Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Trip to Gettysburg - Third cross country and long night cross country

Yesterday Mike and I piled our gear into 684SP, our club's very plush Cessna 172SP decked out with leather seats, auto pilot, etc. All the stuff you love to see in a trainer... :-). This was to be my final long dual cross country and the trip back would be my night dual cross country. The trip from Zelienople (PJC) to Gettysburg (W05) measured 144nm weather looked very favorable, one of the nicest fall evenings in a long time with 10nm of visibility, winds 210@8 knots and zero turbulence. We took off about 4:30PM from Zeli and Mike showed me how to initiate flight following with ATC. Mike explained that "flight following" added a safety margin to the flight as ATC would warn us of traffic in the area, and should something go wrong, our whereabouts would be reasonably known. We started to tick off our check points passing by Butler Airport, over the Allegheny river, past Homer City, Johnstown (Murtha Airport), and on to Gettysburg. We also got some great shots of the windmills in Somerset as well as some of the stunning vistas of mountain ridges snaking their way along through Central PA.
<--- Mike Woods, CFI     Coming into W05 we needed to be very careful with respect to our position south of the airport due to a TFR related to the President's visit to Camp David. We touched down right about dusk after flying about a hour and fifteen minutes.

We caught the FBO owner right before he was leaving, and he let us fill up the plane and even gave us a ride into town to Mike's daughter's high school's football game. After watching Gettysburg High School clobber the team from Harrisburg, Mike and I walked back to the airport, fired up the plane, warmed up the plane (the temp was hovering at freezing at this point), and leaped into the dense air on takeoff.        Windmills Over Somerset--->

The return trip home at night turned out to be as uneventful as the flight out but interesting and packed with information as always. Mike put the foggles on me for half of the trip back and I got a chance to work on my IFR flying technique. ATC gave us the heads up that PJC was dead ahead of us, we
<--- Mountain Ridges Near Johnstown
thanked him for his help and signed off of flight following. We landed at a desolate PJC at about 1AM, fuel ed up in the freezing air at the depot, and taxied back to the hangar happy to be home again.

Flight Planning - preparing for a cross country

Just my notes for steps to prepare and plan for a cross country.
  • Draw course line
  • Draw 10 mile wide swath (5nm to each side)
  • Measure distance
  • Determine altitude
  • Determine checkpoints
  • Note emergency landing airports


  • Communications
  • Runways
  • Airport diagrams

Before Flight

  • Get weather briefing
  • Calculate heading/wind correction
  • Calculate total time and checkpoint time
  • Calculate fuel burn

  • Calculate weight and balance
  • Calculate performance metrics (takeoff distance, etc)

In Flight
  • File flight plan or initiate flight following with ATC
  • Check heading vs ground track adjust if necessary
  • Time first checkpoint