Up this morning planning my 1st Cross Country (XC) trip; last week weather grounded me twice so it was good to get on with it. I first grab the weather prognostic charts and winds aloft from the official Aviation Weather Center, see below. Starting out I do everything the old way with pen, paper, my chart, and plastic tools such as plotters and rules. After I do my flight log computing my magnetic variation, wind correction angles, magnetic deviation, etc etc. I compute my ground speed, time to checkpoints, and fuel consumption. Then in order to learn the modern devices that I will need to be proficient at latter in my training I plug everything into my electronic E6B flight computer thus checking my manual calculations. Also plugging it info ForeFlight (iPad based professional aviation charting and electric flight bag software) allows me to pull down an electronic flight briefing from the FAA; 37 pages of often coded text covering weather, notices to airmen (NOTAMs), temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) blah blah blah….
The flight was so awesome. Its hard to describe the feeling of cruising at 5000 ft in such a small airplane feeling every shifting wind like an eagle. The view is breathtaking!!!! Later on I’ll have my camera with me but on these first few flights its all business. As with every new step in training as they layer on a new aspect of piloting I become overwhelmed for the first couple hours and then it all falls into place. Until now I had been only dealing with one set of frequencies for traffic control and weather but on XC trips you are always looking ahead, changing frequencies, getting weather and winds, and depending on airspace restrictions communicating with airport towers or ATC (Air Traffic Control). All the while your attempting to keep the airplane on a specific magnetic heading, adjusting for wind drift while timing your travel time between flight log checkpoints and comparing it with your original calculations so that you can stay on course and make adjustments.
All in all a mentally exhausting yet successful and exciting 1st XC trip. Back at Carroll County Regional Airport KDMW, my CFI and I debrief the trip talking over my strong and weak points for the day and ideas on how to improve my cockpit organization and work flow in a way that works for me.
Tomorrow its a solo flight to work on emergency engine out procedures and landings.
“Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air,
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night
There’s no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss …”
“Pink Floyd “Learning to Fly”