I’ve logged a massive 33 hours and it’s time to plan my first cross-country. It’s a little warm today and the winds will be at our back. We’re headed to Festus, MO. It’s 25.2 NM away from KCPS. It should be a pretty uneventful flight but I’m looking forward to it.
So, the way do your first XC is to draw up a plan. I did a few the night before the flight by hand with the sectionals and whiz wheel then I did some in Foreflight. Foreflight is pretty awesome, it does everything for you. Once you enter your aircraft, the fuel burn and all the details Foreflight tells you EXACTLY what will happen and when.
Doing it by hand on paper is actually not too tough. You enter your true course, altitude, predicted wind direction / velocity, temperature, planned TAS, the wind correction angle, the true heading, and the magnetic heading. Then you enter some checkpoints, we put ours in about every 10 miles. Bridges, rivers, lakes, power plants… anything that is easily identifiable.
After you add in your checkpoints you start on the fuel computations. You enter the distance and your ground speed and then figure out the fuel burn. I made some notes and a sketch of the runway and added in the field elevation, runway orientation, and radio frequencies. I folded up the piece of paper and put it in the knee board.
For some reason, and I’m not sure why, it was reassuring to have a paper flight plan. I ended up never looking at it when I was on my solo but if everything went to hell at least I could figure out my radio frequencies.
On to the flight. I did the pre-flight, grabbed 16 gallons of fuel, fired up the Guimbal and we got on our way. We headed straight south. I don’t know the Garmin or the radios all that well. I should have spent some more time studying those but I feel comfortable with them now. Grant usually handled those when we were in the pattern work so I never really paid attention. He told me about a Garmin practice app that is super helpful. Download that here.
The flight down went too fast. I could have ambled along following the river / railroad tracks for hours. Instead it was like 15 minutes. Damn. We announced ourselves at 10 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles and on our downwind. I made a decent approach and we got on the go. The way back was as uneventful as the way down. I made my calls when we were 10 miles out of KCPS, then at 2 miles and we got home safe and sound. Apparently I’m ready to fly away from my home airport. Awesome. I’m excited to see some new landscape or at least some hills… another 1 hour in the books brings me to 34.
So key learning’s… Learn how to do the whizz wheel. I hated it the first few times I used it and it took me an unholy amount of time to figure it out. But now that I got it down I’m faster with it then with the CX-2. Which one will I bring to my written? The CX-2. I keep reading that the whizz wheel isn’t as precise as you need it to be for the written.
The next thing is to ALWAYS do a paper flight plan. Why? Because you will forget to charge your iPad and halfway though your long cross country it’ll die and you won’t have anyway to remember all the different radio frequencies, airport orientations and whatever else. Backups are good. Backups are great. God bless backups.
Learn the GPS and the radio. It’s my fault I didn’t ask more questions earlier. They are just as important as any other part of the helicopter so figure that stuff out and figure it out early.
The final key learning… this is all going too fast. I’m learning a ton but I wish I wasn’t 70% through the class. Work has kept me from moving as quickly as I want but this whole thing feels like it’s just cruising right by. Thankfully I have the videos to look back on and annoy my friends and family with… and it gives me something to do when we get weather and I can’t fly. Anyway, take is slow. Enjoy what you’re doing.