Friday, August 26, 2005

 

Flying Lesson #45: Second Dual Cross-Country Flight

Today's flight was from Dekalb-Peachtree airport (PDK) to Columbus Metropolitan Airport (CSG). On the return flight, we made a landing at Berry Hill Airport (4A0).

I was a little more comfortable with this trip than I was with the first cross-country, although it still felt a lot like doing my income taxes while riding a motorcycle.

Planning this trip wasn't too difficult. The only thing that made it complicated at all is that the Atlanta Class B airspace sits between PDK and CSG. For you non-pilots: "Class Bravo" airspace refers to the type of airspace that surrounds major airports. Each one is shaped a little bit differently, but in general there is a cylindrical volume centered around the airport, starting at ground level, and then there is a larger cylinder stacked on top of that, and another larger cylinder stacked on top of that. (Think of the shape of a wedding cake, turned upside-down.) To fly around a Bravo, the higher-altitude cylinders require you to fly farther out of your way, so it is common for small planes to stay low, beneath the wider cylinders above. To complicate matters, smaller airports can have controlled airspaces of their own beneath the overlying Bravo airspace. If you accidentally enter Bravo airspace without a clearance, the FAA can do Bad Things to you, so staying out of it is really, really important.

So, the challenge is to identify landmarks and navigational aids one can use to stay out of the Class B without unnecessarily lengthening the trip by staying too far out, and determining an altitude that is low enough so that you won't accidentally climb into the Bravo but high enough to avoid obstacles and underlying airports' airspaces. I planned several short legs to take me around the northern side of the airspace. In hindsight, this was a mistake—it would have been a lot easier to have just a couple of long legs, even if it meant the trip would be longer. There's enough to do on a cross-country flight without needing to change course every few minutes.

The weather wasn't bad. It was a little hazy, but ground temperatures were in the 80's, which seems nice in comparison to the 90+ temperatures I've had on all my flights for the past few months.

After we landed at CSG, the instructor expected that we'd need to pay a landing/ramp fee, but this FBO has adopted a new policy of not charging landing fees to people involved in flight training. We wanted to take the club car out to a restaurant for lunch, but someone else already had the car, so we ate the free chili dogs that the FBO provided. I got updated weather information and completed the plan for the return trip.

I went a bit off course on one leg. I didn't hold my heading well, and forgot to update my heading indicator as required, so I ended up about 10 miles from where I was supposed to be. However, I was close enough that I found the checkpoint without too much searching.

Along the way, the instructor threw a few challenges at me, like hood work, a diversion to an alternate airport, and then he got me lost to see whether I could figure out where we were. I got to practice short-field takeoffs and landings at Berry Hill airport, which I've visited before.

I experimented with my own new navigation log format. It worked out fine, but I'll tweak it a little before the next flight. I brought a small clipboard to hold my navlog, but I found that it got in the way too much. On the way out of the airport, I bought a tri-fold kneeboard to help me solve my cockpit-management issues.

It was a long day, but productive. We are making a night cross-country flight next week, and then I'll get to make my first solo cross-country after that.

Logged today: 3.3 hours dual cross-country in N4363D, with 3 takeoffs and 3 landings, and 0.3 hours simulated instrument conditions. Cost: $648.14.


Comments:
Sounds like a very productive lesson. My first few navigation lessons also felt a little like "doing income taxes", now I find I have loads of time to just enjoy the flight between waypoints. I guess it is much like learning circuits really, at first all the workload seems a little overwhelming and then it starts becoming routine.
 
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