After a couple of weeks of no flying at all, I was able to get in my first true dual cross country flight. I met my CFI out at the airport and we decided to plan a route from KCTJ > 25A > KGAD > KCTJ. We used 25A primarily as a checkpoint and to have more references than a direct flight to Gadsden. This was also the first flight that I used the CloudAhoy iPhone app for as well. I have no idea how that app works, but it captures some pretty impressive data.
We planned the flight manually using a sectional chart, plotter and E6-B, making calculations and completing a VFR flight planning sheet. We also verified our information with FltPlan.com. I was happy to see that my calculations were almost exactly what the online/automated planning stated. I was even happier when I discovered our actual flight times were within about a minute of what we had calculated. All of this helped to verify the ground learning I have been working on. However, there’s no way to replicate how hectic it can be to divide attention in the cockpit and stay ahead of the plane while in flight. I’m sure like everything else in my training, this will become easier with time and experience, but for this flight I had my hands pretty full and was just short of being overwhelmed.
Right as I began to rotate on takeoff, we were hit with a pretty hairy crosswind that seriously weather vaned Big Red. After the initial shock, I was able to make corrections to get us back over the runway centerline. I think my CFI got a kick out of it. Oddly enough, it didn’t bother me as long as I thought it would and I was able to let it go. The flight to 25A (Mcminn) was pretty uneventful, which was a good thing. We worked on pilotage and ded reckoning, constantly identifying and cross checking visual references with the sectional chart. I’m learning more and more what will appear on the chart and what I can’t count on as a visual reference. Arriving at 25A, we almost incorrectly identified Mcminn as a closed airport that was just prior to our checkpoint. However, upon noticing the closure, we immediately spotted Mcminn and proceded on course until we were abeam the airport. The we changed course for our second leg.
There were many more identifiable landmarks on the chart between 25A and Gadsden (KGAD). Major highways, lakes, rivers and towns all helped to confirm that were indeed on course. After reviewing the airport information and obtaining AWOS for Gadsden, we had chosen to land on runway 34. Once we tuned to the CTAF for Gadsden, we learned another pilot was lining up on 26 for departure, so we announced our change of plans and made traffic for 26. The winds were 300@06, so we had a crosswind element on either runway. I misjudged the wind a bit and drifted off the center line just a touch and then proceeded to plunk down pretty firm on the landing. Fortunately, this was a stop and go, so I had plenty of time to take a breather as we taxied back and discussed how to improve on my x-wind landings. I was also able to redeem myself with a good crosswind takeoff.
We did a touch and go prior to departing KGAD for home. As we exited the pattern, we tuned in the VOR frequency for Gadsden to do a little radio navigation. We were able to follow the radial a little over halfway back to Carrollton, before we lost the signal. Our intention was to do some radio work as well. We contacted Atlanta approach to request radar services, but were too far out to be picked up. By the time we were close enough, we had CTJ in sight and notified approach that we would not be needed radar after all.
Back at KCTJ, there was a slight crosswind as we approached runway 35 for landing. The wind was almost right down the runway, but something about trying to correct for it just messed me up. I did touch down with the upwind wheel first, but I also managed to bounce the nose wheel and then wheelie a bit before fully setting it down. Again, my crosswind landings really need some work.
All in all it was a great day of flying. I really like XC flying, although the work in the air is a lot more to think about than I had anticipated. My goal for our next XC will be to focus on staying ahead of the plane, tracking my visual checkpoints and keeping AWOS/ATIS and the next communication frequency queued up in the radios. Now that I know what to look for and how it all feels, I’m hoping this will be a little easier task next time.
- Crosswind takeoff / landings
- Traffic Patterns
- Dead Reckoning
- XC Planning
- VOR Navigation
Lesson Hours: 1.5
Total Hours: 13.4