Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cross-country - Working out the Kinks

My first cross-country after my medical flight test was to KCUL, Carmi, IL.  I won't go into too much detail, but the 'clumsy' version of Brian showed up in full force during this flight.

I blame a lot of it on my kneeboard.  On the way to my medical flight test I'd used the Sporty's tri-fold kneeboard, strapped to my leg, and it worked ok, but I found myself fumbling for a couple things and not really having enough room for everything I needed.  For the flight to KCUL, Randy suggested I leave it unstrapped and just unfold it across my lap.  This is where the clumsiness began. I will mention we were potentially racing some storms that were moving toward KCUL.  We had plenty of time, but due to an issue I had with DUATS the night before I didn't have the winds aloft, so my nav log was only partially complete when I arrived, meaning we lost a little time while I completed it.

8/18 - The flight to CUL was challenging.  For one it was extremely hazy, which made finding my landmarks difficult, but that was not the hardest part of the flight.  As I've mentioned before, I'm short, so when I put my legs on the rudder pedals, there's a definite downward slope to my lap.  On the way back it was downright comical.  I dropped my nav log (on the tri-fold kneeboard, there wasn't room to clip both my sectional and my nav log, so the latter was loosely sitting on my lap).   Added to the complexity was my first interaction with real ATC - Evansville Approach.  We'd be flying through the EVV Class C so I'd need to establish communication, and requested flight following as well.  It went pretty smoothly, though I abbreviated my callsign once,before ATC did.  Other than that hiccup the ATC portion was pretty routine to me(thanks to PilotEdge).

After a mediocre landing we debriefed.  My pilotage was great, radio comms were great, but my cockpit management needed some 'polish.'  He needed to see that before he turned me loose for a solo cross-country.  Randy suggested a different kneeboard, actually a lap desk.  I read the reviews when I got home, then ordered it.

The night before my next scheduled flight, I completed my nav log based on the winds aloft forecast, with plans to monitor DUATS throughout the day and adjust as needed.  The next morning I knew I wouldn't be flying.  I'd been fighting a sore throat (4th one this year) for a few days and it finally caught up with me.  I texted Randy, and we rescheduled for Tuesday 9/1, 6 pm.

9/1 - After pre-flighting 34Q I headed inside to call FSS and file the VFR flight plan to SIV.  The briefer advised me that VFR flight wasn't recommended due to developing isolated storms that were going to be arriving at the destination shortly before we landed, but he advised that we could deviate north a bit then come back and likely be able to miss them.  After a quick look at the radar we headed out to 34Q and prepared for departure.

It was another very hazy afternoon/evening, but not quite as bad as the previous flight.  Waypoints were a little easier to see, and I was much more comfortable and much, much more organized with the folding lap desk.  I called EVV approach and picked up flight following for the trip.

After about 20 minutes we left EVV airspace and were handed off to Hulman approach.  About 10 minutes later I had the field in sight, advised approach and was released to VFR squawk and freqs.  Landing was average but better than my previous flight.  We taxied up to the FBO to get a look at the weather & talk to the manager.  He came out to see 34Q's new paint job, then told a story about a Piper Lance he was working on and the cost of parts, and a couple other pilot stories followed as we went inside.  

After a quick look at the now-dissipating line of rain, we headed back out, I did my preflight, and proceeded with startup.  On climbout I realized something was up with the HSI setting, as I was heading due East toward the town.  Quick check of the GPS confirmed, and I turned back South to continue toward top of climb where I then corrected the HSI in level flight.  After obtaining flight following from Hulman, I continued scanning the sky and looking for my waypoints on the ground, most of which were the same as the first leg.    About 15 minutes out Hulman handed me off to Evansville.

About 7 miles out from Huntingburg I advised EVV approach I had the field in sight and acknowledged the VFR squawk and approved frequency change,   I entered the 45° for the left downwind for runway niner.  It was darker than I'd ever landed before.  The cities of Jasper and Huntingburg looked beautiful from the air as the sun was getting ready to set and the two cities' lights came to life.  I clicked the mic button 7 times to activate the runway lights, called my downwind entry, turned base, then final.

I came in a little high, and I left the power in just a bit too long, but after some extensive floating, for which the Skyhawk is famous, I set her down for a decent landing, just a little right of center, taxied off and made my 'clear of niner' radio call.  Taxied back for shutdown and parking portions of the checklist.  Randy asked me if I'd feel comfortable making this trip by myself, to which I answered, yes, completely comfortable.  Then we got out and pushed 34Q into the hangar & cleaned the bugs off of the leading edges before heading into the FBO lobby for debrief.

Debrief was short and sweet.  My cockpit management was much better.  The lap desk made a huge difference in this area.  Pilotage was good, radio comms were good but I tended to rush my communications at times.  All in all a good flight.

Next up is my first solo cross-country, which will be a repeat of this flight, but this time it will be a morning/daytime flight.  If all goes well, the flight after that will be my long solo cross-country to KMVN.

Planning the solo flight to SIV for Tuesday morning 9/8, weather permitting.  I can't wait.  This is what it's all about.  Climbing into the cockpit of a plane and going somewhere.

Two Victor Uniform, clear of Two-Seven

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