Two days after our return to training in the Tri-Pacer with a dual cross country, my instructor endorsed me for my first solo cross country of more that 50nm. Initially, he left it pretty open as to where I wanted to fly. After reviewing the chart and discussing it more, we both decided I would fly back to Gadsden, AL (KGAD). We had flow there during a previous lesson and I was familiar with the route, etc. He met me at the airport to review my planning and to make sure I didn’t have any questions. When he felt that everything looked good, I fueled the plane, filed my flight plans and was on my way.
My intention was to fly the first leg of my cross country at 4500 feet. However, as I climbed towards my intended altitude, I noticed a scattered layer of clouds was quickly approaching. I leveled at 3500 until I was clear of the clouds and resumed climbing to 4500. I attempted to obtain flight following from Birmingham approach, but I wasn’t in their radar coverage, so they instructed me to squawk VFR. Not a big deal, I was just hoping to get more ATC communication in since I wasn’t flying to a towered airport on this trip.
Pilotage and dead reckoning, cross checking my chart and visible ground references got me to my first checkpoint. It however was difficult to spot. Even having flown to it before and referencing the GPS for backup (so I knew I was on top of it), McMinn (25A) was difficult to spot. I knew I was there, so I decided to move on to Gadsden for a full stop. You don't have to fly very far north from 25A for KGAD to be visible. I tuned in the CTAF and listened for traffic. There was so little radio communications that I double or triple checked my frequency to make sure I was on Gadsden CTAF. I attempted to contact UNICOM for airport advisories (primarily active runway, since there was little chatter) to no avail. Winds were calm, so I made my choice, and entered the downwind 45 for runway 24. This was the same runway I had landed on before during a dual cross country, so it looked very familiar. The approach was set up nicely. However, I was still able to plop it in a little firm, flying through ground effect to the runway. This caused a little hop, so I added just a touch of power and brought it in more smoothly the second time she touched down.
As I taxied to the FBO (with some directional help from a couple of helpful guys on the ramp) I saw the DirecTV blimp, stationed at KGAD for the Nascar races at Talladega this weekend. I knew I would have to get a photo of the blimp before departing. The staff at the FBO was very helpful, chocking my plane for me, assisting me to the FBO and showing me around the facilities. Walking into a FBO away from home by myself was a pretty amazing feeling. At the suggestion of my instructor, I asked one of the employees to sign my logbook, signifying that I had indeed landed in Gadsden. I thought this was an excellent idea and I will continue to do this on my cross country flights throughout my training.
FBO ReportNortheast Alabama Aviation, located at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport is a quaint little FBO that offers big time customer services. Upon taxiing onto the ramp, I was immediately greeted by a lineman who assisting me in parking, chocked my plane, and then walked me to the FBO, holding the door as I entered. All of the employees wore smiles and were eager to assist me. There was ample room to sit and relax and a nice computer workstation to double check my return flight plan, etc. There was also a nice conference room that could be utilized if necessary. I was able to stretch my legs, get a drink of water and relax for a few moments before preparing to return to Carrollton.
- Dead reckoning
- GPS Navigation
- ATC Communications
- Solo to a destination!
- Northeast Alabama Aviation FBO
- Northeast Alabama Regional Airport (KGAD) - 51nm