 pack. Emphasize the appropriate primary instrument depending on type of flight (turn, climb, decent, cruise)

Aligning DG
If you get a new heading from ATC, double check the compass vs the DG. It precesses and this is a good time to double check. Remember to only match up the DG and compass while straight and level. Don't do it during the climb, descent, or turns.

Power Settings
Know your cruise, climb, approach, descent settings for MP, flaps, attitude, and RPMs.
For me: 20" cruise, 17" approach, 12" ILS descent flaps 10 degrees, 10" non-precision descent flaps 10 degrees. 500fpm descent for an ILS.

Turn, Time, Twist, Throttle, Talk for Holds
For real hold, you need an Expect Further Clearance time.

My IFR instructor liked this since I was using NOS plates instead of Jeppesen plates.

  • Weather
    Get ATIS/AWOS.
    Leave approach frequency if you need.
    This is ok and can make things much easier.
    Ask before leaving frequency and report back on frequency.
    How does it compare with minimums
    Which runway is best.
    Which approach is best for wind and ceilings.
  • Radios
    Tune tower into spare comm channel
    Tune VOR/ILS in
    If using a GPS, make sure the GPS/VOR switch is correct
    Identify through the morse code the VOR/ILS
  • Instruments
    Verify Compass vs Directional Gyro
    Check each part of 6 pack that it looks correct
    Did you check the Kollsman window of the Altimeter
    Line up the miniature wings in the attitude indicator
    Check OBS on VOR
    Check that there are no flags on the CDI indicator
    Check the engine instruments, vacuum gauge.
    Pitot heat on if necessary
  • Minimums, Missed Approach
    Determine Decision Height or Decision Altitude
    Determine missed approach. Put frequencies related to missed approach in extra VOR if possible
  • Time
    Mark the time at the final approach fix for a timed missed approach.
    Check your speed to make sure it is appropriate for a timed missed approach
  • Inbound Course
    Verify what the inbound course is.
    Put this in the OBS even if you are on an ILS.
  • Marker Beacon
    Make sure the marker beacon is on if you are on an ILS.


Before landing

  • Landing Light on
  • Carb heat, Cowl Flaps
  • Gas tank indicators ok, Gas selector on both or fullest tank, fuel pump
  • Undercarriage
    Lower and keep hand on lever until 3 green.
  • Mixture richen if leaned earlier for cruise
  • Propeller forward to high RPMs (after reducing power)
    Also check flaps are where you want.
  • Safety (check for other planes in pattern), Seat belts
It is good to do LCGUMPS at each change of flight. How each item is adjusted of course is different depending on the mode of flight:

  • Entering cruise mode
  • Before the approach
  • Before landing
  • For landing gear, check on each part of a pattern.
Cram it/Clean it/Cool it/Call it
This is a good thing to remember for the missed approach.

Other General

If you have an Autopilot, practice approaches both with and without the autopilot.

Practice partial panel approaches are always important to practice at times.

Compass Turns without DG:
UNOS: undershoot North, overshoot South.
Timed Turn: 3 degrees/sec or ~10 degrees/3sec.
Some good descriptions of compass turns on Wikipedia here.

Minimize head movement where possible. Hold maps/approach plates up instead of looking at your lap if possible.

I found another good set of reference notes of things to think about for IFR flight. It is from Just Helicopters.net, but most apply to fixed wing as well. It is also available here.

In searching some things on the internet, I also found this good list of Pilot Acronyms.


Hopefully this will be useful to others. I think I will glance it over before IFR practices.

Does anybody else have some good thoughts to keep in mind when refreshing your memory on IFR procedures? Please pass them on...