I got lucky again with another solid sunny day in February to complete my 150 nm cross-country. The plan was Zelienople (PJC), as usual, to an interesting one, Punxsutawney (N35), down to Arnie Palmer Latrobe (LBE), to Butler (BTP) and then back home to PJC. This trip proved to be less "eventful" than the last one, with no problems (like getting lost) along the way.
Took off from PJC at ~3:30PM and climbed to 5,500 for the leg to N35, turned out to be a little hazier than expected but did not prove to be a real issue. Made the checkpoints with some augmentation from the cross checking VOR radials. I managed to locate the airport by first locating the town and noting that the airport was north-east on the map, it didn't exactly jump out but not too hard to find. When I did find it though, I guess I should have paid more attention to the Airport/Facility directory, I had forgotten how narrow 50ft wide looks, at least it wasn't Farm Show (38 ft). I did a quick touch and go, mainly because there were no turn-offs and there were snow banks 5 ft high on each side of the runway. Said bye to Punxsy Phil and was on my way over the town climbing to 4,500.
Next stop was Latrobe. I was a little nervous because this was my first solo to a towered airport. Being that, I was not as diligent in my checkpoint navigation and ended up checking the GPS to correct some errors in my track. It's hard to get too off track thought since you fly right by Homer City and their giant reactor cooling towers with steam billowing out of them. There is also a nice high ridge to the southwest that guides you into LBE. Luckily I successfully retieved the ATIS, my calls to the tower were no problem and the controller gave me a straight in on 23. Actually finding the airport while staring into the setting sun through the haze proved a challenge and I was grateful for the GPS to keep me on track. After landing at LBE, where the runway seemed about as wide as N35 was long, I asked the tower to stay in the pattern to perform my two more required landings to a full-stop at a towered airport, to which she happily obliged. The only "interesting" part was when I was on downwind for my second landing and the tower controller told me "you have the option." To which, wanting to sound like I knew what I was talking about, confirmed with a read back. Twenty seconds later, I felt I probably should find out what
the heck that means, and I radioed back, "student pilot, to be honest with you, I do not know what 'you have the option' means." She laughed and was extremely pleasant in explaining it meant I could do a touch-and-go, full-stop, etc.
The rest of the trip ended with a touch and go at Butler and then back to Zeli, touching down as the sun was setting. Logged 2.4 hours of hobbs time for the trip. I was a great feeling to have accomplished my solo cross countries and I am really starting to feel more comfortable on these trips. It also taught me there is nothing to fear with regard to talking to the tower, and it's ok to ask questions.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Yesterday I got my first chance to take the plane up solo with no agenda in mind. What a blast! I ended up doing a little site seeing over Lake Moraine, practiced my turns across a road, worked on tracking the Ellwood City VOR, and did some pattern and landing work. The pattern was very busy at PJC. A bunch of club planes, a couple of twin engine Barons, and even a WWII restoration/replica. I hung around the pattern for five landings trying to get that perfect greaser with the stall horn whining, on the centerline. Getting there...