Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lesson 21: First dual cross-country

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I-CYO-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 79 degrees, wind 340 degrees at 10 knots

Flying somewhere sure does beat staying in the pattern. Flying somewhere far sure beats bouncing around to a couple local airports. So if you caught last night's post about the flight planning, you'll know I actually went somewhere far-ish today. Officially, it was my first dual cross-country flight and it was a very fun experience.

I called Flight Service (1-800-WX-Brief) this morning for the first time ever and got a standard weather briefing. The forecast called for lower clouds and ceilings over towards the East, but they were lifting and would not be a concern by the time we got to Circleville. Winds aloft were about 12-15 knots from 340 degrees at 3,000 and 6,000 feet, a crosswind on both legs of the flight. The only really interesting thing was a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) for rocket launches about 20 miles NE of Cincinnati (CVG 043 radial at 20 nm, for the pilots out there) below 5,000 feet. Not on our flight path but interesting to hear and something to avoid - probably a model rocketry event of some sort, we figured.

Once at the airport, Dave looked over the flight plan and my calculations (distance and time between checkpoints) all looked good. Off we went to N60338 to preflight and fill her up with fuel. Preparations and checklists complete, we took off from Runway 26 and departed the pattern to the East while climbing to 3,500 feet. Upon reaching the first checkpoint, the middle of Caesar Creek Lake, the stopwatch was started and I flew the calculated heading of 088 degrees. About four and a half minutes later we passed just to the left of Clinton County Airport (I66) which was exactly as planned. All the way to Circleville and back the time calculations were just about spot on, rarely deviating by more then 45 seconds. Looks like the winds aloft forecasters did a good job this morning.

There's really not much to look at between 40I and CYO

All along the flight I was able to identify where we were from my checkpoints and other features on the Sectional chart. The navigation went smoothly and before long we were descending to pattern altitude a few miles West of Circleville. Calling on the radio, "Circleville Traffic, Cessna 60338 is 5 miles to the East, inbound for landing, Circleville," I announced our position. Except we were to the West. I called on the radio to make the correction and, brain happily connected now, flew us into and around the pattern and set up for landing.

My downwind was a little long and the down-the-runway winds had shifted to an almost direct crosswind so I kept the speed up and only used 20 degrees of flaps until close to the runway. Banking to the left into the wind and using the rudder in a sideslip to keep us aligned with the runway, we touched down comfortably on the pavement. I took off again for one more try at landing. This time I flew the pattern better but the gusty crosswinds tossed me around on short final and Dave had to help out a little. That's all she wrote for Circleville and we took back off for Stewart. Although my landings were only decent, both my crosswind takeoffs out of there were excellent. The route home was just a reversal of the route there, other than flying at 2,500 feet, and the checkpoints were the same. Arriving back at Stewart I ended up way too high on base so all 40 degrees of flaps went in and we quickly sunk down to the runway for another decent, but not great, crosswind landing.

Flying back to 40I just Southeast of Washington Court House

If you recall me being curious as to whether the powerlines would be a good checkpoint, the answer is indeed no. In wooded areas they would be a good reference due to the trees cut out of the right-of-way where they are located. In plains, farms, and flatlands they might as well be invisible much of the time. On the same note, I learned that checkpoints can be further away from my plotted course on the chart than I had realized when planning the flight. Even at only a couple thousand feet, you can see a long way. Looking back at the chart with my flight track from yesterday, there is a lake North and slightly West of my final checkpoint (the power lines) before Circleville. It might look far away but it was very easy to spot from the air and using the "abeam the lake" point would be a much better choice than the power lines. Lesson learned!

It sure is fun to actually go places and I had a great time seeing how, as crude as it seems, drawing a line on a chart and calculating times and distances really can get you somewhere. I did tune the VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) station at Circleville and used that as a reference in navigating to and from the airport there. For the non-pilots out there, a VOR is basically a radio aid that we can tune to via a receiver in the cockpit. You set the radial (magnetic compass direction to or from the VOR) you want to fly and there is an indicator that will show you which direction to fly to intercept and follow the radial. On today's flight it was just a backup to cross-check with what I saw out the windows, as I was able to fly right to the airport via pilotage and the Sectional chart.

Flights and lessons for me are still somewhat sporadic in the coming weeks due to travel, vacations, and work schedules. So depending on what I am able to fit in with instructors, I may be doing a bit of solo flight this month to stay fresh. Tomorrow afternoon I'm going up in the Champ and hopefully Dave can get me soloed in the Cessna during our lesson next Friday. Delays sure do suck but as long as I'm still flying one way or another I can't really complain, now can I?

Flight Track: Batteries died - no track today
Today's Flight: 1.8 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 5.3 hours
Total Time: 31.1 hours


  1. haha rocket launches. that's interesting.

    So forgive my aviation ignorance, but I'm just wondering. You fly a Cessna 150 and I flew a Cessna 172...what's the diff?

    You're cranking out the hours pretty good there! Especially considering your job et al.

  2. I'm trying to stick with it, and to be honest I don't even feel like I'm getting up often enough. But one of the instructors at the airport said the same thing you did, that I'm doing better than a lot of people.

    The 150/152 has two seats, whereas the 170/172 holds four. And I'm pretty sure the 172 has a slightly bigger engine as well, depending on the exact model.

  3. Steve,

    Good job on the XC and X-wind landings. Man, your getting real close!

    I used RR tracks on one of my XC's as a check point and couldn't see them at all, we learn as we go. Before you know it you will be buzzing around looking at things that will seem as regular as driving to and from work. You'll know every lake, highrise and major intersate just like knowing every gas station on your normal driving routes.

    Good post! Look forward to the next step in your journey.

  4. Gary,

    Thanks and good points about the charts and navigation. The RR tracks I used actually worked real well cause they paralleled a road that intersected a divided highway, all that coming together made a great checkpoint. It's still quite cool to somehow dial in a heading, start a timer, and lo and behold see the same thing that's on the chart right in front of you.

    Once I get the solo endorsement in the 150 (hopefully Friday) at least I can likely do some solo x-c work even if further lessons get delayed some.