Stranded In The Southland

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Yet Another Cross Country

My instructor H. wanted me to do one more cross-country solo -- "So it looks good for the FAA examiner when you do the practical test -- you don't want just the minimum number of hours, do you!?" I was convinced that I should go somewhere new -- making the same flight that I'd done four other times (dual, dual night, plus two solos) just wasn't gonna teach me much. Fortunately, J. took me down to a different spot earlier in the year, and that was enough to convince H. that I could go there again.

I put it off for two weeks, once for an all-day home improvement workshop, and once 'cause of illness, and I was anxious to get up there. The weather didn't look great, with a nasty cross-wind and a report of clouds. In addition, one of the the navigation beacons I was planning to use (a VOR) was down. I was feeling pretty iffy about it. H. thought I should just go, that the clouds would burn off, and that I could follow the interstate most of the way, anyway.

Well, whaddya know -- H. was right. Once I took off, ATC had me stay east of the interstate, rather than following the navigation aid as I was planning, and it worked out to be a matter of following the road after all. And, of course, the clouds burned off.

I'd been really concerned, and fired up my little hiking GPS (which was more than sufficient to point me towards the airport), but it turned out that I could see the place from miles away, plus the ATC folks took extra time to point it out me after I mentioned I was a student pilot. All in all, it was another fine flight, although a little anti-climactic. I suppose I oughta trust H a bit more often...

Trying to Finish Up

I'm so close to finishing up that I can almost taste it. I went up twice this week with H., doing instrument flight and slow flight and stalls and short- and soft-field landings, and then I headed out for yet one more cross-country solo. At this point, I've fulfilled the FAA requirements to get a private pilot's certificate, and I just need to make sure that I can pass the practical test.

For the practical test, I need to plan an assigned flight, take an oral exam that covers the flight and pretty much everything else I've learned, and then go up and demonstrate that I can fly a set of required figures with reasonable accuracy. Everybody will tell you that the accuracy requirement for the private pilot's test is pretty forgiving -- pretty much within a 100 feet of altitude, 10 degrees of heading, and 10 knots of airspeed for most maneuvers -- but I'm still working on getting my flying precise enough.

I had no trouble making yet another two-hour flight cross-country, communicating with air traffic control, navigating to a remote field and making a landing there, but I'm still struggling to perform the required figures accurately enough. I'm hoping to do a couple more lessons and couple more solos and get everything up to snuff. Pwhew, no pressure...

(And I'll post a few thoughts on the cross-country next.)