Long Cross Country Tips
As you gain flight experience you will plan longer flights. The commercial cross country requirement is a straight line flight of at least 300 nautical miles with 3 landings and takeoffs at airports other than the departure airport. This long cross country as it is often referred to will be one of the most memorable experiences during your flight training. To make it memorable will require good solid planning. Preparation for the all aspects of the flight is vital.
Where do you want to go? How do you decide? Remember that what you want to gain from this trip is the best flying experience possible. Flying straight and level on a clear day is great but landing at numerous varied airports is also a great learning experience. Do not plan for all the same airports on your return leg as you landed at during your outbound leg. This trip is not so much about getting somewhere quickly (although that is fun to) as learning as much as possible during trip. Tracking an airway, watching the VOR flag flip from to to from are all things you will never see if you only fly GPS direct. You could easily land at 5 different airports on a 300 mile trip and another 5 on the way back. In addition to the education you will receive you will experience the beauty of flying in North America in a way that few people ever do. You might be able to visit with friends or family in a distant city.
When planning a longer trip decision making with regard to weather will be one of the biggest challenges. Although there are times in the year where pilots can fly 500 miles in any direction and return the next day all as VFR flight there are also seasons of the year where there will be weather delays. What is your personal ability and limits when it comes to visibility, ceiling, and winds? Are these realistic? How do they compare to the VFR requirements? Have you ever flown with visibility of 3 miles at 500 ‘ AGL? It is one thing to know the requirements, it is a completely different to experience these things by yourself over unfamiliar terrain. When you have a Harv’s Air aircraft away from base we do not want to put any pressure on you with regard to returning the aircraft on a prearranged date. We have however had pilots delay the trip for weather when the reported en route ceiling was 5000’. On the other extreme we have had pilots “push the weather” to come home because “my passenger had to back at work on Monday” Clearly this would not justify flying in marginal weather.These are all things you should be preparing and training for. Talk to your instructor or other staff member at Harv’s.
Something I hear after a pilots long flight is that they are tired. You would not think of a long flight as hard work but consider the following; How well did you sleep the night before what with all the excitement? Have you been eating and drinking normally? Keep in mind that many airports that you land at will not have food available. The restaurant is often several miles away and going there could delay you several hours. With good planning you have some snacks and water with you and can enjoy them even as an in flight service. Spending long periods at altitude will also tend to dehydrate you. A little water will prevent this. You notice we say a little, bathroom stops also have to be carefully planned. There is nothing more annoying then to level off at 8500 feet and have your passenger say “I need to go to the bathroom” There is also nothing more uncomfortable for them than to not be able to go, so again planning is required. Speaking of planning pilots rarely leave “on time” or at the planned time of departure.One way to improve this is during flights prior to the “long cross country” practice getting ready. How accurate are you? There will be many more details for a longer flight but many or most can be arranged the day before.