Instrument Ground School – Class 3 of 10

We had our first quiz today on the material covered in the first two classes. I think I did ok. The quiz grades aren’t for anything other than monitoring our progress. The only grade that counts will be the final exam grade, and that’ll just get us a sign-off from the instructor so we can go take the FAA knowledge test… the one that really matters.

After the quiz we covered the the Instrument Landing System (ILS) and approach charts (also known as approach plates). The ILS system is a precision landing system that is used at many medium/large airports and is one of the (if not the) most accurate and reliable landing systems in use. Given the right equipment and pilot qualifications, an airliner autopilot can land using ILS in zero visibility. It’s not too common, but that shows the capabilities of ILS.

Instrument approach plates are so far the most difficult chart I’ve had to interpret. There is a ton of critical and cryptic information on those 8.5″ by 5.5″ sheets of paper. Take a look at the plate for an ILS approach to Runway 23L at Raleigh/Durham. Yikes! There’s a different plate for each different type of approach for each runway at each airport. RDU has 15 different instrument approach procedures. Another yikes!