Sunday, May 29, 2016

Flying Lesson #52 - A Long Bumpy Solo Cross-Country

Today was the long solo cross country that became a bit longer than planned. It almost didn't happen at all, as the Outlook and standard briefing gave "VFR not recommended" due to thunderstorms coming in.

Dejectedly I went to the airport anyways.

Ray instead said based on the actual weather and radar tracks I could go - it would be the windiest I've ever been flying solo, but he wanted me to have a challenge. Was it ever.

He checked off my planning, endorsed me and sent me on my way. Good preflight and I taxied to runway 27 and asked for flight following at departure and got clearance to takeoff.

I held in the cross-wind correction on takeoff and things were good. I then contacted Detroit Approach per Pontiac Tower and got flight following and was handed off to Lansing approach as I headed for Marshall.

It took awhile to get to Marshall, and I could not get to my planned altitude of 6,500 feet - there was a line clouds that kept descending to a nice haze all the way there so I was at 4,500 to stay clear or clouds. The haze was annoying and I was making a habit of scanning the outside and instruments on a regular basis to prevent any disorientation. Light to medium turbulence that followed me throughout the flight made for a bit of a ride.

On the way there I got a traiffc advisory that there was a plane at my 12 o clock at 7,000 descending. I indicated that there was a solid cloud layer between me and the other plane and I would not be able to see it. Not a problem, they tracked it and let me know it would not be a factor after a while. Flight following is quite helpful that way.

Landing at Marshall sucked - crosswinds up to my limit and no one else flying in the area.

Then on to KFPK, Charlotte, a short flight north. Again my crosswind landing was not the best by any means and the winds did blow. I'm sure most of my issues with crosswind landings are mental by this point, just need to work them more I guess.

Then head back to KPTK - I picked up flight following from Lansing and they indicated there was a weather cell ahead of me and did I have any weather equipment on board?

I replied in the negative and requested routing around it as thunderstorms are bad.

So I got routed north towards Flint and handed off to Flint approach.

Flint nicely routed me around the cell and then sent me on my way back east to Pontiac. Again, flight following is a very good thing.

I then landed at Pontiac after two go rounds as the wind was 10-17 knots gusting and shifting, and again if the approach doesn't look right then it is not right and time to go around. Third time was the charm and I was safely down with a little bounce to continue the humbling theme of the flight. Just when you think you're getting decent . . . .

I tied the plane down and headed back to the shop, and Ray was waiting for me. He noted that he had deliberately made it a challenging flight to push my limits, but knew I could handle it.

That's 2.4 hours and 196 nautical miles flown, and my long solo cross country is done. I need more solo time and a lot more polishing but I'm getting there.

It is starting to thunderstorm and actually hailing large pieces of hail here now, but I've been on the ground over an hour. I'm sitting here nursing an Irish Coffee and thinking about how I can do things better on the next flight.

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