13th June 11:31
First Solo Cross Country (12/29)
Nothing too spectacular or harrowing, but maybe that fact in and of itself
may be reassuring to others getting ready for theirs.
My route was 8NC8 - AVC - DAN - 8NC8.
8NC8 - Lakeridge Aeropark. Private grass strip just north of the
Raleigh-Durham class C.
AVC - Mecklenburg, VA
DAN - Danville, VA
This route qualified as my 'long cross country' requirement. My instructor
and I had planned for a simple out and back to AVC as the backup plan in
case I didn't feel I could complete the whole circuit. I had flown this
route (8NC8 - AVC - 8NC8) just 2 weeks ago with my instructor, so the first
leg was familiar.
I got my updated briefing, filed my plan, and the plane was topped off and
in good shape. The winds aloft were a bit brisk, and I failed to account for
this on my ETE on the flight plan. (More on this later). They were blowing
around 20kts at 3000', so I enjoyed a nice tailwind on the first leg to AVC.
Visibility was 15 to 20 along the entire route. Had a slight crosswind
landing, but nothing I hadn't seen before. YAWN so far....
Now into the unknown. I departed AVC and turned west for Danville. I had
planned on using the VOR at Danville as my primary navigation, but I found
that the landmarks on the sectional were much more useful than I had first
thought, especially with the great viz. (The prison that I thought I'd never
be able to differentiate from any other building was plain as day, etc.) So
after becoming a bit more confident that I wouldn't become lost in the
wilderness, I began to relax a bit.... just in time for the turbulence to
hit. I tried altitudes between 2500 and 3500, but it didn't improve. I knew
I was flying almost directly into those 20+ kt winds, so I began to take
some extra time hacks over my landmarks. When you go 13nm in 12 minutes, you
don't really need your E6B to figure out that you're going pretty darn slow.
About half-way to DAN the wind got pretty gusty and was actually pitching up
the nose 5 to 10 degrees, which I'd never encountered before. At first I
feared I had a busted trim tab until I figured out what was going on. There
was a 5 minute period where I seriously considered turning back for AVC. I
tuned to the Danville CTAF and asked for turbulence advisories from pilots
there. There weren't many folks flying there at that time, but the two I
spoke with said things were not too choppy, so I pressed on. I called up
Leesburg FSS with a pilot report, then called up Raleigh FSS to let them
know I was going to be 30 minutes behind schedule. The FSS specialist
(controller?) made it 45 minutes and told me not to rush :-) Pretty easy to
not rush in a C-152.
10 miles out of Danville the turbulence settled, and I settled into my
approach. Landing was almost directly into the wind. The wheels touched
around 40 IAS, and with the headwind I bet my landing groundspeed was 30 kts
tops. Anyway, it was the slowest I had ever landed a plane.
After departure, I followed the 145 radial from Danville until I spotted
Person County (TDF), and from there it's any easy shot home. Brought her in,
shut down, and logged my 2.3 hours. Ooops! Don't forget to close the flight
plan. Good thing it was extended by 45, not 30.
All in all I thought things went well. Had a few things I did well that I'm
proud of, and a couple things I could have done better.
~Man, turbulence will wear your left arm OUT trying to keep the wings level.
I tried flying with my right hand on the yoke for a while. When it was
slack, I'd use the rudder to level the wings while I used my right arm to
rub my left.
~HEED the winds aloft observations. For you are but a mote of dust to be
blown about at their whimsy.
~How many times has a kind, calm word from an FSS specialist kept a solo
student from feeling like the most isolated person in the world?
~Where the heck is everybody? It was a gorgeous day, and I saw exactly 3
other moving airplanes my entire trip. One flew a couple thousand over me
enroute, one landing Beechjet at AVC, and another student checking out in
the school's Cherokee when I landed back at home base. Not a soul at
Danville. Almost every time I've landed at or flown over Person County
(TDF), I swear I could have landed, stopped in the middle of the runway and
had a picnic lunch without inconveniencing anyone. And it's a great airport
with services and 5000' paved.