Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pilotage and Dead Reckoning.

The third and final stage of my flight training began today with my first solo cross country flight. I planned a trip from Flying Cloud aiport (FCM) to St. Cloud Airport (STC), a distance of 50 miles. Since I learned some hard and expensive lessons about waypoints and visual navigation, I chose very carefully. Each checkpoint feature was about 4-8 miles apart, and I made sure that I could see the next checkpoint from the current checkpoint. Doing this doesn't really add much to the workload but you always know where you are.

Of course, I'm a man of precautions. Sensible steps were taken to ensure a successful flight. So, I programmed my cheap little handheld GPS unit with a number of nearby airports and used it to verify my route of flight. Now, lest I get accused of relying on a cheap handheld GPS for navigation, relax. I used a sectional chart, waypoints, and VOR triangulation find my way around the Minnesota countryside.

So, the trip was uneventful so I won't bore you with a lengthy discourse on flying from waypoint 3 (Lake with small island) to waypoint 4 (western shore of Pelican lake). But a few interesting things DID happen.

First, when I landed at St. Cloud, 31 was the active runway. Now, this thing is a monster at 7000 feet long and 150 feet wide. As I rolled out the tower said "Warrior Five Two Three Papa Uniform hold short of Five - Two - Three." I read back the instruction but immediately became confused...what the hell did I just say? 5-23 is the runway that crossed 31, but I had to ask for confirmation. "Tower, do you want me to hold short of Five Two Three on runway Three One?" The answer was yes. I was essentially stopped on a runway capable of handling a 757, puttering away in my single engine airplane. The tower said "affirmative, hold short of Five Two Three on Runway Three One." So, that's what I did (it was a helicopter repositioning itself or something).

The second thing was another airplane that, defying the odds, managed to get close enough to cause me to alter my heading and altitude. Luckily I've been forcing myself to scan for traffic more often, and sure enough I saw this guy at 9:00 about 200 feet above me. I was at 3000, descended in a left hand turn to 2500 and watched him fly right over me. I slacked on getting flight following, and that definitely won't be happening again.

The third was when I was entering the pattern for Flying Cloud, I heard on the radio that two T-6 Texans (WWII trainers, kinda look like TBM Avengers) were coming in for a landing, and one was getting a warning horn on his gear. The other guy checked it and said one wheel was coming down slower than the other one, but looked like it was locking down. They flew the pattern a few times and finally the Texan pilot set it down REAL gentle, and it held. Drama, I say!

I'm hoping to complete my long (3.5 hour) cross country flight this week while our good fall weather holds up. I'm toying with a flight to Superior, Wisconsin and possibly Brainerd. Friday is looking good so far.

This is what I have left:

-> Long Solo Cross Country
-> Three (3) Review / Checkride Prep Flights
-> FAA Written Exam
-> FAA Practical Checkride

Hour Totals:

Total Hours: 37
Landings: 87
Solo / PIC: 3.5

Google Earth Track: Short Solo Cross Country
Logshare: Online Logbook

1 comment:

Steve said...

Feel like a pilot now, dontcha? (my best Minnesota impression - I'll be here all week)

Those are some GREAT experiences and learning opportunities. As I've mentioned before due some equally hair-raising close calls, flight following is wonderful. Not that it's a bad thing to enjoy radio silence once in a while either, but it's highly useful on XCs.

I'm pretty sure student pilots technically aren't allowed to accept LAHSO clearances, so you probably could have said "negative, student pilot" when the controller told you to hold for 5-23. On the other hand, you handled it perfectly by confirming the instruction so no harm there.

Good luck on the long XC, it'll be a blast. When do you take your written?