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Flying the Cross-country
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...FSS Today; …If You Go Weather Services; ...Takeoff Planning; … Flying with Required Knowledge per FAR 91.103; Flight Planning; ...Range and Endurance; ...Procedures List; ...Compass Check Technique; ...Checkpoint Checklist; …Finding Airports; …Have a Planned Arrival; …Emergency Planning; …Arrival at Destination; …What if ..Planning; ...En route in Brief; …VOR Sensitivity Check; ...Route Selection; ...Less Than Perfect; ...En route Fuel; ...Going Further Faster; ...Density Altitude; ...Flying in Density Altitudes...The Last Leg; ...Descents; ...Pilotage; ...Efficiency Flying; ...Dead Reckoning; ...VFR Over the Top; ...Finding Yourself; ...Lost Procedures; ...Thinking Through Being Lost; ...Common-Cross Country Errors; ...Instruction Tips; ...Future Automation; ...Crew Coordination; ...Glass Cockpit; …Crosswind Correction; …Notes of CA to IL Flight; …Advice to a Cross-country Student; …Management of Fuel; …Logging Cross Country; …Dallas to Bay Area; …The Wind is Never as Forecast;  California Directional Problems; ...What's Your Altitude?: ...Using Google Earth to Pre-fly Your Route; ...Little Known Navigational Ideas; ...On Getting a Vector; ...

FSS Today
--Uses COTS (commercial off the shelf) hardware and software
--NEXRAD weather radar display is available
--Web access to vertical extent of icing condition (
--Web access to convective graphics

If You Go, Weather Services
Flight Watch (122.0) EFAS En route Flight Advisory Service
135.7 is a high altitude frequency on the West Coast that can be tried if 122.0 does not work.
ATIS Automatic Terminal Information Service
This system along with AWOS or ASOS can be used from neighboring airports as a reference for the destination airport.
Flight Service Stations
(See radio section)

Takeoff planning
See Page 3,40 Takeoffs and Departures

Flying with Required Knowledge per FAR 91.103
--All available information concerning that flight
--IFR or not in vicinity weather, forecasts, fuel, alternatives, traffic delays per ATC
--For any flight, runway lengths and aircraft takeoff/landing performance.
--Know information relating to performance at altitude, weight, wind, temperature and runway surface
--Know route and related airspace, obstructions, frequencies for ATC, FSS, navaids, and…
--Have current charts and publications
--For VFR knowledge of fuel and minimum weather requirements
--Pilot is not required to search out information that is not available.
--NO excuse not to use good sense and good judgment
--There will be no question of your judgment if everything goes right
--If the CFI has done as he should applicants can only blame themselves for 20-percent of the failures

Flight Planning
For most flights figure a three-hour flight as maximum kidney endurance length. Use this average value for entire leg or leg series. It is just as easy and valid to visually select the figure for wind direction and velocity from the list. The only certainty about wind forecasts is that the wind will vary from that forecast.

Plot the true course from your point of departure to your destination. This is your average true course for the flight. Work one single wind problem with your average course, TAS, average winds aloft, and you will come up with your average ground speed. Groundspeed at various times will vary, but on average, you won't be far off any ETA

By making each leg or perhaps the whole route segmented into equal lengths you can easily make an early ETA and make adjustment for changes as they occur during the flight. For flights below 5000' figure five minutes for takeoff and climb and another five minutes for descent and arrival at pattern altitude which has historically been considered G.A. arrival time.

In VFR it is safest and more considerate to maximize your flight to avoid the immediate surroundings. Plan your departure procedure to comply with local restrictions and early interception of your planned route. Climb at higher speeds when going toward your destination and lower speeds if your initial departure is in the wrong direction. Fuel is best used to gain altitude not to fly the wrong way. You should have a departure checklist. IFR procedures will differ. POH data is based on new aircraft, test pilot, and multiple tries. You should add adequate (?) safety margin to any POH figures to account for any differences. Factors such as non-current weather, inaccurate thermometer, variations in wind, grade, and surface conditions may not be in the POH. The time to learn to use the POH is as a student pilot. It's a little late to do so at Blue Canyon.

The POH will give time, fuel, distance to altitude, rate of climb, and climb speed recommendations. We use the available information to compute the performance that can be expected and reduce the expected performance by such factors as we deem appropriate. The last consideration when takeoff conditions approach the marginal is the 'what-if' factor. Think out your options before you get into the plane. Plan the departure route, emergency turns and sites and avoid thinking that you can turn back to the airport.

All summer flying is not that great. You are likely to find visibility down to four miles in the summer due to fog, haze, or smog. Inversions can ground you for three days or more. Air mass thunderstorms can be planned around but you must expect flight delays and layovers on long cross-countries. Land and waiting is a better option than trying to circumvent weather.

Range and Endurance
Fuel flow is directly related to power. You can fly maximum time endurance speed by flying at the minimum power required to maintain level flight. The effect of configuration becomes more important at faster airspeeds because of parasitic drag. Maximum range airspeed becomes greater for lower weight. As fuel is burned you should slow the plane. Always factor in fuel for climb when computing range. Use the POH.

Procedures List

1. With a bit of effort you can get all your checkpoints evenly spaced from your destination to your first point from departure. Accept a different distance from your takeoff to first checkpoint.
2. Make your course line one that can be easily seen. Record your times on the sectional.
3. Put your frequencies on the course line as they arise. Mark your descent points, pattern altitudes and airport entry path.
4. In the beginning write out your radio work to keep it precisely brief and correct.
5. Preset all radios nav/com/OBS/recorder
6. Needed papers/pens open and available
--A. Sectional/ checkpoints/magnetic courses marked
--B. Checklists
--C. Frequency card
--D. Check for cabin heat before takeoff.
7. Belts/harness
8. Taxi as though 40 knot winds
9. Request "time check" prior to takeoff/CHECKLIST
10. Make a 270 departure so that you are flying the line on the chart.
11. Start your time from over the airport.
12. Consider using the POH cruise speed for the power and altitude and just add five minutes for the total time to cover climb and descent. This will work within 3-minutes for all VFR flights below 4500' AGL.
13. Regardless of takeoff direction climb/fly directly to your first checkpoint-OPEN FLIGHT PLAN
14. Winds will never be as forecast.|
15. Fly to first checkpoint and time to second checkpoint. Count the spaces to your destination and multiply by that time. You have ETA.
16. Use checkpoint checklist
17. Once on course, pick a feature as far ahead as possible as an aiming guide.
18. Keep your head "out of the cockpit". Hold papers up-not head down
19. Continue to get time between each evenly spaced checkpoint and adjust your ETA accordingly.
20. If altitude/course/radios are off, don't wait-make everything right by the next checkpoint
21. Fly the wind correction angle for each segment that seems most likely to get you to the checkpoint.

Course Check Technique:

Have first checkpoint that is clearly visible from the airport. Make 270 departure from field that will take you to opposite side of airport from checkpoint. Fly with the airport and checkpoint clearly in sight. Line up the field and checkpoint. Check compass and sight as far ahead as you can on a mountain or cloud. Go for it.
11. Plan ahead
--A. Required/legal/safe climb/descent to altitude
--B. Keep a listening watch on ATIS/flight watch/tower/etc.
--C. Allow time to practice before communicating
--D. When you get behind the airplane, go to slow flight
12. Try to get a time check between first two checkpoints and get an ETA
13. You arrive at a checkpoint when airplane is aligned with your magnetic course and you can sight down the wing directly abeam to the checkpoint. It is possible to make large time errors if done otherwise. En route checkpoints should serve as notice to use your checklist.
14. Update your ETA with subsequent time checks.

Checkpoint Checklist

A. Time
B. Gauges and instrument check
--1. Engine instruments
--2. Complete Engine Gauge check
--3. Fuel consumption check. (Lean and enrich as appropriate)
--4. Flight instruments
a. Altitude/setting
b. Heading/compass check
C. Three elements to confirm checkpoint
--1. Nearest airport check. Know the direction and location of nearest airport.
--2. Emergency landing locations
--3. Extended route check (Am I heading in the right direction?)
D. Plan and check time, time to checkpoints, and time of arrival.
--1. Wind adjustment/ground speed confirmation
--2. Altitude anticipation (climb or descent)
--3. Higher altitudes give better true airspeed, communications, navaid reception, and ground clearance. Visibility is not always, improved by being higher every time. Head winds will be stronger at altitude. You get a two-percent increase in your true airspeed for every thousand feet of higher altitude.
--4. Safety- Never fly through or under a thunderstorm.
E. Set VOR/OBS for next checkpoint/IDENT
--1. Relative value of NAV aids.
F. Setting of radios both com and nav (OBS)
--1. Practice of communications.
--2. Better to communicate early at prominent checkpoint if unfamiliar
--3. Copy ATIS/X-ponder settings and frequency changes.
--4. Repeat back instructions/clearances to confirm
--5. If unfamiliar; so advise.

G. Finding airports
--0  It will never get easier unless you use GPS
--1. Like landings, finding airports requires FAITH
--2. Start your descent at last checkpoint
--3. Runway direction can be determined by turning to the runway heading well away from the airport and try to pick up visual references for the entry you plan. Use your heading indicator.

H. Have a Planned Arrival
--1. Descent, call up, reporting points
--2. Pattern altitude and arrival
-- 3. Lost/misplaced airports
-- 4. Traffic awareness/avoidance

I. Emergency Planning/CHECKLIST
--1. Engine full/partial failure
--2. Nav/com full or partial failure
--3. Ceiling/visibility low/lowering

J. Arrival at Destination/CHECKLIST
--1. Airport in sight-CLOSE FLIGHT PLAN
--2. Fill in flight log
--3. ATA, fuel consumption
--4. Self-analysis of flight -% grade?

2. Accuracy of altitude/navigation/headings
3. Competence of communications

K. What if...Planning

--A. No VOR/ATIS/com
--B. Unable to understand
--C. Disoriented/confused-The 4 C's
--D. Assistance desired/required
--E. Weather problems/alternatives
--F. Use the radio if in doubt; if in trouble declare an EMERGENCY.

En Route in Brief
The pre-departure self-briefing suggests that the pilot should talk through or even walk through the flight. This is even more vital for the inexperienced pilot or where the flight breaks new ground for the experienced pilot. Make a frequency list of all the frequencies you expect to use in the order you expect to use them. Mark up your sectional with lines that can be seen, magnetic course arrows, checkpoints, VOR radials, frequencies, pattern entries, obstacles and altitudes. Weather, fuel, and aircraft factors are mentally and even orally reviewed. Before entering the aircraft point the direction you expect to fly and recognize that you may be several miles off course on departure unless you manipulate ATC (ask for a 270 overhead) to your benefit.

1. Do not fly straight for a course checkpoint point during the climb out. The aircraft nose will obscure it.
2. Should your problems in maintaining height and heading become because of an attacking cloud or aircraft, turn away immediately and intercept your course as soon as possible.
3. If everything is going well, expect the instructor to come up with another problem or thing to do.
4. Any small checkpoint will have several larger similar cousins nearby.
5. When planning the x-c, choose checkpoints that are exactly the same distance apart. You should adjust the distances to get as many visual points as possible. Use VOR radials where visual points don't fit. The in flight calculations and ETA's are made easier and you get to keep your head out of the cockpit more
6. If you don't write out what you expect to say in every situation prior to the flight, you will have radio communication problems of your own making.
7. For cross-country flying have an emergency kit. Take appropriate emergency clothing. Become familiar how various parts of the aircraft can become useful in emergencies. Develop a checklist of necessary, nice to have, and luxuries for every type of flying you expect to do. The longer it's been since you flew cross-country, the more preparation you need to do.

VOR Sensitivity Check
Required knowledge:
Each dot is 2-degrees of arc.
Center needle and read OBS
Turn OBS two degrees either way.
Sensitivity check:
Needle should deflect exactly one dot

Route Selection
You can never gain too much practical knowledge about flying. Every pilot has an internal voice that we can all put to use. This voice rises internally. It is asking a question about the wisdom of a developing situation. The pilot who does not heed this voice is just looking for trouble.

Along with route rises the question of altitude. Stay low when winds are against you and fly as fast as you can. The effect on flight time will be reduced but fuel planning can be critical. Fly high when winds are with you and at reduced power. Take advantage of the higher true airspeeds up high. High flights will usually be smoother. High increases your emergency options many fold. Fewer planes fly high so traffic becomes a risk less than chances of winning a lottery. Higher gives greater fuel efficiency and higher true airspeeds.

You should have guidelines for taking or not taking precautionary routes. Most often it is possible to take something less than a direct route that provides a modicum of comfort. The voice that warns against a direct route should be heeded.

You may hear the term 'Class 1 Navigation' used in certain texts. This form of navigation is any flight that is flown using VOR, VOR/DME. or ADF. Flight may be IFR or VFR so long as it conforms to ATC separation minimums and within service volume requirements.

Less Than Perfect
The challenge of a new pilot in making a cross country is to keep track of time, speed, course, altitude, distance, fuel, weather, checkpoints, navigation frequencies, communication frequencies, ETAs and ATAs. All of these form the mosaic of a cross-country flight. The actual flying of the aircraft must be reduced to a non-factor. The periodic check of engine gauges and instruments is a part of every checkpoint checklist. The operational factors involved in climb, cruise, and descent are known and anticipated factors. Keeping the plane on course, at altitude, is a continuous element of the cross-country. The student should expect for the instructor to be in constant awareness of any deviations and in a constant reminder mode to set things right. In VFR conditions things can be 'kept right' while keeping your attention outside the cockpit up to 75% of the time.

The planning that takes place before the flight to a great extent determines how successful the flight will be. The preparation of the flight log and the transfer of essentials to the sectional makes it possible to keep things in order. Important in the order of things is getting the times of takeoff, checkpoints, and arrivals. It is during these times that the cockpit load begins to overwhelm the new pilot. Much of this will fall into place when the radio work is better understood and organized. The nuances of communications are quite varied and distinctive.

Tower and ground communications require no lead-in contact. Radar facilities require such a lead-in only on initial entry into the system. Flight service stations require that the lead-in include the frequency being used. Flight Watch requires that the lead-in include only the name of the nearest VOR. Keeping what to say straight takes considerable practice. Only by using opportunities, can we get the requisite practice in keeping words in order. Only exposure builds confidence, decreases apprehension and leaves no room for complacency.

Plan your flights according to your experience. Avoid rough terrain and bad weather until you gather enough experience to reduce the stress and tension of such flying. Learn to record your flights on charts so that you can review the locations of airports, checkpoints, and options. Do not take a flight that makes you uncomfortable.

Make your flight along an airport vicinity route if at all possible. There are 'Things to Have with you'. Have available those things which may be needed. Screwdrivers, screws, pliers, wire, crescent wrench, electrical tape, duct tape. Oddly enough, I have most often needed these items for other pilots in need. A supply of quarters and a cellular phone often come in handy. Many airport pay phones will not allow incoming calls. There is little to be gained by flights that challenge terrain or distance from airports.

Know your airplane, the cockpit, deficiencies, and systems. Go to a more experienced pilot and have the risk factors analyzed. Flying early in the day is better for most of the year. Don't fly at night into convective conditions. In rough weather slow to Va, tighten your belts, turn up your cockpit lighting, keeps the wings level, don't use autopilot, do not turn around, trust your instruments, maintain attitude not altitude.

There is nothing routine about a routine flight. Routine is your enemy. Routine is a trap leading you into feelings of security and about factors that may not continue. Nothing about an airplane should we consider, routine.

Making a mistake is permitted and to be expected as long as it is recognized and corrected. An unrecognized mistake invites all its relatives to the party. Every flight has multiple opportunities for error to be compounded by error. The better we avoid the initial problem the easier it makes the next step and the avoidance of the next problem. Good risk-management decisions are made on the ground. Knowing answers is only part of the solution. Knowing when to get another opinion is another part. Knowing where to go for the opinion is salvation. Most flights are less than perfect; yet they arrive safely and without damage. Those pilots who do not learn from their mistakes are most likely to meet the same ones again when they bring their relatives.

The 30-minute fuel reserve requirement of FAR 91.151 could be considered an emergency reserve but you do not need to declare an emergency to use any of it. If you have dipped into the 30-minute reserve and you have reason to believe that some FAA type has become aware of it, you might be well advised to file a report.

The required report is available by mail or online. Write the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System at PO Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189. If the incident was unintentional such a filing will get you off the FAA hook. The report must be delivered within ten days. The form is not as important as the message.

In many respects the way you fly should emulate the way a good driver takes a trip. When flying below the 3000' AGL hemispheric you might elect to fly Easterly at 2700 or 2300, with Westerly flights at 2200 or 2800. You'll be surprised at the number of aircraft flying just a bit above and below you. Above that altitude, I have found gradual climbs and descents a practical traffic avoidance practice. You should fly to the right side of roads, rivers, valleys, and airways. Even airways go east and west; odd airways go north and south just as roads do. Avoid VORs and popular prominent reporting points. The actual flight should be anticlimactic, if it isn't then the unexpected and unplanned elements will add to the reservoir of information available for the next flight.

En Route Fuel
When fuel tanks read empty the FARs say you must be out of gas. Before reading empty you may have reached a minimum fuel condition. Minimum fuel means you must proceed to a landing without delay. If you should reach a low fuel state, give ATC a minimum fuel advisory. This is not an emergency and does not give priority ATC handling. If you require priority you must declare an emergency. The AIM says that when you have reached the minimum fuel level that requires priority handing you should declare an emergency. This means the FAA will probably investigate to see if you have the required minimum fuel aboard for day or night. All of these 'problems' can be avoided by never passing by an opportunity to add fuel. AIM 5-84

There are at least six fuel exhaustion or mismanagement accidents a month. Fuel exhaustion is running out of fuel. Fuel mismanagement is having fuel aboard that is not getting to the engine. Even sight fuel gauges are capable of errors. Even with full tanks it is best to figure only 95% fuel aboard for range calculations. The FARs require that the stated fuel capacity of a tank be accurate at full within plus a half-gallon and minus zero. Add 20% to fuel burn for first hour of flight and 5% for every hour after. Be doubtful about cruise performance. Ignore the effect of any tailwind below 10 knots. Over 10 knots of tail wind cut its effect by half. Multiply the effect of any headwind by 1.25.

The aircraft performance figures are adjusted for the FAA standard day before entry in the POH. Prior to 1970 most handbooks acquired their performance figures by stripping all possible weight from the aircraft. Even now it is safest to make a 20% change on the safe-side for anything given in the POH. The aircraft is no longer new and dirt accumulated over the years will affect performance.

The range of your aircraft will be determined by flight-time. Flight-time is limited by fuel amount, less reserve, and rate of consumption. Maximum-endurance speed is your best glide indicated speed flown at minimum power (about 40%) required to maintain altitude. This indicated speed, for safety should not be less than 1.3 of stall speed. This keeps you in the air the longest but to go the farthest you must fly on about 55% power. From 65% to 75% power you get your optimum cruise speed. Take your maximum range speed from the POH (best glide speed) multiply it by 1.3 and you get the optimum cruise speed. Be sure to convert all calibrated speeds to indicated speeds for practical use.

Cross country flight situations are dynamic, and your ability as a pilot to recognize and react depends on how well you can think about what might happen and making your decision accordingly. Like many flying skills, your ability to plan a cross-country is a gradually acquired skill. With experience you will enter into the cross-country equation a completely new set of factors.

Winds are not fair to pilots or airplanes nor do they flow according to the laws of probability. Any tailwind will never save as much time as a headwind will lose. You can negate some of the effects of headwinds by flying lower, with more power and earlier in the day. You can use tailwinds by flying higher and later in the day. I once flew with a tailwind that gave me a ground speed of 175 knots at 5500' and immediately flew back at 1000' AGL at speeds often below 120.

Going Further Faster
--Maximum range is determined by how well you optimize cruise performance.
--Engine power is proportional to fuel flow.
--Fuel flow is proportional to engine power
--Maximum range varies with weight at a particular angle of attack.
--Maximum endurance varies with weight at a particular angle of attack.
--Maxim range is mostly independent of altitude.
--99% of maximum range is achieved by flying 7% above maximum range speed.
--Maximum range speed must be adjusted for wind.
--Maximum range is achieved by flying at greatest lift to drag ratio.
--Make a plot of miles per gallon of all TAS in altitude range to be flown. Convert selected average TAS to average CAS to IAS
-- Maximum long-range cruise of C-172 is 88 knots.
--1% reduction in weight, reduces required thrust 1%, increases range 1%, and decreases required speed by 1/2 %
-- As aircraft weight decreases power must be lowered.
--Maximum endurance is obtained at lower altitudes.
--Fly faster into headwinds. Make no changes until wind velocity exceeds 25% of maximum range speed. Then for every 5 knots increase or decrease speed by 2 knots.
--Fly slower with tailwinds. Take one knot off TAS for every two knots of tailwind. Do this only until Maximum range speed is reduced by 20%.
--Wind determines a preferred altitude but generally the higher you fly the better your range.
--True airspeed increases about 1% or 2%for every 1000'.
--For short flights it is not economic to fly high because of time to climb factor.
--When time to climb is over 15% of enroute time fly lower.
--If a headwind reaches 20 to 25% of your true airspeed, increase your speed but expect decreased range.
--To stretch your range, slow to maximum range speed.
--You can fly across the U.S. at 10,000 feet and only be within gliding distance of an airport for 400 miles.

Density Altitude
High altitudes, high temperatures and moisture create high-density altitudes. Engine power, propeller thrust, and wing lift are reduced by these factors. High-density altitudes require higher true airspeeds for rotation, liftoff and climb thereby using more runway and having a shallower climb. Even turbo powered gain only in power. All other aspects of density altitude affect aircraft performance.

Don't fly with full fuel from high-density airports. Like a good horseman, do not ask of your flying steed something that it cannot do. An airplane that is not ready to lift off should not be forced into the air. In a density situation carry extra airspeed into your liftoff to avoid getting behind the power/lift curve. Airspeed is your friend in a climb over obstacles. Land before entering unfamiliar territory and seek local advice. Making repeated load limited flight is always a good option. In a high density situation the pitch attitude will be lower the greater the weight and the higher the density.

A go-around in high-density conditions requires full power. In high density conditions full power means use of throttle, carburetor heat, mixture and configuration to achieve maximum performance. Even in a maximum performance configuration it is necessary that pitch attitude allow this performance. A pitch that is too high makes it impossible for the POH Vref speed to be achieved. Forcing the plane into a climb will not work. Getting behind the power curve in a high pitch attitude requires that altitude be sacrificed to acquire the necessary speed. At some airports a go-around may not be possible.

It may be that there is no altitude to be sacrificed. Be prepared to fly close to the ground and close to obstacles in preference to pitching too high. Landing on remaining runway and sliding to a stop may be preferred to an out of control off airport ground contact.

Density landings require that you factor in the fact that true airspeed will be higher. Every 5 knots of excess airspeed will extend landing distance by 10%. For every 5 knots of tailwind add 20% to takeoff distance. Never takeoff if going toward upslope terrain with no room for turns. Don't fly in winds over 20 knots. Simulations of density altitude power for takeoff and climb can be done. Limit sea level power to 75% of available power. Reduce power 50 rpm for every 1000' of takeoff elevation. Double the POH takeoff numbers and halve the climb.

Flying in Density Altitudes
1. Fly very early in the morning
2. Fly light (20% less weight improves performance 36%)
3. Use the mixture control for best performance

The Last Leg
The last leg of any flight is on a mileage basis the most dangerous because of several factors. Fatigue contributes to breakdowns in checklist use, procedures and attention. Some inattention is to be expected at the end of a long flight. Along with inattention is misinterprets of instruments. You 'forget" to change frequencies, add or remove flaps, use carburetor heat, or raise/lower the gear. Get-Home-itis makes you want to go faster. While get-Home-itis can affect any pilot it is much more likely to become even more dangerous when coupled with fatigue.

The last leg often takes us "home" and into familiar terrain. Complacency has inherent dangers. At "home" we experience a psychological letdown that can lead to error, embarrassment or hazard. We "know" what to do, what to expect and are able to relax at last. Pilots on the last legs of flights have frequently cited the psychological letdown in vigilance and cross checking as a precipitating cause for a last leg accident. Complacency is identified only in post-incident reflection. No one is immune to complacency.

Fatigue is insidious. Compounded by a sleep deficiency we find a progressive impact upon alertness and attentiveness. Avoid extended flight-time if you have not eaten and rested. You should plan a rest stop for every few hours of flying.

A most neglected part of flying is the arrival. As soon as a cruise altitude has been selected the pilot should begin planning the arrival. The ideal is that the arrival should occur with a minimum of control and power changes. From the Sierras a cruise descent of 2-300 fpm should begin shortly after crossing the summit. Since most student arrivals occur in the 2-3000' range we acquire experience and "know" when to start down. Always try to turn altitude into airspeed for best economy.

Avoid descents over 500 fpm by initiating descent early. On the other hand, don't begin so early that you spend too much time beyond safe gliding range of suitable landing sites. The choice is often a compromise. Make your choice on the safe side. Wind is an additional factor. Your descent gradient will be affected by the headwind or tailwind component. Your descent gradient is a factor of ground speed not airspeed. Arriving too high and feeling that you 'must' pull the power to get down is going to be damaging to the engine by shock-cooling the cylinders. The bimetal composition of the cylinders will cause them to cool at different rates. Rapid cooling causes warping and separation of the two metals.

To compute your descent rate and point you must first select a descent speed that you will use and the amount of altitude to the pattern altitude of your destination. Next determine a desired rate of descent that will be an efficient trade of altitude for airspeed. A descent of 90 knots covers 1 and 1/2 miles a minute or 3 miles every 2 minutes. Descending 250 fpm will lose 500' every three miles. Begin descent 18 miles out to lose 3000', 9 miles out to lose 1500', 4.5 miles out to lose 750'. This becomes relatively easy if you have DME, LORAN or GPS capability.

Initiate any descent at a fixed rate (400 fpm)for one DME mile, you will lose 2800' in seven miles. For an airport that is 8 miles away you should always be in gliding distance on reaching pattern altitude. ATC surprise requirements or sudden recognition of destination airport that requires slowdown, gear down, get down. You can avoid the problem by knowing where you are and what to do in a timely sequence. Wind is a factor since a tail wind will shallow your descent slope just as it does in landings. Headwinds allow steep descent. All descent profiles are based on ground speed.

Pilotage is a big part of the practical flight test. The oral will check your map reading skills. The flight will check how well you follow your planned course and relate landmarks to the sectional. Some pilots find pilotage easier than others do due to better spatial relationship skill or ability. Pilotage can be learned. It is a matter of instruction, attention and desire. Pilotage is a low-tech system that began with the Wright brothers. Pilotage tends to fly less than direct routes. Good pilotage will always get you where you are going. The backup for pilotage is dead reckoning.

Pilotage requires that you have a prepared route on a sectional, a compass, something to write with and a plan of how to used them if your electronic navigational devices fail. The spontaneous use of pilotage will not have numbers for deviation or variation, ETA, and fuel consumption.

Altitude makes pilotage easier if you are not trying to use railroads. Railroads become difficult to see at higher altitudes unless in desolate and isolated areas. Checkpoint selection is quite different day to night. If you can manipulate your selections so that the spacing between points are equal except for the first one after departure you can figure ETAs in your head by timing the first full checkpoint leg. I have proven this method to students who use variable distances as being both easy and accurate. Whenever possible at least three references should be used in the selection of a checkpoint. VOR or ADF may count as one.

Your pilotage flight will point the aircraft in a direction that you believe will take you to a given point on the route. You will make any changes in direction required to get there. Your compass heading is adjusted for wind as required to follow the map line. All information related to magnetic course, time, equal spaced checkpoints, and ETA is written directly on the map. The map and the ground are your references. Getting lost is bad. Running out of fuel is worse. Missing a checkpoint by five minutes means that something serious is wrong.

Since the line on the map goes from the middle of your departure airport, you will make a 270 departure or whatever it takes to make your initial course correspond with the center of the airport. Sight to and fly to your first checkpoint. If visibility is poor, select halfway points to keep you on course. Don't time checkpoints for ETA purposes until you are at your cruise altitude. Once on course make heading changes as required to correct for wind and to keep you on line. Flying exact headings makes pilotage easier. The longer the distance between your checkpoints the more important exact headings become. If you find yourself off-course, make the heading change needed to get on course immediately. Once on course select a new heading to keep you on course. For each checkpoint space you should note both the heading and ground speed. If the spaces are equal then the ETA is just a matter of counting spaces. You don't even need the E6B.

I have been flying with a pilot whose aircraft had every instrument and goody you would ever want. So I make him fly pilotage. Pilotage is fun and you get to see things you would otherwise never see. If you can see the ground you can use pilotage. The most difficult aspect of pilotage is associated with locating airports. Even large airports can be difficult to see. New runways are relatively visible. Older runways blend in with the terrain unless the local foliage provides contrast. Green runways in green fields are practically invisible. One of the advantages of giving student pilots opportunity to fly as observers. Give them a sectional and help them to find airports along the route.

Orient the sectional in the direction of travel so checkpoints will be properly positioned. Look for features that will provide continuous orientation. Look for crossing features that extend well to each side of your route and especially one past your destination if you fly too far. Time your crossing features so as to keep track of fuel, distance and ground speed. Every landmark is a potential checkpoint but it may not be a good checkpoint. Look for the prominent and unique chart and land feature that you can expect to see while flying. The science of checkpoint selection and verification must be taught, learned, and developed by each pilot. Being proficient at pilotage is a parachute to be used if all else fails. Most of all pilotage is an enjoyable skill to practice.

A common pilotage fault by the inexperienced pilot is to descend to better see. You can easily lose the big picture close to the ground. Select a call-up feature prior to your destination that is prominent enough to let you locate the airport. Misplaced or lost can become a problem. Climb. Relocate yourself at your last known crossing feature. Use the radio. Do not fixate on one point to the exclusion of verification points. Lakes change shape and size during the seasons.

For pilotage always keep the sectional oriented to the direction of travel. Look in the distance for a course reference. Find a terrain feature that will take you there. A river, road, ridge, whatever. Keep a time record on the sectional as each major feature is passed. If you get misplaced you will be able to back track. If you have a destination that is itself hard to locate use a practice known as aiming off. Fly to a prominent landmark close to your destination and then aim off that to your destination. In addition, have an identifiable landmark near your destination that will aid in its location.

Were landmark configuration allows by having extended rivers, waterways or roads a landfall system may be used. This means that where you are going is somewhere along a selected road. You deliberately fly off course enough to be sure that on reaching the landfall road you will know which way to turn to your destination. Not very pretty, but very simple.

Efficiency Flying
Aside from the safety aspect of always flying to the right side of valleys, you can gain performance by flying on the downwind side of a valley if the wind is blowing across the valley. You can gain altitude and performance by flying along ridges where the air will be rising.

Years ago I chose to fly rather than drive for my gliding lessons some 50 miles away. From my first couple of lessons I learned that flying the plane on the windward side of the hills would save me at least ten minutes as opposed to flying in mid-valley. There is questionable value in maintaining altitude when in a downdraft. This only prolongs the time in the downdraft. Far better to increase power and accept the loss of altitude since it gets you through the downdraft more quickly. Likewise, take the altitude that an updraft gives you. This is free energy that can be traded for speed at another time.

Dead Reckoning
At some time during your training you should go under the hood and use dead reckoning to navigate to some obscure destination. At one time there were no clocks capable of the accuracy required to measure longitude. Longitudinal distance was measured by dropping a log dead in the water. A rope with knots tied at regular intervals. By letting the rope flow by as the ship left the log behind and an minute glass on the ship's rail the speed of the ship could be calculated as being so many knots of speed. This data was recorded into a logbook. The effects of winds and water could only be guessed at. Dead reckoning is the basis of all navigation, even that of LORAN and GPS.

Dead reckoning is based on Speed x Time = Distance. The calculations must begin from a known starting position in a known direction. In a no-wind-flight this can be quite accurate. A no-wind-condition is rare. Usually an estimate is made from available forecasts. Since winds have both direction and speed, dead reckoning accuracy is entirely dependent on how lucky the navigator is in getting forecasts and actual winds to agree.

If the flight-planned route allows additional fixes to be determined then new plotting and measuring will be required. This recalculation includes figuring the actual wind speed and direction as it differs from the forecast. The re-figuring will require a new wind correcting heading and ETA based upon the aircraft actual ground speed, heading, and altitude.

You do not need an E6B or other aviation computer to do the figuring. A protractor, ruler, and pencil will be sufficient. Correctly used these will allow you to draw vectors proportional to the directions, distances and speeds of the six essential elements.

Wind: Wind direction from) and speed will be the shortest vector. True course is the line direction on the sectional. True airspeed is obtained from the POH for a selected power setting and altitude. Joining these two vectors will form an angle measuring the drift effect of an hour's wind on an hour's true airspeed. Joining the open ends of the vectors will give a ground speed per hour vector and a required wind correction angle. Since the wind is drifting the aircraft to the right the heading angle required to correct this drift must be to the left.
Vector line
Line Ground Speed
Line Wind Correction Angle


Sectional, compass, watch, known starting point, destination, forecast of winds aloft, and calculation of wind correction angle.
Time, distance, heading, put all information on the sectional


An understanding of wind drift, wind correction angle, ground speed vs. airspeed. DR does not often allow a pilot to update his position as will pilotage. Errors in direction will accumulate at a rate of 1 mile for every 60 miles of distance multiplied by every degree of course error. Lindbergh was lucky.

Every pilot should make a point to hone pilotage skills by occasional flights into unknown territories at low altitudes. Total reliance on electronic aids will weaken both pilotage and dead reckoning skills. The next time you make a flight with one or more other pilots have some sharing of the flight legs. The flying pilot under the hood but doing all preflight dead reckoning planning. A suitable reward or punishment can be given at the end of the flight.

VFR Over the Top
Most areas of the world do not allow VFR over the top. VFR over the top is legal in the U. S. for private pilots. Student pilots are not allowed to fly where they cannot see the ground below. The student pilot is required to have the ground in view at all times. This requirement was not always so but as with most FARs it took accidents to make the rule.

Once you have your pilot's license VFR over the top is allowed. Weather permitting your instructor will place you into a VFR over the top. There are occasions when the entire California Central Valley is one huge blanket of fog. For flights up and down the valley the safest options are down the sides. The VFR only pilot should recognize the options limits that exist in crossing flights. Even an IFR capability may be of little use if the underlying airports are below minimums. Always keep in mind the location of relatively high-altitude airports and fly a surveillance approach at some time with an instructor.

Finding Yourself
Getting disoriented or momentarily misplaced happens to everyone. Nights even in familiar areas can be confusing, reduced visibility any time can cause all the confusion. Being lost completely disrupts the ability of a person to be either systematic or logical in dealing with the problem. I have been lost late at night in the middle of San Francisco on foot both as a child and as an adult. I have been lost driving mountain roads and desert roads. I have been lost on a mountain in the mid-morning. Being lost is a frightening and disconcerting experience. The hazards of being lost in an airplane are no better and can be much worse.

I have been misplaced a couple of times in an airplane. Once on a trip to Salt Lake from the Bay Area I flew off the edges of my sectionals and found the expected VOR out of service. I made a wrong turn years ago down a branch of the Grand Canyon and came up for air over 60 miles from where I expected to be. I did a 100-mile low-level scud run in the western desert of Nevada that was only salvageable by the use of GPS. In other words I have been there, done that and survived because I always had sufficient fuel reserves to salvage the situation. Without fuel the only option when lost is to land while you still have fuel for selection of a landing site.

The worst kind of being lost is having various forms of communication and navigational failure. Without handheld navigational and communications backup a total electrical failure reduces your options for finding yourself. The four C's do not work in these situations. Next worst is to fly without charts for the area you are flying over. Even when you see something, you can't give it a name or orient it in relation to other features without a chart. Even an out-of-date sectional could be useful. As with learning to fly in airplanes that are too easy to fly, so does reliance on LORAN or GPS reduce the opportunities to develop and practice pilotage or dead-reckoning. These skills have been much a part of aerial navigation before GPS. Only by continual exercise, can these skills be nurtured and refreshed so situational awareness is a function of visual reference to the ground. An additional factor, often omitted, is the use of time references to aid in orientation and location skills.

Avoid jumping on one feature, no matter how large as the sole determiner of your location. Try to work a route so that every checkpoint has at least three references. Becoming lost is going to be less and less likely in the future with moving map GPS. On the other hand, being lost without the use of GPS is going to be a traumatic experience.

Lost Procedures
Denial, anger, acceptance, resignation and one other that escapes me are the mental/emotional stages that a person is supposed to go through when suffering from a terminal illness. Much the same stages occur when a person in the process of becoming lost. Becoming lost grows from hints, a sense of uncertainty, inklings of uneasiness, unwillingness to accept, acceptance, and finally a form of mental paralysis.

There are two kinds of pilots, those who have been lost and those who may expect to be lost. Perhaps the line should be changed to those who use GPS and those who don't. As a pilot who expects to get lost you should now develop a plan for what to do when lost. Such a plan should initially depend on your own resources related to points that can be visually recognized, using the chart and compass to aid orientation. Consider diversion to a known alternate by pilotage. Once you are satisfied that you cannot do it on your own, get help.

If ATC does not allow a request you make, don't hesitate to assert your right to suggest another alternative. As PIC only you can determine how best to guide your aircraft. ATC instructions are an important help but only the PIC can select the best of all the alternatives.
--The FARs accepts the right to deviate when you are in an immediate or pending emergency.
--If weather limits your space to evade aircraft, declare an emergency.
--ATC can help if you indicate an abnormal or emergency situation.
--If ATC gives a clearance in conflict with your plans, request a holding delay while you sort things out.
--Carry extra fuel if routing changes are expected.
--ATC can direct you to the closest airport in an emergency.

Thinking Through Being Lost

Do not wait for one difficulty-being lost-to combine with another such as low fuel, weather, night, or whatever. One difficulty by itself is solvable but in combination, difficulties cause accidents. Willingness to communicate on the radio is your best assurance of being helped. Do not totally rely upon prominent checkpoints such as mountains and lakes. Pick a prominent feature and make wide circles. Weather conditions can cause them to disappear. The easy flight in severe VFR can be very difficult in 10-mile visibility. At night, clouds or fog layers can distort familiar light patterns so that even an experienced pilot will become disoriented.

One thinking man's procedure makes a five-column sheet. Column one is "known", two is "Unknowns", Third is "What ifs", fourth is "Options", fifth is "Results". Using this technique may be helpful in keeping you out of the plane in the first place. Disorientation is an occupational hazard of flying regardless of familiarity and experience. Some day or better at night, flying the Bay Area VFR over a thin under cast of fog will make you a believer. Become a believer.

Common Cross-Country Errors:
1. Failure to get time off.
2. Failure to plan airport departure to get established on course as soon as possible.
3. Failure to preset frequencies and plan your communications.
4. Failure to reach first checkpoint and note time and use checkpoint checklist. Failure to reset heading indicator
5. Failure to pick a point/direction as far ahead as visibility allows.
6. Failure to use sectional to maintain course
7. Using checkpoints which are not visible or useable
8. Failure to get time at second checkpoint and to determine actual ground speed.
9. Failure to get ETA and re-estimate at each checkpoint.
10. Failure to maintain listening watch on best available frequency.
11. Failure to be aware of controlled areas along or adjacent to route. This may or may not require action.
12. Failure to see checkpoint that is directly under plane.
13. Failure to climb, or descend, or turn because of situation.
14. Failure to communicate if in doubt.
15. Failure to anticipate heading changes caused by raising plane's nose.
16. Failure to maintain altitude; being satisfied with 100' high or low.
17. Failure to note VOR needle centering for checkpoint.
18. Looking down in cockpit while turning and not looking for traffic.
19. Being insecure in releasing yoke and flying with rudder
20. Descending too soon and making destination difficult to locate.
21. Not descending soon enough to reach pattern altitude at destination.
22. Failing to have checkpoints selected near destination at which to make call-up and descend.
23. Re-trimming during descent which makes leveling off require more than putting in power only.
24. Making several small turns to downwind instead of selecting a heading to turn to.
25. Turning too close to runway on downwind
26. Not knowing where to watch for traffic.
27. Being reluctant to communicate.
28. Continuing to fly toward deteriorating weather instead of making 180 and flying to light.
29. Allowing clouds and terrain to close in on you instead of making 180.
30. Saying, "That's Gotta be..." when it doesn't have to be and probably isn't.
31. Failing to recognize the mentally disabling effect of being lost, in bad weather, and disoriented.
32. TLAR navigation. (That Looks About Right)
33. TGB checkpoints and places ('That's Gotta Be')

Instruction Tips
On dual cross countries the instructor makes a practice of moving his seat to see how long it takes the student to note the change in trim pressure required to hold altitude. He also may put metal up on the dash to affect the compass. If the student can't create enough problems then it is up to the instructor to 'help'. This instructor never looks toward an airport that a student is having difficulty finding. If anything, I look the other way.

Future Automation
With the increased use of automatic pilots, RNAV, GPS and Flight Directors there has been a corresponding increase of incidents resulting from misuse. What follows is a compilation of what causes such problems in aviation computers.

Adverse Results Using GPS or Loran:

--Data Entry
--The instruments have no way of knowing the accuracy of input.
--An incorrect altitude setting invalidates an altitude alert warning.
--Where the operator knows not what to look for or where to find it, there can be no hope for successful interpretation.
--Manual operation can create unwanted effects when the electronics refuses to be fooled.
--System complications lead to unexpected and unanticipated effects.
--Errors multiply augmented by haste, inattention, fatigue, and distraction.
--Improper Mode:
--Putting the correct data into the wrong mode of operation will give surprising effects.
--Situational Awareness
--Usually lost when system operator fixates on a device instead of flying the aircraft.
---System Awareness
--Poor system or operational knowledge of basic systems that may be controlled by automation causes the operator to fail to detect system failures. This is most common in hydraulic and fuel systems.
--Head Down time
--Navigation, traffic, and flying are displaced by fascination with monitor screens.
--Over-Dependence is where the unnoticed failure of one system is corrected. This without input from the pilot by another backup system. This results in surprises at some point. Example would be fuel balance and autopilot wing leveling operation.
--Crew Coordination
--Device function attracts and distracts crew from other responsibility.
--Ability of device to perform reliably causes excessive pilot reliance. Failures are completely unexpected and at the worst possible time.
--Initial and recurrent training which includes operational modes,
--Areas of misapplication, and signs of failure.
--Operating Procedures
--Having an SOP checklist that is used by all is a good way to avoid a problem made by creative operators.

Crew Coordination
A second crew member is and probably always will be required in a fully automated cockpit. The second serves as a backup, shares responsibility, and acts as a safety and systems monitor. The second crew member serves as a dog. The Pilot monitors the automated systems. If he touches anything the dog bites.

Glass cockpit
/R Aircraft equipment suffix now means Required Navigation Performance this allows it to operate with reduced separation. /I means VOR RNAV capable with Mode C Free flight is possible but not practical now. Airways will be replaced by point and go procedures. Routine communications of ATC clearances advisories, and instructions will be into the cockpit will be via a form of email. All navigation will be by GPS and this will be cooperated with complete traffic proximity data on a moving map that will include real time weather. Sources: AEA, P.O. Box 1963, Independence, MO, 64055

Crosswind Correction
A simple way to use the heading indicator for flying the wind correction angle needed to fly a specific wind correction angle and any correction follows:
- Before flight estimate the drift when at 90 degrees to wind by (60 x-wind speed) divided by /TAS - this is called maximum possible drift (MD).
- Line-up on the heading that you are interested in. The drift axis is now 90 degrees to the aircraft and the head/tailwind axis is parallel to the aircraft's axis.
- Mentally put the wind direction in the correct place on the heading indicator.
- Mentally run a line parallel to the aircraft axis from the wind direction location on the heading indicator to the drift axis, this divides the axis into two parts,
- By using the length of the whole crosswind axis as being the maximum drift, the inner part is the drift fraction
- The fraction of maximum drift appearing as a crosswind is the same as the inner drift fraction
- If you repeat this but this time project the wind onto the head/tailwind axis you get the fraction of the wind that is a head or tail wind.
- For navigation to a point over featureless terrain always fly less than the calculated drift correction, you then know that the place you want is upwind. When you reach the ETA turn upwind and there will be your destination.

Notes of CA to IL Flight
I planned my 3702-mile trip to Pickneyville and return with this planner. Because of the poor viewing capability of a laptop, I was never able, as a single pilot to use the planner in a plane. I found that I never needed sectionals. I used WAC charts and AF/Ds. I did buy VFR Area Charts as needed.

Here's what I was able to do with the Planner. Using a map from the program of the entire U.S. I could snap a line from my departure point to my destination. I could then 'rubber-band' all my routes and fuel stops for the flight.

There is an elevation slider that allows you to select the altitude over the entire leg or flight that gives you the terrain clearance you want. All routes and legs have magnetic directions and distances just by clicking the cursor. I did not use the DUATS or weather overlays on this flight.

I can't begin to describe all the different charts, displays and information that the Planner makes available. One of the more interesting items is a plane that follows the route. I made 16 fuel stops land purchased 375 gallons of fuel over a distance of 3702 over 6 days. I spent the better part of three days at Pickneyville. On my first day I flew eleven hours and on my fifth day I flew twelve hours. I flew a total of 42 hours. So 23 hours were divided between my arrival, departure and the last day getting home.

Looks like I'll be writing about my trip for months. I had planned to make the entire trip VFR. I let the big storm go through and then fell in behind it. Caught up to it outside Salina, KS and had to go some pretty heavy IFR in rain. No plates but it was not a problem since ATC gave me all the essential information.

I did use ATC Flight-Following all legs except the one leaving Kansas City to Pickneyville. The ceiling was so low that they couldn't paint me with their radar. The final leg home from Bakersfield was so familiar that I just pointed the airplane.

My point is related to the turbulence topic in that under VFR conditions ATC will give you plenty of latitude as to altitude and heading. All last night and today until I got to Bakersfield all the airliners were trying to get free of any turbulence. At my 8500 feet I just let the bounces come and go and only occasionally did I really try to hold altitude and heading. My HI seemed to be processing more than usual and then I would work at flying the plane.

The last two hours of my arrival into Tucson was in desert night VFR conditions. This means that you are better off flying with the instruments. It was turbulent due to 'chop'. No big bounces but plenty of small turns and bounces. Since I was VFR I let the plane have its way while every airliner was trying to find a place that would keep drinks on the tray.

This morning, I had a situation in Tucson that clearly illustrates that the problem of taxiing at an unfamiliar airport never goes away.

First, I had landed at midnight. The airport was a sea of colored lights and the runways and taxiways twice as wide as I am used to. On landing a left turn was all it took get to a tiedown.

Got about four hours sleep and went to the airport before light. Forgot to recharge my laptop so I had to plan my flight to Blythe, Bakersfield and home the old fashion way. On paper and using a chart.

I still managed to begin taxiing before daylight. The runways and taxiways at Tucson are undergoing 24-hour continuous construction and repair. The available routes must change every day. The airport diagram that I had was of no use because of its quality and the darkness.

I am given at least five different taxi instructions as a machine-gun burst. I am told to taxi toward the west from the non-movement area out to the first taxiway and turn left and then turn right at Alpha 6 to cross the inactive runway and then turn right on the unlit taxiway... By then I gave up even trying to keep up. They had no meaning for me so I ask for a progressive taxi.

I got on the first taxiway but missed turning at taxiway Alpha 6. By the time I got to Alpha 7 I knew I had a problem and just stopped until I could get some help. First I was instructed to make a 180 back to Alpha 6 and the told to hold and wait for a field truck with flashing lights that was going to escort me through the maze until I had only one way to go...straight.

By the time I reached the runway end I had done a rolling run-up and was ready to go...just like the big boys.

An interesting side to this is that after getting the ATIS I had called Clearance Delivery. The tower had only one person up there as I later realized. I had taxied, was cleared for takeoff and handed off the Approach all the time on the Clearance Delivery Frequency.

Like finding strange airports, taxiing on a strange airport will never get easy. The important thing is to remember that being ready and willing to get help is a sign of competence. A failure to get help when you need it is a sure sign of incompetence. Never be afraid to ask for help. When in doubt, use the radio.

Advice to a Cross-Country Student
I had some instructional recommendations to a student who emailed me about a flight he had made. He had flown the flight once with his instructor and again solo. What follows is what I suggested.

I would have flown a straight line from SJC and Columbia I'm presuming that you took off on 29 at SJC and that you were climbing to 5500. I left there only last week and requested from clearance a left 270 departure. I didn't get it from clearance but tower gave it to me immediately after takeoff.

The beauty of the 270 is that it allows you to cross right over the airport on your course line and gain at least 2000' in altitude that you would not otherwise have. You can start your departure time right over the field.

I notice that all your checkpoints are visual references without VOR radials as support. Here's what I did for your flight. I drew a straight line and after a bit of checkpoint figuring, I found that I could begin at Columbia and make a combination of VOR radials and checkpoints that were all 12.5 miles apart. I pulled the first two radials working backwards to SJC, off of Linden (114.8) 100-degrees and 170 degrees, off Manteca 116.0 135 and 197 degrees, Oakland 116.8 at 090 and 112 degrees. This gives you six evenly spaced checkpoints most of which coincide with the visual points you selected. Draw it out and see. By timing your flight from the top of Mission Peak to the 3675' peak off the OAK 090 radial you can get your ETA to Columbia just by multiplying the time between the two peaks by five. Sure beats trying to figure separate distances every time. Draw it out on a plain piece of paper and see how it works. Your odd distance is always between your departure point and the first checkpoint.

Notice I avoided Manteca VOR. I do considerable IFR work there and unless you are in contact with Stockton approach it is best avoided. 46% of all near misses occur in the vicinity of a VOR. Of course, if you enjoy playing chicken on freeways....

The third checkpoint ECA 197 and the triangle formed by I-5 and 680 have a very interesting checkpoint just to the right. It is charted as an abandoned airport. Actually it is a bright orange. The old runway is covered with apricot halves drying in the sun. Makes a wonderful checkpoint.

The Ripon checkpoint is also verified by crossing highway 99. Have you noticed that north/south freeways are always odd as are airways and east/west highways and airways are even numbers?

I hope you have been shown how to sight down a rivet line on your wing to time a checkpoint only when your nose is on course. You can make considerable error by timing when crabbed for the wind.

I should have asked more about the altitude you flew and time of day. If you were looking into the sun on your way back to San Jose you must have found it difficult seeing into the sun. Next chance you get either early morning or late afternoon look both ways and notice the difference in visibility. On occasion it pays to over-fly an airport and make your arrival with the sun at your back. Of course, ATC can't see you looking into the sun unless they have radar.

Don't go on another x-country until you are certain you know how to use the VOR both for tracking and as a cross-radial. Look out for such VORs as Concord's is blocked over 90 degrees by Mt. Diablo. I do hope you used Mt. Hamilton as a visual reference for your trip back to San Jose.

Ask your instructor to take you to Salinas and back using only pilotage. No charts, no VOR, just looking at the freeways, cities and hills. When you get back to SJC let him sign your logbook and get out. Go right back by yourself. Don't wait a day. Have him tell ATC that you are coming back so they can look for you. Then do the same thing to Hayward, Livermore and Modesto. Build a large target area where you know all the local checkpoints and airport procedures.

Take an old sectional and make as large a circle around it as you can to the top edge of the chart. Cut out the circle and glue it to a piece of cardboard. Around the circumference put all the magnetic directions every 30 degrees around the circumference. Use this to learn the directions you 'really' fly to places from SJC. How far south can you fly before reaching water? Is Northern California really North? Which way to Half Moon Bay, Reno, L.A. Part of your problem has to be the signs on California Freeways.

Incidentally, I could not find Columbia the first three times I went there without some help.

Management of Fuel
There is one fuel related aircraft accident every week on average. These accidents are due either to fuel exhaustion or mismanagement. Don't believe the fuel gauges. I would suggest that you are best off with a gauge that always reads empty. The eye is the best gauge you can have. Next best is the 'wet' finger test.

Some manufacturers select the most favorable fuel figures they can for the POH by flying with half tanks. This technique throws average cruise speed off, as well. Tail winds do not help as much as the wind speeds forecast would indicate. Cut tailwinds in half for range considerations and headwinds should be expected to be higher than forecast. Add to forecast headwind speeds. Expect your actual flight distance to be at least 2% longer than the line you draw unless you hold headings better than an autopilot.

The first hour of cross-country flight involves for fixed pitch aircraft a climb at more than cruise power. For this first hour you should figure 1.5 times cruise consumption.

You can find the fuel consumption of an aircraft by taking half of the horsepower and dividing by 10.

You can find fuel time remaining by dividing fuel remaining by the rate of fuel consumption

You can compute nautical miles per gallon by dividing miles flown by fuel used.

Logging Cross-country

As long as the first point of landing is more than 50 nm straight line : from your original point of departure, you can log it as xc. Doesn't have to be the first point of landing. There just has to be a landing at a point more than 50 nautical miles to count it as x-country towards a rating or certificate such as private, instrument or commercial.

FAR 61.1 (b) (3) (ii)
Now x-country time is just a flight with a landing at any other airport, so you can log that time as x-country as well.
DON'T count these for time used for a rating.
FAR 61.1 (b) (3) (i)
There's a third definition, if you're going towards an ATP (or ever will) you can log any flight more than 50 nautical miles, but there need not be any other landing, as x-country.

FAR 61.1 (b) (3) (iv)
What you choose to log in the x-country column of your logbook is your choice, but make sure you know which flights fit which definition so you can use them when you need them.

Dallas to Bay Area

Well, completed my ferry trip from Dallas to Concord, CA. This was the first flying my fellow pilot had done in the year since passing his PP flight test and having the FBO fold-up. He had purchased a C-182 in which we were going to work on his instrument rating. Trip took three days during which I exposed the pilot to a number of cross-country experiences that were not a part of his training.

His C-182 had a newly overhauled engine that required relatively important break-in procedures. The most important of these was to minimize the ground time. A specific part was not to cycle the propeller as part of the pre-takeoff. We were expected to maintain relatively high power settings, prevent overheating and to vary the power and RPM settings every few minutes. We made four landings during the flight with the last one being made by the pilot. I made all the departures. What follows is some of the learning experiences he had on the flight.

It took until early afternoon on Tuesday to go through the paper work and run a post flight maintenance check on the overhauled engine. The maintenance check departure was the pilot's first lesson in applied ATC negotiation. When we taxied to the Addison departure runway we were going to be number six in sequence. I proceeded past most of the aircraft waiting at the intersecting taxiways and did my runup where I was behind only one aircraft.

I contacted the tower and indicated to the controller that I had a new engine that required I spend a minimum time on the ground. The controller queried all the traffic waiting and asked if there were any objections to my moving up in sequence. There were no objections. My estimation of Texans soared beyond measure. Just as well I didn't mention my California residence. The controller cleared the aircraft blocking me from the runway, put me into position, and I was number two off.

We headed east of Addison with the intention of giving the engine a half-hour run before returning to pull the cowling. That trip of only 15 miles flew us right into less than 1000' ceilings where we circled over a lake at 700 feet while we watched the engine gauges for indications of a problem. Engine performed perfectly so we headed back to Addison making a point to avoid a TV antenna that reached into the clouds. Pulled the cowling and the engine was bone dry. Went to lunch and departed to the northwest to intercept an airway headed west.

The aircraft had been sitting several months during the overhaul and getting some FAA approvals of some maintenance. We found that some of the radio and transponder frequency/squawk settings were intermittent. We were flying VFR and having some difficulty getting to where the airway was because of intervening clouds. We found a hole and climbed to l0,500' to get on top. We were able to stay on top by making occasional deviations and climbing to 12,500 when necessary. The avionics had been exposed to weeks of rain and damp conditions but became more reliable as they dried out.

The maintenance flight had taken longer than planned. We had run into headwinds that lowered our ground speed into the 120's. I told my friend that our best option was to get fuel. Even though it looked as though we could make Santa Fe we were flying in a strange aircraft and the fuel gauges were giving widely different readings. Our closest airport en route was Santa Rosa, NM. Once again I negotiated some information that prevented what had happened to me a couple years ago when Carlsbad, NM was not staying open as late as their published hours. I asked that Albuquerque Center check with Santa Rosa to make certain that fuel would be available late in the afternoon. ATC did the checking for us and it led to an interesting visit.

Santa Rosa, NM is not a place where you would ordinarily make a planned stop. I recommend that those who would like to visit a piece of living history stop and see Hal Marx. Hal was a WWII Marine Corps fighter pilot and is a person well worth visiting and talking to. At 76 he also puts the fuel into your plane. With full tanks we were on the go again after clearing a fouled plug. We were into Albuquerque in an hour to spend the night. It is just as well for you to plan for extra time and fuel when arriving at a major busy airport because you can expect to be vectored hither and yon to give room to the big boys.

The next morning we planned to leave early but it was well after sunrise before we departed for Las Vegas. This leg of the flight was flown below the clouds and even the morning turbulence made it difficult for my friend to maintain heading and altitude. I believe this departure made him a believer in early morning mountain flying. We stayed below the clouds and the turbulence became worse as the sun rose. (We deviated at Winslow to see the meteorite crater.) The pilot was quite tense and ultimately fatigued from trying to maintain both headings and altitudes. Things smoothed out once we got from under the clouds.

I have been to Las Vegas many times in different ways but I had never arrived by flying over Lake Meade. Using the AF/D I made the call to approach as suggested for the North Las Vegas Airport. He came right back and suggested that I first contact Center and they would use their computer to program my arrival. I went to Center and they soon handed me off to Las Vegas Approach. At 10,000 feet I was above the restricted area of Nellis AFB and the Class Bravo. The problem was to get down. We were given successive altitude restrictions but arrived under the Class Bravo airspace with excess altitude and airspeed.

The visual approach into NLV from this direction is to use the 'space-needle' as an aiming point from which you turn final to runway 3. When I was cleared to land, it was obvious to me that I was too high and too hot. I so advised the tower and they changed my clearance to a right downwind to runway 7. This gave me the needed tome to get down and slow down. It was a 60-year record hot day in Vegas and I took much of the runway to touchdown. Tower gave me my initial taxi instructions before I cleared the runway.

I blew the instructions and when contacting ground was told so. He then in good humor gave me the scenic route which included a U-turn. After parking we checked in, called a cab and went to Fitzgeralds. It was lunchtime so I took my friend to the Main Street Buffet which I have found to be the best in downtown. I never go to the Strip.

After lunch we went back to the hotel where we rested a while before I began teaching my friend my no-win gambling strategy. System worked perfectly and I had soon blown my initial bank in less than half an hour.  Took my victim over to show how the Keno machines could be beaten. I lost. He won for a while. We split up and I went back to the crap table. My system still worked and I used up another bank.

We went to dinner at the Golden Nugget Buffet and he called it a day. I wrote a check and came close enough to even that I was not afraid to go home. The next morning we were at the airport at 6 a.m. I filed a flight plan (first one of the trip) because we would be out of radar contact for a part of the flight between Vegas and Trona over by China Lake NAS. The early start made a difference in the flight conditions. We had to S-turn on climb-out to clear the mountains. I tried repeatedly to open the flight plan using the frequency given by the FSS. Finally I called back to NLV tower and asked that they open it for me. They did so willingly which led me to believe our problem was not unusual. They also gave me a Los Angeles Center frequency to use.

My stay with Center did not last long and I was informed to maintain my same squawk and go to Joshua Approach with the expectation that they would pick me up in a few miles. It worked out just fine. As we approached the restricted area at China Lake NAS, I began another negotiation. The flight from Trona to the East and Lake Isabella to the West can be flown using a route around the restricted area. This adds about twenty minutes to your time. The route is known as the Trona Corridor.

I asked Joshua Approach if they could get me directly through and was told to standby. In a minute I was cleared with a minimum altitude of 5000. The FSS briefer had told me that I would not be able to get through. Another safety device I included on this leg was to file only to Bakersfield even though I was headed for the Bay Area. In the 100-degree weather I wanted a search as soon as possible. By not using Concord as a destination I cut two hours off the search time.

Joshua handed us off to Bakersfield approach and I asked if they could give us a heading for Concord. He remarked that I should use the GPS but gave the heading anyway. I told him that I was showing a student the help that was available just for the asking. We proceeded on a heading of 284 and inside of two hours were on the ground at Concord.

The Wind Is Never as Forecast
Trying to be PRECISE in your navigation is an exercise in futility. The accuracy of wind forecasts, the variables of flight direction from takeoff to being established on course are beyond reasonable calculation.
--In my over 8,500 hours of flight instruction and planning thousands of flights with and for students here is what I have learned.
--Draw a straight line between two airports. For any flight less than 5000' AGL figure the en route time as though you flew the entire flight at your cruise altitude. Then add five minutes to each end of your flight for take off and landing.. You will be within the allowable FAA time which calls for your ETA be ATA + three minutes.
--Your ETA can be corrected throughout your flight if you use the following procedure.
Begin at your destination land working backwards to your departure point make your checkpoint intervals all the same except for the first one after departure. Try to make your departures such that you fly the course line directly over the airport. 270-degree departures work very nicely. This takes some time but is doable. Use VOR radials if you must. Keep your visual checkpoints on the left side as much as possible. Aircraft speed and visibility will require checkpoint spaces to be longer or shorter but always the same throughout. This way you will need only one E-6B setting for the entire flight.
--Try to reach cruise altitude by the time you reach your first checkpoint. Time the flight between the first and second checkpoints. Multiply this time by the number of remaining spaces to your destination and write down the ETA. Time each checkpoint to next checkpoint time and amend your ETA throughout the flight. You are considered to have arrived when you enter the airport pattern at pattern altitude.

--Listening to local ATIS and AWOS is a more accurate way to get current local weather.

California Directional Problems.
---All the roads have odd/even numbers as does the rest of the U.S. with the odds going north and south and the evens going east and west. The airways are numbered the same way.

---But the California Coast is a great curve that causes many of the highways to often go the wrong direction for their odd/even numbers. (Mav be the reason that only 1/4 of all autos moving in CA are not on a road taking them to where they are going.)

---Los Angeles is East of Reno and Northern California is West of over half of the state. Fly South from most any part of California for an hour and you will be over the Pacific Ocean. From SFO you fly North to Reno

---One of the first things I do with a new (to me) pilot is to ask that he point to North. Only rarely are they successful.

---One of my basic instructional devices is that prior to getting into the aircraft the student/pilot should point to where we are going. Being able to do this is a very important flying skill especially in California.

---Are you a pilot who has flown without proper planning who feels that his destination is this-a-way but the airplane persists in going that-a-way. Being lost is the most mentally disabling things I have ever
known. Being afraid of being lost is #2.

---Teaching the skills of getting UN-lost should be taught whenever an occasion arises. For example altitude is the best friend of pilotage.

---The primary skill used by experienced pilots in finding airports is in finding something that tells you where the airport well before seeing the airport. The poorer the visibility the more important this is.

---One of my favorite dirty instructor devices is to turn the HI 30/40 degrees off heading when student is not looking and then have him track to a VOR which does not have a compass rose on the chart.. Under the hood the results are even more interesting.

What's Your Altitude?
"quanghoc" <> wrote in message
The book gave definition for indicated, pressure, density, true, and absolute altitude. But why we need those definition? What are the practical uses for them?

...Indicated altitude is used for traffic separation, and, where reliable altimeter settings can be obtained, as a very poor approximation of true altitude.

...Pressure Altitude is used for Traffic Separation in non-altimeter-setting regions and altitudes (altimeter set fixed at 29.92); plus many POH performance tables use Pressure Altitude plus a temperature correction, instead of Density Altitude directly.

...Density Altitude determines aircraft performance.

...True Altitude and a chart helps determine Absolute altitude and thus terrain clearance. Especially important in very cold weather where True Altitude may be considerably lower than Indicated Altitude.

...Absolute Altitude *is* terrain clearance

1) because questions are on the written and may be on the oral exam

Density Altitude
2) I live at 5500 ft MSL. Today, it's 80F outside. That means the temp is 27C and the density altitude is 8100 MSL. If I want to fly from Denver to Pueblo, I need to be at least 9500 MSL to climb over the ridge line, or 12K density altitude. And today is a nice, cool late summer day. Let's go back to July when we had triple digit days (much like Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico and parts of Texas have all summer ...). All of a sudden at 34C, that 9500 MSL becomes 13.6K density altitude. And that's what the airplane thinks it's flying in. So, what's the service ceiling of the aircraft you're flying? Can it make it? How will this affect your weight load?

Some samples from the TAP performance database of a few of the common training aircraft:

Year Model Service
Ceiling                  Thousands of Feet
1985 Cessna 152     14.7K
1985 Cessna 172P   13.0K
1965 Cherokee 140 11.0K
1981 Warrior II        14.0K
1969 Cherokee 180 15.7K
1989 Archer III        14.1K

So, it's the summer, high altitude, and hot. Do you want to go flying? Is it safe for you to take an airplane and go flying?

Let's consider at sea level the same issue. It's 35C, the density alt is 2100 MSL. You want to climb where it's cooler, say 7500-9500 MSL (I speak from experience flying to OSH this summer. Below 8500 was far too warm for comfort for a 3-4 hour leg). So the density altitude is 11.2-13.6K.

Let me also point out that not only does the airplane think it's that high, its performance corresponds to that altitude (which is the REAL reason to deal with this) and so does your body. Just because the regulations don't require O2 at 9500, your body thinks it's that high and you may be subject to hypoxia effects.
Next question?
MORE Altitudes to come
VFR., VFR, SVFR, Airspace, MSL, AGL, Cloud Clearance, 

Using Google Earth to Pre-fly Your Route
I just discovered that Google Earth has a flight simulator mode! If you press Ctrl G while looking at an area in Google Earth you will put the program in flightsim mode. You can tell that you are in flightsim mode when the cursor changes from a hand to an airplane. Once it is in flightsim mode,
you can control your "aircraft" pitch and bank by holding down the left mouse button, and moving the cursor around the screen. This will also control altitude if you are moving horizontally. To control speed (horizontal motion), hold down the right mouse button and move the mouse forward for faster, and backward for slower. You can reduce your speed to zero (hover) and can even fly backwards!

To return the program to its regular "trackball" mode, simply press Ctrl T. It takes a lot of practice to get used to the controls, but it is incredibly fun to actually be able to fly around an area that looks just like it does in real life. I have just spent the last several hours flying around the area that I live in (southwestern Idaho, USA) and doing touch and goes at local airports.For those who do not know, Google Earth is a program that allows you to access high-resolution satellite photos of many places on earth. It texture-wraps the images around elevations, and you can tilt the point of view from vertical to horizontal as well as rotate it 360-degrees. This allows 3-D movement in a scenery area. This is not computer generated scenery, but actual color photo images of the area, with many areas in high-resolution. You can even find your own house (if you happen to live in a hi-res area).
The good news is that Google Earth is a free download, at There is a free trial period of 7 days, I think.

The bad news - the service costs about $30 a year after that to access the servers that contain the images. In my opinion, it is a program well worth 30 bucks a year though. I spend much more than that each year just on flight sim stuff. Check it out...
Randy L.

Little Known Navigational Ideas.
Make California checkpoints either 11 or 22 miles. Why? because original separation of cities was based upon the distance between stagecoach stations being determined by endurance of running horses pulling a stagecoach..\

Make spaces between checkpoints beginning from the destination all the same leaving only the first between takeoff and first checkpoint as a variable used for climbing to altitude. By timing the duration of flight between the first and second checkpoints it is very easy to determine the ETA for the destination. This is because all the other spaces are the same.

Ignore all times occurring during climb and descent from flights below 5000'. Just figure speed using POH for total distance and add five minutes to the total time. You will just as close as by spending time making exact computations. In addition to making a navigational chart, consider putting Z markers through the course line at every checkpoint. Write in course, ETA on top of Z and ATA on bottom during flight. Use a checkpoint checklist

For flight times below 5000 feet, just add five minutes to your total cruise speed for the distance and you will be within acceptable error tolerance for flight time. You arrive when you are at pattern altitude so you can fudge a bit using it.

On Getting a Vector (2006)
A friend of mine wanted to get his plane from Concord CA to Auburn CA a bit early for his annual to avoid a series of storms shortly to arrive in Northern CA. He called me at 9 A. M and we were ready to depart at 11AM. We planned to make separate departures using ATC radar advisories while monitoring 122.85 if something came up.

I got started out first and waited in the runup areas until my friend appeared to make my departure. We had agreed to fly below 3000' AGL. He flew at 2700 and I flew at 2900 AGL We did not tell ATC that we were together.

At one point I was quired by ATC as to why I chose to fly at 2900. My response was that not very many pilots make a practice of flying such an altitude. and it becamse apparent as we encountered any number of other aircraft flying at 2000;.500 and 3000. It soon became apparent that our
altitude selection was a good idea.

Between Sacramento and Auburn there was a bank of cumulus what got in the way. Since I was in front I made the choice of flying over instead of below the clouds even though the one-minute-weather out of Auburn gave bases of 1500. My choice was based upon the probability of greater turbulence below the clouds while flying into rising terrain. My friend, a few miles behind made the same choice. He had GPS while I was strictly pilotage. Things did not get much better so I advised
ATC that I would descend in VFR and my friend behind did likewise. The GPS made it possible for him to do so right over Auburn but I was about three miles away to the northeast..

Now we come to the point of my contribution. In my descent I became totally disoriented as to where to find Auburn. I immediately advised ATC that I would require vectors on descent below the clouds. I was giving a heading of 264-degrees.

Usually a vector is not so precise so I queried for a repeat. He was right on. With excellent visibility 10-15 miles too low to see the airport runway but I did see the buildings, I continued on that heading. Almost immediately ATC gave me a terrain alert and a collision alert. I was at about 500'AGL and in conflict with my friend who was on downwind. I did not see him until I came out of the ATC recommended left climbing turn for avoidance. When I came out of my turn I was on left base for 25 and my friend was on final. We both proceeded to land with no problem

What I am getting at is that a major block facing most pilots who get into problem situation is not knowing how or when to ask for and get help. My friend with his GPS had no problem. Pilotage alone was not going to work for me under the low ceilings so I used ATC as my 'GPS' and had no problem either.

We met at the restaurant, had lunch and did the planning for the annual soon to depart back to Concord in my plane. I let him fly right seat for the experience. We probably saved him a week's delay in getting his annual.

Moral: You don't need to know everything or to solve all flying problems on your own. The more you know the more willing you will be to ask for help.
Gene Whitt


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