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Student Cross Countries
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Flight 1; ...Flight 2; ÖFlight 3... Solo Cross-Country; ...Student Cross Country; ...Solo Cross-Country (Radio Failure); Solo Cross Country Flight; ...Solo Cross-Country Flight; ...Solo Cross Country Flight; ...X-Country; ...Student Cross Country; ...Daffynitions; ...

Flight 1
Yesterday was ground school, 1.7 hours, to cover how to plan and what to plan. At various times Fred had given me three separate routes but the one we settled on was Tampa North to Orlando Executive to Gainesville and back to Tampa North. After the ground school I asked him to come up in to practice stalls. Iím still hesitant about departure stalls and not getting the nose up quick enough and getting it to break sooner, so I keep ending up in a very nose high attitude. Arrival stalls arenít much of a problem since they are pretty gentle.

This morning I filed the flight plans (One for each leg) and pulled the wx via DUATS. I arrived at Tampa North about 10:25 but the 172SP, 615DB was still out on a solo x-c and Fred was up in 612CB with an instrument student. Both planes arrived several minutes later, about 5 minutes apart and Fred and I finally got airborne in 615DB to ORL about 15:00 Zulu. I contacted St. Pete FSS to activate the flight plan after we got above pattern altitude and the first hint that this would be a long day of learning started right there. Seems like there was no flight plan for 615DB but there was one for 613DB. I had apparently mis-typed the call sign when I entered it in DUATS flight planning.
- Learned Item #1

Once that was cleared up with the controller, we were on our way. Planned altitude was 3500 feet but clouds moving in from the South East with bottoms around 2500 feet so Fred said stay at 2000. My check points started to appear at the right times and in the right places, so I was pretty happy about that. Once we were approaching Orlandoís Class B Airspace, I contacted Approach and advised we were inbound VFR to ORL. He gave us a squawk. Shortly after that I missed his first call to us to descend to 1500 because of conflicting traffic at our altitude. First thing I knew, Fred had nosed the plane down and asked why I didnít comply immediately. I told him I didnít even hear his call. "Youíve got to *LISTEN*" I thought I was, but was preoccupied with flying the plane.
- Should have Learned Item #2.

Orlando Class B was pretty busy, or so I thought and Fred said "No, doesnít seem to be." There was so much traffic on frequency I would hate to think what Fred thinks *IS* busy. Fred was mentioning something about cockpit management and I missed the second call from ATC. Fred answered which was the first I knew we were called again. I told him I didnít hear that call either. Fred said much more sternly, "YOU MUST LISTEN!" to which I replied, "I was listening, but to you."
- This time Lesson Item #2 sank in but not enough.

Approach handed us over to ORLís tower but when Fred made the call, he was so busy he didnít know we were inbound. He asked what type aircraft to which we replied "Skyhawk". The controller said "OK, weíll get you in but I donít know were to put you yet." By this time we had the airport in sight and he vectored us a bit to the south and asked us to keep our speed up as there was traffic behind us. Fred told me we will be making a straight in and I told him I had still not done a single straight in approach. He said "We will now and itíll be a high speed approach. Well, those 180 horses came in handy because as the controller was talking to the plane behind us he told them that the traffic in front was a Skyhawk. The other pilot reported us in sight. The controller then said "Heís going... Hey, 20 knots faster than you!"

The landing went rather quickly with Fred doing the flying and explaining what he was doing the whole time. Fly fast. Throttle back here. Once at 110 kts. First notch of flaps to slow more. Full flaps. Once on the ground the controller told us the intersecting runway or the next taxiway. We took the taxiway even though we could have made the intersecting Rwy.

Once we shutdown and went inside the Executive Air Center FBO, I call FSS to close the flight plan. The voice at the other end told me the flight plan had not been opened! I told him we opened it with St. Pete Radio. He said that heíll just delete it from the system and asked if there was anything else I needed to which I replied "No. Thanks."
- Lesson Item #1 reinforced!

While guzzling the water I brought with me, Fred and I discussed my missing the radio calls and the vital importance of listening, answering and complying with every instruction from the controllers in crowded airspace.
- Lesson Item #2 reinforced.

We taxied out back to Rwy 7 where we had landed, did our run-up and waited for about 15 minutes as we listened to the very busy tower controller work his arrivals and the two departures in front of us. One in-bound busted Class B Airspace and the tower told him. "... You were NOT cleared into Class B, which you violated by 1000 feet. If Approach calls, I will give you their number." After a few seconds the pilot responded, "Roger". Fred and I both said at the same time

"UUUhhhhh, heís in trouble." Lucky for him when he was cleared to land the tower told him Approach had not called.
-Lesson Item #3 learned from someone elseís mistake!

When we finally got cleared for take off it was for immediate departure and Fred handled it until we were a few hundred feet when he handed back the plane to me. As we were climbing to 1500 feet to stay under the Class B, the controller said we could turn to the west. I heard the controller call us this time, but didnít hear what he said. Fred told me to turn to the west. I did but not enough. After a few minutes, Fred said, I donít know where we are to which I replied
"Neither do I." I had a rough idea, but not exactly. Fred dialed in the Orlando VOR and the radial I needed to fly outbound and it showed that we were well east of our planned course. This helped me confirm that were I thought we were was where we actually were. Fred said,
"You have a million things in here to get you where you need to go. USE THEM!"

As the needle started to move back towards the center, Fred said "See how far the needle moves in 45 seconds and when it is that same distance from being centered start your turn on course. Roll out on your intended heading and the needle will be centered." I timed 45 seconds, noted how far the needle had moved and started my turn when the needle was that distance from centered. When I rolled out on my heading, the needle was indeed centered! My next few checkpoints showed up where and when they should, but I identified a lake that should be on my right to be on my left about 20 miles along our flight path. I was about 4 miles off course and probably less then a mile from Restricted Airspace. As soon as I realized my mistake I made an immediate turn to the west.

I hadnít stayed on the radial like I should have and was chasing the DG which had precessed while trying to keep my wind correction angle.
-Lesson Item #4 learned.

Once I got back on course, my next checkpoint was in sight. Once there I made a more northerly turn to parallel the Restricted Airspace and the adjacent MOA. After several minutes Fred said "Looks like you are right on course now. Your doing much better than I would." Yeah right! I said "I doubt it."

My next few checkpoints came and went as planned we tried to get the Gainesville VOR in on the Nav radio. On the correct frequency, but no reception, It was supposed to be put online in June, but we guessed it wasnít/ I suggested we use the GPS to which Fred agreed. He told me to put in Gainesville which I did.

At this point Fred asked if we had opened the flight plan for this leg?
"Nope, I forgot to."
"Donít worry about it, itís too late now."
I told him I guess I was still a bit overwhelmed by the amount of traffic around Orlando. Fred says, "Well this will be the route you take on your first solo x-c."

There were two lakes between us and GVN and Fred said "You need to be contacting the tower soon. Thereís the airport. Vis was reported to be 10 miles and we were still about 20 miles out so I said "OK, but thatís the lake before the airport." He said "Oh yeah? OK."

I dialed in ATIS and contacted the tower. The freq. was dead quiet and the tower controller came on immediately and told us to report 3 miles out. I realized that I had given our position over a lake more then 20 miles behind us and Fred commented on that too. I said "Should I tell him I gave a wrong position?" He said "No, unless he questions you about it." It was about then that I realized that Fred had the airport in sight when he said "Thereís the airport." because the treeless area behind the lake that I saw was indeed GVN.

When I reported 3 miles out the controller said "Right hand traffic for Rwy. 6 cleared to land." Ahh, much nicer then ORL! No rush, no body else around.

On landing we taxied up to the Flightline FBO and shut down. The linesman was already chocking us and Fred told me to tell him that we didnít need anything. I opened the door and saw that a red carpet had been placed right behind the left tire. WOW, Thatís service! We went inside to cool off a bit and discussed that leg. He asked how we were real time against estimated and I told him we were about 9 minutes later than planned. I figured that it was those two easterly excursions I took that accounted for most of that time and he said "The headwind accounted for a bit too."

Once we were finished with our drinks, we departed the FBO, taxied out and took off to the south. I opened this flight plan as we left GNVís airspace and again had to tell the operator at FSS that we were indeed 615DB and not 613DB. He corrected my mistake, offer additional services and told us to have an enjoyable flight. Fred then told me that he wouldnít help with this leg at all and I told him if he wanted to take a nap he could. "Iíll nudge you if I need you." "No. Iíll just enjoy the scenery." He did help however by dialing in X-39 (Tampa North) into the GPS. Again my check points came and went where and when they should have and we discussed all the lakes and ponds that looked good for fishing, Fredís pending retirement, flying stories and other things to make the trip move faster. As I was approaching Inverness airport I was satisfied that this checkpoint was again arriving as it should. A few minutes later I realized that I wanted to pass west of it but was heading for the east side. I told Fred of my mistake and turned to the west to take up my intended track again.

From there it was a leisurely 119 kts ground speed flight back to Tampa North according to the GPS. 5 miles out I made the call to Tampa North traffic of our approach, made my entry into the right downwind, base and turned out on the centerline on final for Rwy. 14.

I leveled the wings while still a bit too high and bounced the landing. Fred commented that I tired and I replied, "Yes, I am tired." Back on the ramp, I checked the fuel gauges. They showed I still had 22.5 gallons left. I had estimated that we would use 44 gallons for the trip and Fred said "Good. You WANT more fuel in the tanks than your estimate when you land!" Once the plane was refueled for the next student, I inquired how much fuel 5DB actually took and it was only 21.5 gallons for 3 hours of time, or 31.5 gallons left. I commented that the gauges were pessimistic and all agreed that THAT is a GOOD thing too!

Inside the FBO I was talking with Fredís next student, who I learned has 5 hours. I slumped in the chair and apologized for being tired. He asked how much time I have and I replied "A total of about 45 hours" He said, "You must be ready to get your license." To which I replied, "Yeah, I thought so too, but this cross country showed me I still have A LOT to learn."

My compliments to that awesome professional in the Tower at ORL and my thanks to those at Exec Air Center and Flightline FBOs at ORL and GNV for your friendly service
Richard Kowalski

Flight 2
I've been signed off for my short XC for two weeks, but the weather has not cooperated. Finally, Saturday I got up, called flight service and ran off to the airport to meet my CFI. I finished my flight plan, Dan looked it over and sent me on my way. As I walked out to the clubs C150,

I noticed two people in the airplane. I got on my cell phone and called the club scheduling system and confirmed I had the plane reserved. As I got closer to the plane, the engine started! I managed to get their attention and they shut down the engine. It turns out the other club member had reserved the plane for Sunday, but thought he had it for Saturday. He and his son were just going out for a joy ride, but they were happy to let me have the plane for my XC. I pre-flighted and taxied over to the fuel pump to fill up. Topped off the tanks, called ground and was cleared to taxi, and headed for the runway. Did my runup, had to run it at 2000 rpm leaned to burn the crud off the right mag plugs.

Got a good mag check, set my frequencies in the radios, got out the lapboard and sectional and called the tower. Cleared for takeoff, I scooted on to the runway and off I went. I was headed to Emporia KS (EMP), from Johnson Co. Executive AP in Olathe KS (OJC). OJC is situated just SW of the Kansas City metro area and is right next to another class D airport IXD. In fact thier class D airspaces overlap.

So, as soon as I was able to turn on course, I requested a freq change and called the IXD tower for clearance to transit thier class D south of the airport. Once I cleared their airspace, I called up flight service and opened my flight plan. Then it was on to Kansas City approach for flight following. They took my info and then told me to call KC Center and ask them. Center gave me a squawk, and it was time to look for my first checkpoint. This is an easy XC to do, I did it once with my instructor a couple of months ago. Plus you can follow I-35 all the way. Plus, there is a VOR on the field at OJC and a VOR a mile or two from EMP. It doesn't hurt that the plane is equipped with some of Garmin's best in the panel.

However, I did follow my flight plan and ded reckoned the trip to EMP. I was hitting my check points quite late however. I checked one of the gps's and found that my ground speed was hovering in the 60-65 mph range. Wind was worse than forecast, but on this short a trip (75 nm) it wouldn't be a big deal.

Got to EMP, it was bumpy at pattern altitude and the wind was up higher than forecast, but straight down the runway. Made an ugly, but safe landing, taxied over to the FBO. Closed my flight plan, called my wife, got a weather briefing, planned the flight home, used the bathroom, paid for gas, and headed off.

Ground speed hovered around 105-110 mph on the way home, made for a quick trip. Made an ugly but safe landing. Parked the plane, tied it down, headed home with a smile on my face.

Later that day a severe t-storm rolled though town. Sundays paper had a picture of an airplane that had been flipped over at OJC. I recognized it as the derelict Piper Apache that was parked across from the club's two planes. The brief article said that two planes were flipped over, and several were torn loose from tie downs. I was the last one to fly the 150 before the storm, so I was wondering all day if our planes were ok.

I finally had a chance to drop by the airport. Our planes were securely chained to the tie downs. The Apache had be blown to the east crashing into a very nice Beech Sundowner, mashing one wing tip, collapsing the main gear on the opposite side and crunching the top of the vertical stab. They were in the process of disassembling and cutting up the Apache. It had been sitting at the airport without engines and various other parts for several years. Worse yet was the Cessna 206 that was flipped into a slight ditch at the edge of the tie down area. It was thrown at least 75 feet from it's original tie down spot. I'll be surprise if it flies again. All of the planes that were torn from tie downs were using ropes of various quality. Our planes, and a few others are chained to the tie downs.

Flight 3
Solo Cross-Country.
I flew the same route we dual flew two weeks ago, but in the opposite direction this time. The flying is pretty tame compared to the maneuvers we do around here. Cross-country flight is really point-and-sit. Slipping out under the Class Bravo is the immediate challenge. I started off by climbing into it, caught myself, and was dropping back out when the tower alerted me to ro my transgression. Once out from under the local shelf, I climbed out over the bay, over my office and Fremont, found Sunol, turned East, crossed the hills and hung-out over the Central Valley until I could see the Merced airport.

My one mystery was how to get flight-following started. I opened my flight plan with no trouble, having carefully written down the frequency. I discovered I'd written everything about getting flight-following except the frequency (I had subsequent frequencies for Stockton and Montery Approaches) but not for Oakland. I looked in the AF/D, found three frequencies, and picked one (I expected it was wrong, but they'd tell me the right one.) I requested FF on that frequency, the controller asked where I was, I told him and heard one of those pregnant pauses that made think I might have said "Arkansas." Once he recovered, he told me the correct frequency as I expected. I thanked him and moved on. I could hardly get a word in on that frequency, then bungled the transmission when I did, and never got FF. By then I figured I'd take my chances and call Stockton Approach when I was closer to Merced. I did so and FF was no trouble after that.

Loran makes things pretty easy. I had computed my course, tuned in the VOR's and was watching the towns in the distance ("there's Turlock, that must be Atwater, then that's Merced but is that the Airport?"), but watched the good-old Loran (18.2 nm to go, steer a bit to the left) also. I stayed high because visibility was better and I wanted to be certain I saw the airport before I dropped into the haze. I did a right-360 to get down to pattern altitude, did the radio work, and squeeked my best landing in weeks. I got more fuel, ate and drank a bit, called for weather, and took off for King City.

That was the first time I've shared an airport with a commercial plane. I taxied out behind a United Shuttle (twin prop), did my run-up and pre-takeoff checks parked next to them (there are two guys flying that plane, one flying mine, and I could imagine the passengers looking out at this little plane next to them.) United was still sitting there, so I rolled on out and took off.

The ride over the hills was pretty bumpy, but I knew it was coming. The puffy clouds over the ridges were a pretty good sign that there would be some bouncing going on. I slowed down a bit in the bumps, rode with it, and it never made me nervous. I got a bit tired of it as I descended to King City, since someone down there told me winds were calm and I was still getting bounced around at 1700'.

I watched a dog cross the threshold while I was on short final, didn't embarrass myself too much on the flare, but I was a bit fast and long. I extended my flight plan by phone, then took off to the North. It was a pretty ride up the valley, with views out to Monterrey. I crossed over Salinas and Watsonville airports, bounced over the hills to the "bay area," extended my flight plan again, and found my way home.

In classic get-home-itis I convinced myself I was over Canada College and reported to the tower I was there. They cleared me into their airspace, and after flying for a few minutes I spotted Canada College in the distance (whoops.) I admitted to SQL's tower I had reported the wrong position, they weren't perturbed, and I came on down and landed.

My CFI was there, on his way out, so he pushed me back and I gave him a quick report. It's great to have that behind me.

Solo Cross-Country #1
I went up today for my first flight in almost 4 weeks, a long cross-country (178nm). I found myself totally unprepared. It was a last-minute go decision due to marginal weather, and though I had plotted the course and picked out waypoints I hadn't calculated all of the course and ETE numbers because I had only just gotten the weather info, and really wasn't expecting to go at all. Also, got there and realized I didn't have
(1) my flight computer,
(2) my calculator,
(3) a timepiece of any kind, since I don't own a watch and haven't worn one for 15 years,
(4) knee-board,
(5) flashlight (we got back at dusk),
(6) my laminated checklist, and
(7) sunglasses, for a late afternoon flight. By the end of the day I felt lucky I had remembered to wear pants.

Needless to say, I was distracted. En route I was all over the map, though I only got really disoriented once and got 5-8 miles off-course. (We were under flight-following, and I probably should have asked when I missed my checkpoint.) Most of the time it was just poring over my haphazard preflight notes or trying to figure out why I had chosen waypoints every 6 miles.

I might have salvaged some face, but we were already running late because we had waited for weather to go from MVFR to VFR (we were still over the top at one point), and my instructor was working a very long day and was very fidgety. I think he was pretty pissed off, and I think he had a right to be... I screwed up, showed up unprepared, and pretty much wasted the afternoon for both of us. At least he got paid for it.

In retrospect, I should have made my own no-go decision. I wasn't mentally prepared, and obviously hadn't prepared physically either. Granted, this was only my 2nd cross-country and I didn't know I needed to show up with a watch and lapboard; instructor had provided them last time and didn't mention that he expected me to have them this time. There are also other distracting mitigating circumstances, of course--out-of town weddings, family with a cold and my company went public last week--but there always will be other things going on.

I'm going to re-do the entire flight on Thursday, hopefully it'll go a little easier. I know everyone has bad days, and I have been very lucky so far. 22 hours and this is really the first flight where I felt behind both the plane and the process for the entire flight. And on the whole it wasn't bad, I knew where we were most of the time, I squeaked all three landings, even the one directly into the setting sun with no shades (ouch!), and the afternoon was beautiful, lots of big puffy clouds to fly around and post-low-front clear except for the Sacramento valley (crop burning). We even got back on time, more or less. But I felt like a screw-up.
Lessons learned:
1. show up prepared
2. Buy a watch, a kneeboard, a flashlight, sunglasses, ...
3. Make my own no-go decision if I don't feel capable of being present
for the entire flight
4. Don't take 4 weeks between lessons

Probably more, but I'm tired of thinking about it right now. Off to bed, then down to the airfield pilot shop in the morning...

Student Cross Country
Monday was my long solo cross-country. The intention was to go from Petaluma (O69) to Willits (O28) and then Eureka's Murray Field (EKA), then south along the California coastline to Shelter Cove (0Q5), all the
way down to the mouth of the Russian River at Jenner, and home to Petaluma. I got more than I bargained for.

It was a bright dawn this morning in Petaluma, hazy through ground fog as I rolled bleary-eyed to the computer to download satellite images, METARs and TAFs for my intended route. I talked to WX-BRIEF for a while and got a very clear picture, which turned out to be nearly spot-on (other than winds aloft, of course). I decided to make it a Go, if I could, depending on the condition of the plane.

The C152 I was renting had been in the shop since 7am. By the time I arrived at 8am, the solution had been deduced and was being soldered together. I brought a dozen donuts for the shop crew, thinking that a sugar-induced frenzy might get them to solve the radio problem that had been plaguing this particular aircraft for a few days. I knew I had about 4.5 hours of flying to do and I had to have the plane back by 2pm, so I set 9am as my no-go time. I farted around and drank coffee until 8:35, when they finally wheeled the machine out into a nice clear morning. I ran all my checklists, checked out the plane to within an inch of its existence, fueled, armed myself with all my paperwork, and set sail at 8:51am local time.

First thing to do was activate my flight plan and get Flight Following for as far as it would take me. I was cruising at 4500 feet in known territory just south of Santa Rosa. I picked up Flight Following and enjoyed the scenery---snow to about 3000 feet on the peaks adjacent to me, fog and low clouds in the valleys. I had to dodge some clouds to maintain VFR minimum clearances, but it wasn't difficult since most of the tops were about my height. Radar coverage lasted until I was near Ukiah, but I was never alerted to any traffic; it was a quiet day.

Part of my straight-line flight to Willits included an excursion from the highway I was following, and I got a little turned around in the process, probably due to cloud avoidance and ended up about two miles west of Willits. I had been aiming for what I thought was a microwave tower that turned out to be a fire tower instead. I could clearly see the town of Willits through the pass, though, so over I went, only 3 minutes off schedule. The airport there is set on a hill above the town, which isn't really apparent from the chart. I flew up the highway from town and suddenly there was an airport up on a ridge, and I was already at pattern altitude. I swung in and landed uneventfully, and stopped to reconfigure my lapboard with the right chart orientation and flight paperwork. I tried phoning the FSS to close my flight plan, but the line was busy, so I decided to do it from the air since I was leaving immediately.

I back-taxied to the beginning of the deserted runway and took off to the north again, over snow in the crevices of the hill. Lots of low clouds around, I climbed at Vx for nearly 10 minutes (with short breaks for the engine) to stay legal, and called Oakland Center when I got up to 6500 to cancel the flight plan and file anew. Weird reading my own name and phone number over the radio. I headed north, although my planned timing was rather off due to the long climb--I had expected a cruise-climb to 4500.

At 6500 I was above many of the clouds, but others were cumulating high to the sides, and below it was looking rather broken instead of scattered, so I decided to go the low route to Garberville and then take stock. I followed highway 101 for miles at about 1000 feet above, plenty of landing space on the quiet freeway if the engine quit. I fumbled with my E6B and noticed I was only making about 75 knots, at 95 indicated, still faster than the traffic below, but I was beneath the broken layer of clouds and having a great time following the turns of the freeway and bumping around in the turbulence. I finally got to the big bowl canyon that Garberville sits in, and the ground fell away and I had altitude again.

I swapped sectionals and took stock of the situation. The weather ahead looked worse. I climbed again up to 6500 and asked ATC for updated weather, but the station at Fortuna was down. Arcata was reading scattered and broken in light rain, but Arcata is another 25 miles north of where I was headed. At 6500 I could see a large wall of weather banked along the ridge that separates the coastal range from the Eel river valley that stretches from Fortuna all the way to Eureka, and I had a decision to make: climb to 8500 and hope I was over the white puffy stuff, or descend to find a way under it. The cumulus looked higher than 8500 from where I was sitting, so I elected to go under. I had already gone west avoiding clouds, so I found a rather large hole in the layer beneath me and set up a steep spiral down through it, keeping an eye on the surrounding weather all the way down. At about 2500 feet I was still 1500 feet or so above the ground and beneath the clouds, and it was heavy rain and fog to the north and east. I could see the coast about 15 miles away to the west, shining in the sun, so that's where I headed.

On the way I nearly decided to forego the trip into the Eel river valley altogether and simply head for my next checkpoint at Shelter Cove, but I really wanted to get up there. My wife and I are thinking about buying
property in Ferndale someday, just west of Rohnerville and Fortuna, plus I wanted to make sure I landed at an airport 150nm away from home base. Shelter Cove is only 126, Fortuna is 154. I stayed well west of the weather and popped over that same ridge several miles to the west of my intended northbound route, right over Ferndale in fact, and decided to stop for fuel in Fortuna and forego Eureka altogether, as it looked dark further north and I was already half an hour over schedule. I cancelled my flight plan and landed at FOT.

Fueling was self-serve, and no one was on the radio. The place was nearly completely deserted, except for a light twin that took off 5 minutes after I landed. No one to sign the logbook. I fueled the plane, called home for a chat, and set up the camera on the fuel pump to take a picture of myself with the plane. Back across the riverbed plain to Ferndale I hit light rain and a nearly circular rainbow that followed me right to Ferndale. Then out another mile to the coast, climb to 2500 feet, and south along the water's edge.

Flying along the "lost coast" is something I will never get over, and will probably do many times. There was some turbulence kicked up by the proximity to the steep hills that come right down to the beach, but the land is pristine and unpopulated, and breathtakingly beautiful, redwoods and huge stones. The 20-knot headwind I had fought the whole way up was now a tailwind and I made impressive groundspeed, and was in Shelter Cove quickly.

In Shelter Cove I had another decision to make: continue along the coast to Jenner or Bodega Bay as I had intended, or just head home directly? The weather wasn't bad, but the scattered layer would make for a lot of dodging, and I had to have the plane back by 2pm. It was nearly 12:45, thanks to the weather diversion as well as my decision to continue on to Fortuna. I elected to go south as far as Mendocino and then head home directly, over the weather if possible. I sat for a few minutes and planned new checkpoints and distances, times, etc., and then started up and left. Something to remember about that wonderful little airport: it has a hump in the middle of the runway, you can't see the other end! It looks really, really short when you're taking off. Something else to remember: it looks like a nice spot to bring my wife and son sometime soon, when I can fly passengers.

The coastline to Mendocino was more of the same unpopulated rugged shoreline, and then the small boroughs of Fort Bragg and Mendocino (another possible retirement spot). Then I climbed to get above the clouds. And climbed. And climbed. Since I was heading southwest I needed an odd multiple plus 500 feet. At 5500 I was still blocked. At 7500 I was beginning to see the tops. I called for Flight Following---ok, first I called Flight Watch by mistake, but they gave me the right frequency for Oakland Center since apparently they don't do Flight Following there---and mentioned that I was "slowly climbing to 9500". He asked my type of aircraft, and when I said "C152" he said "Ok, situation understood". I was making a solid 400fpm at 2300rpm, not too shabby for a 22-year-old aircraft that wasn't peppy when it was new. The hamsters under the hood were sweating, though.

I had never been as high as 9500, but I flew that way all the way home---at 96 knots indicated and a lean 2300rpm, but my groundspeed calculated out to 131 knots, and I was home very quickly. As I was coming near to Petaluma and descending I cancelled Flight Following and called Petaluma traffic, and I heard my instructor's voice on the radio, "How's it going, Jeff?" I responded honestly "It's going very, very well, I'll tell you all about it." I got in line for landing, spotted all the traffic, and just felt like a pro. Squeaked the landing, too.

I was gone for 5 hours and 10 minutes and logged 4.7 hours on the Hobbs, which means that the plane was only off for a total of 1/2 hour. 20 minutes of that was spent fueling and peeing, the rest on the ground at Shelter Cove where I drew up a new flight plan for the trip home, with new checkpoints, ETEs, etc. I landed at 1:59 local time, fueled the plane and at 2:07 gave the keys to the next student who was very patiently waiting. I said "It's full, and it goes to Eureka and back".

What would I have done differently? Probably not much, and I figure if I can say that after a 4.7-hour flight in which I was weathered out of my primary destination, I must be doing something right. The only time I didn't know precisely where I was, even in the thick weather, was when got a couple of miles west of my first landing point in Willits. I stayed legal with respect to cloud clearances and quadrangle heights, talked to all the right people on the radio, and had a fantastic time. Only wish I could have stayed for lunch in Shelter Cove.

I think the experience in weather avoidance was invaluable, the scenery was breathtaking, and I want to go do it again as soon as I am able. Heck, I could do that every day and not get tired of it.

Solo Cross-Country (Radio Failure)
Sent a student on a second cross-country today. What happened was a first time experience for me and a good
learning experience for him.

Plan was for student to leave shortly after 10 a.m. Actual departure time was after 12 p.m. I had checked weather before he came over for me to go over his planning. Forecast was fine except for strong winds after 2 p.m.

His flight was to leave Concord for Salinas for his first leg. Second leg was from Salinas to Watsonville to Half Moon Bay. Last leg was from Half Moon Bay to Concord.

I was very unexpectedly called out of town and had to leave about three o'clock for a drive to Petaluma. I
contacted Oakland FSS and requested that they advise my student that I would not be available when he returned for an arrival debriefing as I usually do. FSS said that he was en route to Watsonville and that they would make an effort to advise him.

As I crossed the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge my pager was activated. My student was on the ground at Half Moon with a radio that would not transmit. I told him to fly to Petaluma where I would meet with him at 4:30 and I would return to Concord with him and my wife would drive home alone.

I immediately contacted Oakland FSS and advised them of our plan. I also asked that they contact Bay Tracon to advise them that my student would be NORDO while transiting below the Class Bravo airspace enroute to Petaluma. FSS put me on hold while trying to coordinate this arrangement. After several minutes FSS said that I would need to do this with TRACON for myself. I agreed to do this after he gave me a number to call. I asked FSS to advise Concord Tower that we would be coming in NORDO after 5 p.m.

I called TRACON and advised them that my student would be departing Half Moon Bay and while unable to transmit would be squawking 7600 and monitoring the approach frequencies while enroute Petaluma. Apparently my student had not departed yet since no squawk was seen. He said that he saw no problem just as I did.

I had completed my business in Petaluma by four o'clock and was at the airport by 4:15. The winds had picked up and delayed my student's arrival. In the meantime I had gone into the airport office and arranged to use Unicom. When my student arrived I picked him up entering downwind. The strong crosswind had him too close in on his downwind so I told him to fly wider so as to get a longer base. I also told him not to shut down when he taxied in. His landing went fine.

I boarded and we departed Petaluma for Concord. I used the flight to show him a couple of unfamiliar airports and to practice tracking to a VOR in a strong crosswind. As we neared CCR I had the student squawk 7600 as we neared CCR in the hopes that Travis Approach would advise CCR of our arrival. After getting the ATIS we flew over CCR and began to track outbound on a 45-degree course in preparation for returning on the inbound
45 to the downwind.

CCR Tower spotted us outbound and told us to turn downwind for landing. This saved us some time but we had to lose some altitude, which we did with no problem. Tower asked if we were hearing them. Student waved his wings in acknowledgement and we were cleared to land. We landed with no difficulty. As we stopped clear of the runway we were told to taxi to our hangar on the other side of the airport.

We talked over the flight on our way home and both the student and I agreed that he could have made the original planned flight with no difficulty since we had simulated and talked over the process before as a total radio failure. Having the receiver working made it a piece of cake. What did the world do before pagers and cell phones?
Gene Whitt

First of all, I want to make a note that this is a great newsgroup for us newbies, and I have learned a lot here just reading posts. My post here is not only for sharing my experience, but also to welcome any advice from others on how I could have made the flight smoother, etc.

I flew from TTD to PDT (Troutdale to Pendleton)in a Cessna 152, on what was supposed to be my long cross country flight. ( I say "supposed to be" because I only made two landings, not three, as the PTS requirements call for). The trip was 312 nautical miles total, and I logged 3.9 hours. I successfully completed and filed all my flight plans and my navigation was successful, to a point. TO clear some of the mountains on this trip, I had to climb to 7,500 feet, and about halfway to PDT, at 7,500 feet, my engine suddenly started dropping in RPM's, occasionally jumping up and down on the needle.

Now, I have been taught to lean out my fuel mixture above 3000 feet, and being a student pilot with little experience, in a panic, I enriched my mixture first, thinking I leaned the airplane a little too much. This worked only momentarily, and as I sat there, playing my instructor's words over and over in my head, looking for a place to land (just in case) I suddenly looked up at my temperature gauge, and realized how cold it was outside. It then hit me like a ton of bricks: Carburetor icing! I quickly pulled out my carb heat, watched the RPM's drop suddenly, then after 10 minutes, slowly increased again. At this point, I pushed it back in, and the plane hummed beautifully back to life. I made the rest of my trip safely (and even timely).

What did I learn on this trip?? PLENTY!! First, not to panic. Focus on the issue at hand and remember everything your instructor taught you and all the knowledge you accumulated from your ground studies.
Go through the troubleshooting steps one at a time. I also learned why my instructor said "If you can learn to fly at this school, you can handle flying almost anywhere." My school is located right next to the Columbia Gorge, and the trip back to TTD was a rough one. There are a lot of temperature changes, air pressure changes, and as a result, EXTREME turbulence. This is by far the roughest trip I have ever made, but it taught me a LOT about the ups and downs (pardon the pun) of flying. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I love to fly. Yes, I had a bit of a scare, but with the proper knowledge and plenty of practice, I know I can reach the ranks of other successful pilots.

Unfortunately, during the carb icing, incident, I lost track of my second airport, and eventually had to fly via VOR to PDT. I only got 2 landings, instead of the 3 that the PTS requires, but I now have 31 logged flight hours, and I will just go out and try again until I get it.

I know this is long winded, and I apologize for that, but I just wanted to share my experiences with everyone else here. If anyone has any comments, I welcome the responses.
Thank you,
Mike Tuller  

Solo Cross-Country #2
Did my first solo X-Country yesterday and a long one at that. Been waiting for weeks for weather in the
Northeast and my schedule to favorably coincide. It finally happened yesterday.

After doing some pattern practice with my CFI on Wednesday evening, we spoke (yet again) of the possibility of a solo x-country on Thursday, if WX allowed. I should plan the trip and we would touch base at 7:30 a.m When I arose, weather was marginal but improving. Over breakfast, I logged onto DUAT and poured over the outlook -- VFR until mid-day and MVFR after 2 pm. Spoke with my CFI and he agreed that now was the time and the sooner the better -- back before 2 pm. Grabbed the winds-aloft, did my final preparation and headed for his house for a check of the planning and endorsement.

When I arrived, he had already called the FBO to ask them to pull the plane out of the hanger and top it off. Having the plan approved, I called FSS and filed; no warnings about MVFR conditions (a first). As I walked in the door of the FBO, I overheard someone tell one of the ground workers to pull out and top off the plane So much for advance warning. The wait gave me the opportunity to check the weather one more time and another CFI to warn me of impending MVFR conditions and admonish me to turn back at the first signs of bad weather. After fuel and a quart of oil, I was ready to go.

The plan was Elmira, NY (ELM) to Penn Yan (PEO) with an optional landing, PEO to Batavia (GVQ) by way of the GEE VOR, GVQ to Dansville (DSV) with an optional landing and then back to ELM. With a 10SM and OVC036, I opened by flight plan and headed off into the wild, blue yonder -- actually the wild, gray yonder.

With IFR traffic in-bound, ATC kept me on runway heading for several miles which put me well off course from the start. Using those pilotage skills, I maneuvered to an intercept course back to my planned heading, dialed in the NDB and away I went. About 15 miles out, departure let me loose and I was well on my way to PEO. Listened to ASOS and tuned in PEO CTAF. With another pilot in the pattern doing T&Gs, I opted for a fly over and communicated my location and intentions. Dialed in the GEE VOR and started flying over the Finger Lakes. Over Canandaigua Lake, the sky became broken and the sun shone bright. Over the VOR, I changed course for GVQ, listened AWOS, monitored CTAF and communicated location and intentions. So far so good [This is a literary device to let my know that the best is yet to come.].

Heading was 310 from GEE to GVQ. Last time I flew this route, I went right to GVQ and spotted the airport without problem. South of LeRoy, I was right on schedule and course. What happened then, I do not know. Having missed the airport, I headed back around and ended up near 5G0 which unfortunately has one, 10-28 runway just like its neighbor. The winds were favoring 28, but a helicopter was communicating his use of 10 for practice and other aircraft in the area were also using 10. My problem was, I couldn't make visual on the helicopter or the other traffic. With trepidation, I communicated by intentions and entered the pattern. Communicating every move and listening to the helicopter, I made at attempt at 10; too high; went around. Continuing in the pattern, I communicated and listened -- keeping 1/2 a pattern away from the helicopter with which I could not make a visual-- and made another attempt, still too high. It was then that the helicopter pilot asked if I had a visual on him because he sure couldn't see me. One of us wasn't at GVQ and it did take too much guessing to figure it probably was me. I headed back over the City of Batavia (or what I thought was Batavia) and spotted the "Golf Ball Church" which is located just north of the Village of LeRoy. Lived in LeRoy for 3 years. Would have thought, I could identify it from the air. Good lesson: things look different from the air than from the ground!

Headed out to I-90 and flew down the road to Batavia. While on route the helicopter broke off and the pattern returned to 28. Again communicated my location and intention (accurately this time) and did a perfect (as close as I get) landing on 28 hoping that few people were listening to the whole saga. Spent a few minutes back on terra firm and called my CFI to let him know I was still alive. Back in the plane on the ramp, my cell phone rang and I dealt with a work issue for a few minutes (talk about perfect timing) and then I was back in the air.

Heading to DSV, the winds seemed a little stronger than anticipated and I made the necessary correction in
bearing to arrive where I wanted to be. Having eaten up some time in LeRoy and as it was getting near lunch time, I radioed Buffalo FSS and revised my ETA in ELM. Listened to ASOS and monitored CTAF. Another pilot was doing T&Gs but I could eventually see him. With an extended final, I landed on 14, taxied to the ramp, parked the plane and walked to Mickey Ds for a Quarter Pounder.

Having finished the gourmet burger, I was back to the plane and taxied out to the runway. I waited for the other pilot to touch and go, back-taxied on 14 and was off to home base. This part of the trip is easy -- follow I-390, but I dialed in the VOR anyway. Over Bath, I dialed in ATIS and ELM approach. I called up approach, changed my squawk and headed in. Made an uneventful landing on 24, closed my plan and called by CFI to let him know I survived.

If WX cooperates (can there be such luck?), tonight is my first night X-Country.
Bob Mitchell

Solo Cross-Country #3
Well, the weather finally cooperated enough to allow me to fly my long solo XC. Sometimes I wonder if our aviation weather briefings are more fiction than fact. Lately here in North Texas the forecasted 'good weather' seldom turns out so nice. After getting the DUAT briefing and talking to FSS I was convinced we would have clear skies on Monday with surface winds < 10 knots. Then I walked out side to go to my car and the ceilings were maybe 800 agl. Oh well, I drove to the airport anyway, and by the time I got there, most of the clouds had blown out of town. After getting another update on the weather and finalizing my flight planning it looked like a go. Based on the winds I was given, the 200 nm flight was expected to take less than two and a half-hours. My instructor showed up, checked my flight plan and endorsed my logbook.

The plan was to depart Hicks field (T67), fly to the Millsap VOR near Mineral Wells, and then land at Graham. When I took off visibility was fine and the winds were light, but after crossing Eagle Mountain Lake, things got a little hazy, with small puffs of clouds at about 1000 agl. By then I was leaving 2000 for 4500 and could see that there were no clouds ahead. The visibility was still about 10 nm so decided to climb above the haze. At 4000 feet I broke above the inversion layer and visibility was improving, but I decided to continue climbing to 6500. By the time I got to 6500 visibility was at least 20 nm and there were no more clouds below me. I was also almost to the VOR. I made a pirep after crossing the VOR and turned to my heading for Graham. About 10 nm from Possum Kingdom Lake, I began my descent into Graham. There was no traffic at Graham and the winds were right down the runway.

After taking a short break and visiting with a salesman at the FBO, I departed for the short flight from Graham to Olney (ONY). About 10 nm from ONY I hear a bonanza say he is 10 southeast of the field. Needless to say, that got my attention, since that was approximately my position. After calling for a clarification, we determined he was a lot closer to the field than he thought. I was still 5 out when he called midfield downwind. I still didn't see him. I did see a yellow ag plane just entering downwind, so I called that I was following him. I didn't see the bonanza until he called turning final. The ag plane was apparently flying nordo. Winds at ONY were also right down the runway. After a really good landing, I taxied back to the beginning of runway 17 and took off.

Next stop - Kickapoo Downtown Airpark (T47), just south of Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls. I had planned on using one of the NDBs in the area as a backup to confirm ded reckoning on this leg, but I wasn't receiving any of them. I was still able to receive signal's from Fort Worth, so I knew the ADF was working, so I just pressed on. There was one other plane coming into Kickapoo from the west, but he was further out. I finally saw him as I turned onto the downwind from the 45. There were a lot of houses on the final approach path to runway 17, so I stayed a little high and practiced my forward slip to a landing. Winds were also right down the runway. I floated a little, but it turned out to be a pretty good touchdown. Took a break here and had to buy some oil before departing.

Before leaving, I decided to get an updated briefing since my final leg was nearly 80 nm. Surface winds were starting to become stronger, but well within my capabilities. I also called the FBO to let them know I was going to be a little late. It took me a little while to get a good wind correction angle established for this leg. This leg was strictly pilotage and no problem at all.

When I finally got back to Hicks, the winds were reported to be 210@09 and I made the only crosswind landing of the day. The original plan had called for 2.6 hours and with the winds, I ended up flying 3.1. All in all, it was a very good flight.
The next day, I met with the instructor and flew 2.5. The hood work was fine, ground reference maneuvers were good, stalls were good. emergency procedures were fine. The plane did not seem to fly quite the same as the day before, mostly because of the 70 degree temp and the extra 200 pounds. My approaches were fine, but a little high. He had me divert to a little field called Kezer. I got there right on time, but I never saw the field. As we crossed it, he said I should probably think about doing a 180 when another plane passed 400-500 feet below us. He was doing steep turns and such. We kept a close eye on him and eventually he left the area. I don't know if he saw us or knew that there was an airport just a mile from where he was maneuvering. The only problem I really had was that I got distracted on the downwind leg of my last landing and busted the pattern altitude by 100 feet.

Just a little more practice, another short session with the instructor, and then it is time for the checkride.

Solo X-Country #4
When I announced my solo here, everyone said, "Congratulations, wait until you do the solo XC". Well now I know what everyone was referring to.

Thursday this week I started out on the first leg of a long XC (3B3-EEN). FSS and all ATIS/AWOS along the route were reporting conflicting visibility. I could see fine where I was, but I was concerned about further along the route. I decided to start out, and turn back if I had a problem. And that is exactly what happened, at about 15 miles out things started closing in, and I decided to turn back. No big deal...I'm scheduled tomorrow again, I'll just go back and practice some landings.

Friday brought similar weather and similar conflicting visibility reports. Although this time there was a PIREP from an area along the report that looked better. Winds aloft weren't too bad and first destination was reporting 290 @8 12g at EEN.

So, off I went. There were three legs on the XC. The first 2 I had never done before. The last leg I had done on one of my dual XCs. Needless to say, I was very alert. It amazing how many small lakes we
have here in Mass. and how much alike they all look Well, made it to Keene without problems, made entry onto downwind for 32. The only thing memorable about the landing was that the winds had
picked up, but they were blowing right down 32 but steady. I swear my GS was near about 20 when I touched down!

OK, time to stretch the follow the signs for visitor parking, there is the FBO and a huge square of asphalt with not a single aircraft, and as luck would have it no markings on the tarmac at all. Now remember, I am a student and I am thinking, "where do I park? Which way to I point the plane? Am I going to block someone (there is nobody here fool!!)". Anyhow, I pick the dead middle of the tarmac (This way I figure I will be equally wrong.). Get out, stretch and see if I can get a cup of coffee or a juice. The coffee shop is closed (indefinitely according to the sign). The airport is completely empty, not a person in sight. Damn nice airport though.

OK, back in the plane and off we go. Taxi to 32 and on the runway. As on the landing, the winds were blowing right down 32 and strong, the 172 was off the ground before I knew it.

Now comes the challenging part of the XC. There were precious few recognizable checkpoints on this leg (EEN->PSF) and it is a very hilly region which makes it difficult to see any towns tucked in the valleys. The first couple of points were easy, tower, CT River, I91, OK now its into no-mans-land. Only one small tower off to the left 10 miles out..."there it is" OK, I can do this stuff! Next stop Rte 2.And there in the distance is the tower outside Pittsfield (2474MSL, kind of easy to see!)

Well to shorten this leg of the story a bit, I'll skip to the landing. Not pretty! Wind was blowing down 32 here as well, nailed the approach speeds, everything looks great...hear goes. Why is the landing point moving up in the windscreen? Wind is strong! Not going to reach...goose with some power, keep nose down (keep airspeed up!!), looks like I am not going to make the fence! OK, a little more power, keep the retrim to keep speed up...over the fence and down. A greaser, but the short final was uuuugly.

OK, stretch a bit, and off we go again, depart Pittsfield, set the course and watch for checkpoints. Now this leg was a piece of cake. I had done this leg with my CFI and it was just like driving home. I knew all the checkpoints and hit them without a problem.

Back home (3b3), turn base over the school for 34. Kids are outside, I wonder if my son is pointing up and telling his friends that "that's my dad!". Everything looks great, nailed the speed on final, clear I190, I have it made, pull power all the way back, and squeak it on (a greaser!). Park this thing and tie it down. 154nm, 2.5hrs Long XC!!

Thanks for letting me write this all out, and thanks for all the support from the group.

Student Cross Country
Long post, that is, not my long X/C.

Last Friday I did my solo X/C from Princeton, NJ to Reading, PA. I like reading about other student's trips so thought I'd share my write-up for anyone who might be interested. --dan.

After over a month of attempting to make my solo short XC from Princeton to Reading, it finally looked like I was going to be able to make the flight today.

I got to the airport at 12:30 and found out that my instructor was going to be delayed until 1:30. This was frustrating at first, but it allowed me to really take my time pre-flighting the plane and to get an updated winds forecast and recalculate my wind correction and expected ground speeds.

When my instructor arrived, he quickly looked over my flight plan (he had already reviewed it several times when I tried to make this trip earlier).He signed me off and warned me of the 'severe clear' conditions and to be careful of ice on the taxiways and sent me off. The weather had been warming up a little (relatively speaking) so with a little extra priming the engine started without a problem. Taxiing on the snowy and icy taxiways wasn't a problem either with caution and I had soon finished my run-up and was waiting for a plane on final to land before I took the runway. The pattern was more active than it normally would have been on a Friday afternoon, presumably filled with people taking advantage of the good conditions and (mostly) snow-free runway which have been scarce lately.

The runway heading was almost exactly aligned with my course so I was able to depart straight out to the west. Before I even reached pattern altitude I realized that despite my checklist, I had failed to set sync my DG to the magnetic compass. After getting out of the pattern, I just leveled out and set the DG, but of course my carelessness annoyed me more than difficulty of correcting the error.

Before long I leveled out at my cruising altitude of 4500' and was looking for my checkpoints and timing my progress. I suppose it may fade with experience, but right now I find it very satisfying to find that I'm on right course and that my ground speed closely matches my calculations. A couple of my checkpoints were large lakes or reservoirs. Using those same checkpoints in the past I found them very easy to see from the air, but I quickly discovered that they aren't nearly so easy to see when frozen over and covered with snow!

Despite all the traffic at Princeton, I only saw one other aircraft anywhere near my flight level along my route. On the radio I could hear airport activity below me and saw airliners well above me. This was despite fantastic visibility...I could see farther then I ever remember seeing before.

Despite only being a class D airport, Reading has an approach control frequency listed in the A/FD. At twenty miles out I contacted them and the controller told me she wasn't able to pick me up on the radar. I was at 4500 so I thought this was a little strange but knew that Reading was located just west of ridge so figured that might be interfering. My next checkpoint was ten miles from the airport but was at a point on the chart that was obscured by a text box with a note for Allentown approach. The
lack of having any good visual checkpoints to compare to the ground and my distraction about wondering when approach control was going to pick me up on their radar and if my transponder was working apparently resulted in my turning a little right in my course (I have a bad habit of having a heavy foot on the right rudder).

A couple of minutes after passing my last checkpoint I contacted approach again to see if they had me on radar yet.The controller asked me to ident and then located me 7 miles to the northeast of the airport. She gave me squawk code and had me turn to 230.Once I was heading in the right direction I immediately had the airport in sight and a minute later was handed off to the tower. The tower told me to report final for runway 31. At this point I was still at 4500' and had to lose altitude fast. I smoothly pulled out all of my power and let myself drift a little to the left to give myself some time to come down. While I was doing this I was cleared to land. After my descent, I wound up being a little fast on my final approach but was up getting down to 60 by short final and had an uneventful landing. The tower asked where I wanted to go and after a drawing a brief blank told him the FBO at which I had decided to fuel. I didn't know exactly where on the field it was and considering asking for help as he cleared me to their ramp when suddenly I noticed the huge hangar in front of my with 'Aerodynamics' in giant letters across the front. If only all navigation was that easy.

On my way over I guess I was impatient about contacting the FBO and asked the tower if I could switch off his freq. He patiently told me that I could as soon as I was off the taxiway. Ahh...of course. I felt a little silly having the fuel truck come out for such a small amount of fuel (less that 5 gallons), but it my school's policy to fuel up at each stop. Regardless, they were very friendly and it was kind of fun to fly in to essentially say hi and fly off again.

I contacted ground control and told them I was ready to go and was flying VFR to the east. They cleared me back to runway 31. Once I was holding at the runway I was expecting ground to hand me off to the tower, but as he never did I asked him if I could switch over. He approved that, though I
now know better--the standard procedure is to switch to the tower whenever I'm ready to depart. Anyway, I contacted the tower and told them I was ready to go. After waiting for a landing aircraft I was cleared to depart. I assumed that the tower would give me instructions to turn back east, but
he didn't, so I continued climbing out on my heading for a while. After wondering what to do for a few minutes I contacted the tower and asked if he could get me going back east. In retrospect what he answered was something like "proceed on course at my discretion", but at the time I wasn't clear on
whether he told me to proceed on my course or to remain on my current course. Instead asking for clarification, I just held head my heading. This was, of course, ridiculous since in another minute I just had, with some chagrin, to ask again what he had told me to do. It was with some forced patience that he explained it to me. Anyway, by this point I was already out of his airspace and high enough to turn east and fly over it.

In the past when I've flown out of towered airports the controller has always positively terminated my radar service, but it didn't really seem like he was interested in paying any more attention to me. I was already at 5500', almost 3000' above his airspace, and I hadn't yet opened my flight plan so I switched to the FSS frequencies and made contact. I had a lot of trouble hearing the FSS specialist but after a few retransmissions opened my flight plan and switched back to the tower frequency just to hear what was going on.

For the most part, my flight home was pretty uneventful. The winds were a bit stronger than forecast and they were shifting so my going was fairly slow and I had to adjust my crab angle as I proceeded.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned today was to take advantage of your bathroom stops when you have them. I had thought about this when I was walking back to my plane at Reading but decided against walking all the way back to the FBO since I didn't feel any impending need. About halfway home, though, I started to feel a rather strong need to recycle the coffee and water I had consumed earlier in the day, so I was quite relieved that before I even crossed the Delaware I was able to see Princeton's single runway dead ahead of me lined up with my flight path. If snow and ice can make lakes hard to see in the winter, it definitely can ease the task of finding an airport and on a clear day like today it was all the easier to find my home field.

Knowing the trip was almost over and not anticipating any difficulties I began to relax and thinking about when I should begin my descent. Suddenly I noticed a dark column of smoke several miles ahead of me at about my 11 o'clock. I didn't know how I could have missed that in my scan before and
thought maybe some fire and just broken out upon the ground. Then I caught the glint of what I assumed was an aircraft near the top of the smoke not far from my altitude. I turned a little to the right to give get some clearance though I couldn't locate the craft again. Before too long, I caught it again much closer now and just ahead of my 9 o'clock. It was what looked to be a large RC plane doing acrobatics. He was all over the place and basically alarmed the crap out of me. I turned further to my right and climbed. From the way he was flying I assume he could easily out climb me but I didn't know what else to do. I hoped that between my turning wings and lights he might notice me. I lost him against the ground when he dove down about 30 degrees behind me and never saw him again.

That past, I tried to listen in on Princeton's traffic to hear what was going on. Not hearing any traffic, I clicked to get the Super Unicom report for wind. Nothing...hmm...a minute of debugging revealed an incorrect frequency. Argh. Now I was pretty close to the airport and since I had delayed my descent was pretty high. I called in for traffic and turned south of the field to spiral down to TPA before entering the downwind.

The runway was a little narrow from snow banks along the sides that had relaxed a bit, but that was no problem since the wind was calm. I flew a great stable approach and was rewarded with a nice landing. I taxied back and parked the airplane. My instructor was inside so I was able to ask him
a bit about some of the ATC procedures I had flubbed. It's clear, though, I need to study those a bit more before my next trip (my long XC). It's really uncomfortable being out there and realizing suddenly I don't know something that I know I really should know!

This was a fun trip and a great learning experience both in refining my navigating and flying skills as well as educating me about what I need work in. I can't wait to make my long XC, scheduled for next week if all goes well.

Chart - a type of map which shows you exactly where you are lost.

Dead Reckoning - a course leading directly to your crash site.

Estimated Position - a place you have marked on the chart where you are sure you are not.

Headway - what you are making if you can't get the toilet to work.

Latitude - the number of degrees off course allowed a student pilot.

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Continued on Page 5.55 Flying a Cross-Country