Sunday, October 12, 2008

Solo Cross-Country 3: Going the long way around Ohio

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-1G0-TZR-40I
Weather: Clear, 83 degrees, wind 150 degrees at 7 knots

Now I have really been places. After flying from Waynesville to Bowling Green to Columbus and back by myself, 260 nautical miles altogether, there's no doubt I accomplished something today. Per FAA regulations, a student pilot going for their Private certificate must fly one cross-country where the total distance is at least 150 nautical miles with one point at least 50 nautical miles from the point of departure with landings at two or more airports, not counting where you're starting from. The short cross-country flights were a lot of fun but today I had to do some serious planning and navigation and it all went off without a hitch.

I drew a nice big triangle over top of Ohio today

Seeing as how I'm likely to be flying to Michigan a bit with my parents and sister living up there, I wanted to fly a good ways North to get a feel for the route. I decided on Wood County Airport (1G0) in Bowling Green, 116 miles from Stewart. My mom and Gina drove down to meet me there too, so it was cool to see them for about a half hour and show them the airplane. From there, I decided to head down to Bolton Field in Columbus so I could visit a towered airport as part of the XC. Seemed like a nice, large triangle to fly over the Western half of Ohio. Dave told me he liked that I was challenging myself to do more than the minimum requirement (over 100 miles further) for this flight. I felt like it would be a good learning experience and realistic to the sort of cross-country distances I'll often be flying once I have my certificate.

The gorgeous weather we've had lately was no different today. High pressure from Illinois to New York meant more clear skies and great visibility. Winds would be out of the South or Southeast all day long, resulting in a tailwind up to Bowling Green and a headwind on the way down to Columbus. If you look at the GPS track for the flight you can see the differences in groundspeed. Once above 3,000 feet or so the rising air from the sun beating down on the ground stopped and it was a smooth ride. I cruised at 5,500 all afternoon except the final Columbus to Waynesville leg where I was down at 4,500.

Enroute to Toledo near Christiansburg

I flew right over top of my apartment and the office and got a great view of Dayton on the way to Bowling Green. Then the route took me over top of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with all the C-5s sitting on the tarmac below and the Air Force Museum was just out my left side as well. You'll see from the pictures in this post that I did some sightseeing throughout the trip. What really stuck out to me was the ridiculous visibility. I spotted the Davis-Besse nuclear plant from 40 nautical miles away, Grand Lake St. Marys from 50, and the Columbus skyline from 40-50 too. It almost made navigating harder at times because you could see so much stuff I had to focus on the chart to make sure I was looking at the right town.

Flying over Ohio Northern University

Due to the fact I planned to be on flight following for the entire trip, I did not file a VFR flight plan today. Shortly after lifting off, I contacted Dayton Approach and they kept me on their scopes for a while. They terminated service near Lima but I just looked in my A/FD for the frequency and contacted Indianpolis Center and picked it back up all the way to Bowling Green, with a handoff to Toledo Approach. Enroute to Bolton, I talked to Toledo and then Mansfield Approach for a while before going over to Columbus Approach. On the final leg, I never called because I could see Caesar Creek Lake (again, 40 miles away - it was crazy) after I took off from Bolton so just flew straight at it and kept my eyes outside the cockpit while enjoying the radio silence. I never did spot any traffic, though.

Passing by Shaughnessy Reservoir enroute to Bolton

The only real negatives to today's long XC were my landings. I didn't make a single good one, at least if we define good as smooth. Every approach was stable, if a little high on occasion, but things always fell apart right when I rounded out and flared. The sight picture in the Cessna coupled with warm, rising air off the paved runways pushed me higher than expected and I dropped in on every single landing. None rattled anything too terribly much but I know I can do a lot better. I think I'll go up sometime this week and just do a bunch of landings so I can try and nail down my technique and get more consistent in the 150.

Downtown Columbus in the distance with OSU Airport to the left

Landings aside, I could not have scripted a better day for this trip. Perfect weather, light traffic, and good navigation made for a very smooth and stress-free 3.0 hours in the air. I really felt "pilotey" today flying at a higher altitude for a long time and going somewhere well away from the general vicinity of Dayton/Cincinnati. Hard to believe, but just a few more lessons to finish up my instrument work and I'll be preparing for the checkride. My goal right now is to have a freshly printed certificate in my pocket by the end of the month, so we'll see if I can make it happen.

And so ends one hell of a weekend of flying - 7.4 hours, 5.3 hours XC, and 4.0 night since I left work on Friday. And it's 9.4 in four days if you count the solo XC on Thursday. I might prefer to not look at the balance of my bank account any time soon but it's more than worth it. You can't possibly have this much fun and do anything this cool for free, right?

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 3.0 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 17.6 hours
Total Time: 54.9 hours


  1. Nope, nothing this cool is ever free.

    I'm taking my checkride Friday! UGH! I don't think I'm ready, but we'll see I guess LOL!

  2. Dangit Steve, you beat me you dirty dog. I'm on your heels though! ;)

    Congratulations! And good luck on your checkride Sarah!

    Steve, what's left for you?

  3. Yes, good luck again tomorrow Sarah!

    What I've got left...
    - 1.8 hours hood time
    - Take the written (I'm a terrible procrastinator)
    - Flying prep for checkride w/CFI

    That's really it... I'm going up for another night XC tomorrow night though for the practice, and we'll probably do some hood work. Then I've got a few hours lesson time scheduled Sat and another two hours Sun.

  4. Good work, Steve! That sounds like a ton of fun. And don't worry about the landings; I'm sure you can find a more positive definition of good...