Solo Short Cross Country

I flew my short cross country solo back in February during reading week. It was a cold, overcast day with quite a bit of snow on the ground. Having not flown for over two weeks, the first flight of the day was a checkout with Ashley making sure I haven’t forgotten how to fly.

As soon as the check out was complete and we were down I set to getting the weather and doing all the other final flight planning things which needed to be taken care of. The waypoints on this flight were a bit different than on my dual cross country. The Brantford to Tillsonburg leg was still the same however I did not go to Kitchener-Waterloo. Instead, from Tillsonburg I took off and headed for the south end of Cambridge, the red dot on the map below.

Water tower at south end of Cambridge The flight preparation complete, I handed it off to Mark, the manager of the airport and an instructor at Brantford to look over while I was walking around the plane. I headed outside, made sure GINS was all ready to go: fuel tanks full, oil good, brakes and tires looking good, etc. Mark cleared me to fly and reassured me that I will be in radio range of CYFD the whole time.

I took off from runway 29, made a right turn to climb to altitude then came over the airport for the set heading point and off to Tillsonburg I went. The whole way there I was trying to match what was on the ground to what I was seeing on the ground. This worked well until I approached CNQ4 and realized I could not find the airport yet again. I tuned the Tillsonburg frequency and there was a lone aircraft broadcasting as it landed full stop. I frantically searched the ground and for an airport but I could not for the life of me find it. I maintained cruise altitude (the higher you are, the better your field of vision). As I was beginning to lose hope and considering turning back to Brantford I gave it one more shot. Through the windscreen I could see a fairly large city at my 10 o’clock. Looking at the map, the only city it could be was Tillsonburg so drawing a line to approximately where I was put me…right on top of the airport. Looking down, beneath GINS’s main gear I could see Tillsonburg airport gliding below me. I turned toward the city, flew an appropriate distance away then turned around, made the radio calls needed and proceeded with an uneventful touch and go.

You can see my flight path on the map below. This was recorded by my iPhone (don’t worry it was stowed away in my flight bag and I didn’t take it out until I got back to the clubhouse).

Short cross country flight pathAs I took down the time I left Tillsonburg I realized it was getting close to 16:00 EST. I remembered seeing the plane booked at that time and there was no way I would make it to Cambridge and back to Brantford in time. I made a quick radio call to the Brantford Flying Club asking what they would like me to do: come back or continue with my cross country. It seems while I was flying the booking at 16:00 was cancelled so I had the airplane for the rest of the day. “Brantford Unicom, GINS, roger. See you in half an hour,” I said and continued on to Cambridge. The second and third legs of the cross country were uneventful. Finding the water tower in Cambridge was straight forward and coming back to Brantford posed no challenges.

All in all it was a fun flight and I was happy that I didn’t lose myself and give in to frustration when I wasn’t able to find CNQ4. Map reading is a skill I will continue to practice and improve.

Next up: diversions and the long cross country!

Instructors and pilots, I’m looking for your input

I will be going solo again soon and I’m hoping to get some input from you as to what I should do on my “free time.”

For the first few times I’ll be in the circuit so I plan on practicing soft and short field landings along with regular ones. Also, if my instructor allows it, some engine failures in the circuit (of course this would also depend on how busy the pattern is). What else should I practice?

Traffic Pattern

After that I expect to go out to the practice area a few times. Here I plan to do some regular turns and steep turns, climbs and descents with and without flaps, range and endurance and maybe some instrument failures (electrical, vacuum, etc.) Anything else you suggest I should practice? What do you usually have your students practice when they’re up there alone?

I look forward to your suggestions in the comments! Thanks for your help!