1st Solo Cross Country

This was my first solo cross country XC flight. I flew from Westminster, Carroll County Regional Airport (KDMW) to Chester County Regional (KMQS) via Lake Marburg, Lake Redman, Lancaster (Smoketown Airport S37).

The video is 1 hour 44 minutes. I know I’m the only one watching it all the way to evaluate myself but in case you want to explore the views I have provided a timeline at the bottom of this post so you can skip around.

I had flown some of this route with my instructor but he diverted me to New Garden Airport to practice unplanned emergency diversions.

1st Solo XC 4 Timeline

0:00-1:45 Takeoff from Carroll Co Regional (KDMW).  

02:45 Departing pattern to the east. 

04:50 Approaching a scattered layer of clouds with overcast above. 

07:05 Approaching Lake Marburg Bridge; checkpoint #1. Second camera activated; view out right window. 

09:25 Large scattered cloud layer to left, separation between layers getting closer. Autopilot on altitude mode beeping at me. 

I’m watching clouds closely hoping they don’t get any worse. I planned on 3,500 going east but I am flying at 3,200 feet to stay safely below the overcast layer above therefore the auto pilot altitude indicator is beeping at me. I don’t want to get any lower because I have the Susquehanna River coming up with a power plant and windmill farm but I cannot go any higher due to the clouds. 

13:00 Lake Redman/Dam, Checkpoint 2. I turn on heading to Smoketown Airport (S37). 

17:15 Approaching Susquehanna River. Hwy 30 bridge to my left, wind farm to my right at elbow in river. Dam further down on right. 

At this point you can see me correcting my path so that I cross the river just north of the wind farm almost in the middle of the small island in the river. My path is acceptable but I had definitely drifted south from where I wanted to be. I keep checking my compass against my heading indicator and adjusting my heading indicator off of the compass. The other aircraft that I had flown on cross countries has a better type of heading indicator gyroscopically stabilized and is self-correcting for magnetic drift. In this aircraft do you have to keep an eye on it during long legs if you’re navigating by pilotage. 

This leg is 25 nautical miles with the river being the halfway point which is why I make sure that I correct my path when I cross the river and adjust my heading indicator so that when I get to the end of 25 miles it will be easier to find my checkpoint. 

Thankfully by this point the scattered cloud layer has dissipated and the overcast layer is higher. 

25:10 Smoketown Airport, Checkpoint 3. Lancaster PA off to my left.  

31:30 10 miles from landing at Chester Co Regional (KMQS). 

34:00 Entering pattern for left traffic to Runway 29. You can see runway ahead to left side since I’m enter left at a 45 degree angle at 1,600 feet. 

36:15 at this point I turn final. During my base leg I realize that I’m way off my alignment and a little low. Being the first time I have been to this airport I don’t have the visual cues you have at a familiar airport. I am immediately decided to do the safe thing and simply go around and correct my alignment to make a smooth stabilized descent. 

See my prior post in the last week about why it is so dangerous to attempt to correct a bad turn to final in this situation. I should have set my heading bug to the runway so runway 29 is 290 degrees. That way I can could have stayed parallel to runway in the pattern and would have been lined up. I was aware of the helicopter activity near the far end of the runway because it was broadcast on the radio so I had to make sure I was extra careful. 

37:50 Midfield on my second attempt and this time it’s not perfect but doable. 

39:10 Turn to base runway 29 to land at Chester Co Regional. 

After landing I taxi back to R29 run up area and get reorganized for the trip back. 

50:15 Take off from Chester Co Regional. Reverse Course home. 

54:30 climbing out to planned 4,500 hoping the ceiling has lifted. Current Aviation Weather Report (METAR) indicates it might be possible. 

1:09 Approaching Susquehanna River; Hwy 30 bridge to right. 

I’ve descended to 2,800 ft because I’m heading West and could keep 4,500 with the clouds approaching Lake Redman 

1:24:30 Lake Marburg. 

Westminster Airport recoded weather reporting gusting winds up to 14 kts; hoping that’s incorrect. 

1:36 Approaching Carroll County Regional Airport KDMW. 

1:37:05 entering pattern, runway is off to my left as I enter at a 45 degree angle. 

1:38:12 Turning base

1:39:00 Turning final

1:40:20 Touchdown Runway 16

1:41:00 Taxi to hangers and shut down.

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