Monday, September 27, 2010

My First Solo Cross-Country!

Two weeks ago my instructor and I flew from Wadsworth Skypark to the Youngstown Airport. To be honest with you it has been over 30 years since doing a cross country, yet, for me it did not feel like a difficult process. The only change is that on a cross country flight, especially to keep the FAA happy, there has to be quite a bit of planning for your flight to come off without a hitch.

This whole matter did not start off well because I was late leaving for the airport due to family obligations, and late arriving late to the airport. I then had to fill out my flight planner and complete the last-minute details. Since all of this was being done on in a rush many details were not correct.

My flight instructor and I flew to Youngstown and landed and taxied over to the apron and shut down and relax for a few minutes, and then planned the flight back home. After arriving back home he told me that if I felt comfortable I could fly this fight route by myself if I wanted to. Of course I was not going to let that chance go by.

Yesterday was one day I wanted for a long time. After two perfect weather flying days which were tied up with family obligations, on the third day I stole away and went to the airport for my first solo cross-country. My instructor was out flying so I had one of the other flight instructors to review my flight plan and was given the green light. But there were still some more problems that cropped. The first problem was that there were no ‘push to talk’ attachments for me to buy in the pilot shop. But luckily one of the other pilots allowed me to borrow his as long as I returned it as soon as I returned from my flight. Of course there were only about 3 gallons of gasoline in the plane so that added to the delay. So I topped off the tanks and took off into the wild blue yonder (which was actually 3500 foot overcast). As I called Akron approach control there was no response. I switch back over to the Skypark frequency and still had no response. So I turned back in flew back to Skypark still trying to establish communications with the airport but no avail. I announced blind on the frequency that I was landing and announced my position, after cutting off the Cherokee and a Cessna, but landed safely.

On the ramp another pilot and I fiddled with the radios until we got them working properly. It all came down to one simple switch being in the wrong position. 10 minutes later I was up in the air again and this time when I called approach control I received a response I was hoping for. 12 minutes after that I spotted the Kent State Airport which happened to be about 4 miles south of where it should have been. So either the winds were blowing differently than forecasted, or my planning was off, or over a 10 day period they packed up and moved the airport to the south. I altered my course in flew directly over Kent State and reestablished my course, and found that I was still getting blown to the north more than I planned but with my next landmark insight I was able to fly directly to it and found out that the course correction was much greater than expected.

It was great to see Youngstown Airport over my cowling and that approach control and the tower were very cooperative even though I made a couple simple mistakes, such as not acknowledging that I had the most current ATIS report, and did not report my altitude. Not to mention that I did not push the flip-flop on the frequency control so I transmitted on the wrong frequency, which ended up being good for a chuckle for approach control.

I landed at Youngstown refreshed at the pilot’s lounge which is quite a feeling when you are actually the pilot in command and not a passenger. Of course I got a photograph with the two (pretty) staff members at Winner Aviation.

15 minutes later I contacted Clearance Delivery, and taxiing to the runway and departing was pretty easy and I was quickly on my way back home. Suddenly I realized that dusk was approaching and I had to hightail it back home. I made a bold move in flew through the Class C airspace of Akron, received my clearance and that went without a hitch. I called this a bold move because my flight instructor and I have never reviewed the proper procedure for flying through Class C, but thanks to the training material Comm1 I was relaxed and had absolutely no fear of trying this on my own.

I was able to make it on the ground actually about 30 minutes before sunset and all was well.

Quite a bit was learned on this solo trip, and this was one of the biggest ego boosts that I have ever had with flying because I had a chance to put together all of my knowledge and make my own decisions when a flight was not going smoothly. I felt very comfortable on this 50 mile flight, and wanted to fly another 25 miles beyond my planned destination. Next up is one more dual cross-country and then I can take my long cross-country, and then the final steps should be the night training, a little more hood time, and then to brush up on my maneuvers and hopefully get a check right in before the end of November. My only regret is that I did not get to do all of this 30 days sooner.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Today, I Felt Like a Pilot!!

Yesterday, Sunday, it was a different story. Sunday I planned to go up about 10AM. It was a breezy day, 20-30-40 degrees off the nose about 10-12 knots. Been there, done that, so I can do it again. Right? After 2 trips around the patch I was beat. The second landing left me wanting oxygen and a reason to fly, period. I tied down, tucked my tail between my legs and sulked to the pilot’s lounge. But … I was not the only one to call it a day. One other pilot cancelled his cross country due to the winds and turbulence. For me, it was not the winds but the intermittent moderate turbulence, especially on final approach to runway 21, which is the one over the small valley that I-76 runs through and trees that are about 75 feet off the approach on the left. These trees love to kick up winds that are completely unpredictable. They lived up to that and then some.

Today, though, it was a different story. As they say, attitude, attitude, attitude. Guess what? It’s 100% true.

The wind was down the runway, about 8 knots gusting but fairly nice. I wanted to concentrate on my airspeed management, and checklist usage. I a 152 there is not much to watch, but still, good habits are needed no matter what the plane.

Takeoffs were good and I made sure I held runway centerline and also best rate of climb and also best angle of climb in the initial minute. Never have I done best angle now that I have, I love it and will do it until I reach 300 feet and retract the flaps. Downwind I worked on my altitude and keeping the right distance from the runway. And on final I was accurate in my 65-70 knot approach. As I came over the imaginary fence I wanted no more than 60 knots and was close to the numbers mostly and 9 out of 10 landings were at the first turnoff without heavy braking. The last landing was a PERFECT full stall landing with the wheel to my chest. I was so excited that I almost did another run around the patch, but called it quits as planned.

Unfortunately my camera kept cutting off, and after getting home I saw that it was due to weak batteries.

Lesson learned? Attitude is key and also, fly the plane by the numbers from takeoff to touchdown.

Next up, is my dual cross country. Now that the Cleveland Airshow is done, I may fly 15G – KBKL – KYNG – KCAK – 15G. This way I can fly into 3 controlled fields, Class D, TRSA, and Class C in one cross country. I’d better get out my Comm 1 training program.