My flight was supposed to be with the Chief Flight Instructor for my pre-solo check but as life tends to happen, we had to postpone until early next week.
Since I had the plane anyway, my instructor and I moved up a planned short cross country from TTA to SOP. It doesn’t qualify as a true cross country so I don’t get credit for it but it had all of the planning that goes into a real cross country. Baby steps so to speak. A lot of new things on this flight so as usual when new things are introduced… I am behind the airplane.
We started out by filling out a navigation logs starting with my abysmal attempt that I rushed together before the flight. I had a few waypoints picked out and my instructor supplemented those with a few more obvious checkpoints. I tended to pick things that were not that easy to see from the air. I am told it gets better with experience.
After calculating the wind drift, groundspeed, Magnetic variation, magnetic deviation and fuel burn we were ready. As you may or may not be aware, magnetic north isn’t exactly located where true north is located. So following a compass wont get you to the North Pole, that is why Santa must use other means just like we do to calculate it. In our area it is around 8ºW. Which means there is 8º between the true north direction and the magnetic north direction, this is called Magnetic Variation. We account for this when we point our compass in a direction that we determine on a chart. Okay, I am sure that you are bored… back to the flight.
We take off and climb to 2500 feet and I start following the checkpoints along with the SDZ VOR. Then I make my first radio call ever to ATC.
“Fayetteville Approach, Cessna 4640 Bravo”
-Cessna Fayetteville, Go ahead
“Fayetteville Approach, 4640 Bravo is Cessna 152 Slant Uniform, off TTA en route to SOP Via SDZ VOR at 2500, request Flight Following”
-Cessna 4640 Bravo squawk 1270 and ident
“Squawking 1270 ident”
-Cessna 4640 Bravo is 8 miles southwest of TTA, report any altitude change
“Roger will report, 4640 Bravo”
I totally had a script that my instructor was holding up but I think I sounded pretty plausible. I am learning to work my pilot voice.
While I was reading my script, I lost the power lines that I was tracking visually to the VOR. And after wobbling back and forth trying to get the VOR lined up I realized that my directional gyro had precessed so I kept tracking the wrong heading… it made sense. I made the comment to my instructor that ATC must know that I am a newb with me wobbling back and forth. She replied, “You are holding your altitude well and that is what they care about”
The rest of the trip was pretty mundane, she quizzed me on landmarks and where we were on the chart. I landed at SOP with a thud. It has a much wider runway so I flared higher than I should have. Not my most graceful by any stretch. We perform a touch and go due to time and head back toward the SDZ VOR. I contact Fayetteville approach again for a flight following back to TTA. This time I followed the power lines all the way home and it tracked the VOR right down the middle. Like magic.
We came in on the base leg for runway 3 at TTA and taxi’d back to a beautiful sunset over the clubhouse. I felt like I was behind the airplane but I think I did ok considering my first time. Like everything, practice makes perfect, I am sure it will soon become natural.
Next Flight with the Chief Flight Instructor. I swear.