First cross country solo...and a big mistake!

Discussion in 'Lessons Learned' started by injb, Apr 7, 2018.

  1. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    And that's a big airport! At least ya didn't land at the military field, Navy or Air Force depending when you did this.
     
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  2. drjcustis

    drjcustis Pre-Flight

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    Did this exact same thing!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  3. danhagan

    danhagan Cleared for Takeoff

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    DPE did that on my check ride and made sure it was directly under me and required a good bank to see it ... I knew where I was as soon as the foggles were lifted, and went straight after it.

    To the OP: you're going to have other destinations that are hard to pick out. I've had two ... one was Fullerton and I had been there before a few times from Texas, but not coming from Mariposa (from the north) at end of day in haze with the sun at the horizon. The other was a runway that was being used as a dragstrip also, (no runways markings-worn off) and a guard rail on half of the taxiway for the drag races. Only spotted it due to the banner tow plane parked in an empty spot nearby.
     
  4. Lachlan

    Lachlan Pattern Altitude

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    My CFI used to say that, too!
     
  5. unsafervguy

    unsafervguy Cleared for Takeoff

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    First off, you learned something and that is good. I think a lot of the problem was the way people are teaching with electronics. As it's been said, you need to compare what you see to the chart in the iPad. To many instructors just do the follow the line method. What I like to do is get back to old school. Plot the course on the iPad and then turn the tracking off and use time, landmarks and comparing the chart to what you see. A couple of short flights like that will help tremendously.

    Bob
     
  6. injb

    injb Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks for all the input everyone. All great advice. I do want to do more dead reckoning flights (only did one so far, my first x/c). I think my instructor is more concerned with getting me used to ATC comms so we've been going with flight following + gps for everything after the first one.

    I've been watching my video footage and it was interesting how many details I had forgotten about that part of the flight.

    In the video, just as the airport comes into view I'm actually not too far off course, but there's a flurry of activity on the radio. At this point, I had expected to be handed off to another approach frequency (Hulman approach, heading to Bloomington, IN) and since I was close to my destination and it hadn't happened, I knew I would be hearing from ATC momentarily. Sure enough, I heard my number (radar service terminated) and while I was responding and changing frequencies, I turned right about 10 degrees unintentionally. At this point the airport was probably already only visible through the curved part of the glass, and turning this much by accident didn't help. Then, having pressed the toggle button on the radio, I checked in with the tower. And the tower said the strangest thing: "this is Hulman approach, tower is on xyz-point-whatever". By the time I fixed that and checked in with the real tower, I was way off.

    I still count not telling the tower that I didn't see the airport as the single biggest mistake. I made other mistakes that led me to get off course, but fixing that one would have fixed everything.
     
  7. Half Fast

    Half Fast Pattern Altitude

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    Thanks for being a good lesson for me, too, and probably a few others!

    You could also try a Mochado-like technique:

    “Tower, Cessna 123B, please confirm. Do you have a WalMart and a Burger King along your runway?”

    “Negative, 123B, that would be highway 9. Turn south 45 degrees.”

    :)
     
  8. Stevea621j

    Stevea621j Filing Flight Plan

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    During training my instructor signed me off to fly to a towered airport located only 7 miles from my home airport. I had no gps, but thought I could see the airport after reaching about 1500 feet. I checked in with the tower and told him I had the airport in sight. He told me to report entering right downwind. Unfortunately what I was looking at and flying to was not the airport, but a cleared area 5 miles past the airport. I remember thinking that it seemed a lot further than I remembered, but kept chugging along. The controller kindly asked me where I was going after I passed the airport, and got me back on track. I learned a few things. first, flying at 1500 feet in the Georgia summer haze, it is hard to spot an airport, even when you know where it should be. The second thing I learned was not to say I had the airport in sight until I was absolutely positive I had it in sight.
     
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  9. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    MY CFI really meant it one night. We were flying into MKC - the downtown KC airport from the east one night. It's a pretty confusing set of lights from the city, and the rwys aren't visually aligned from that direction so you don't see them very well. It's a case where I knew where it was because of the bend in the river, but I couldn't make it out from the lights and surrounding facilities. It's not like it's an island of light surrounded by dark or vice versa.

    There's another airport near me, K81, Miami County, with the BBQ on the field. For whatever reason, I have a lot of trouble seeing it - it's right there, I know it's there, but the rwy just doesn't stand out enough for me. I dunno, after I "see" it I want to facepalm myself because I've been looking right at it.
     
  10. Beachcomber

    Beachcomber Pre-Flight

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    That’s a great tip/idea!
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  11. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer Pattern Altitude

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    Some airports just seem to blend into the suburban sprawl around here. Add in a layer of haze and backlighting in the late afternoon, and that just compounds the problem. I've never not spotted one...yet. :)

    If your nav system has an extended runway centerline feature, that can help a lot.
     
  12. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The extended centerline function is great.

    --

    Toss in some winds aloft and you could be looking in entirely the wrong place.

    Twice I've had that happen. I have 2 airports near me, 7nm apart and both have N/S rwys.

    Once I was heading north at night with a dead DG. I was wanting to land at the east airport. With the winds from the west, my crab angle was such that I was pointing at the west airport. My GPS kept telling me to correct right, but my vision was locked on the beacon to the left.

    Another time I was day VFR, and had a similar experience. I was heading to the east airport but facing the west airport. The airport on the left has a rwy that is pretty much 2x longer and 2x wider than the airport on the right. I saw that rwy first and wondered how I had gotten so close, so quickly. A second or two later I realized the rwy I was looking at was the wrong one but its size made me think I was twice as close as I really was.
     
  13. DanWilkins

    DanWilkins Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You should have known you were over an airport before he pulled the throttle. Be proactive. How high were you? Often planes hang out above the traffic pattern.
     
  14. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    How? He pulled the throttle as the hood came off. We were up a couple thousand feet. He chose that field because it's rarely busy.
     
  15. DanWilkins

    DanWilkins Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You got me there unless you had a gps or some other gadget that shows airfields. Flying under the hood is the most dangerous situation for mid-airs. I learned that in an AOPA seminar a few weeks ago. I would hope your instructor had his head on a swivel while you were focused under the hood. Unfortunately, according to the mentioned AOPA outing, he may not have been on the lookout for other aircraft.
     
  16. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    One would hope he was. The aircraft was equipped with a GPS but it was turned off.
     
  17. DanWilkins

    DanWilkins Pre-takeoff checklist

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    We have both made excellent points. Look underneath our plane. Keep our eyes out of the cockpit at least 80% of the time, or more when around any kind of airfield, and make sure our cockpit mate has his/her eyes outside the cockpit during instrument practice.
     
  18. TRocket

    TRocket Line Up and Wait

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    Glad it worked out alright! Like you mentioned, you can still play the "Student Pilot" card so don't be afraid to! On one of my solo cross countries, I managed to get my self jacked up coming into a Class C airport, I used the magic words "student pilot" and the controller was awesome, had it straightened out in no time. Thanks for sharing and hopefully some other guys/gals in training get something from this!

    P.S. When I did my solo cross countries for my PPL, I had nothing but an E6B and a paper sectional, no GPS. And no, this wasn't 20 years ago, it was 2015...
     
  19. ktup-flyer

    ktup-flyer Pattern Altitude

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    What GPS were you using? Garmin has PC simulators for some of theirs.
     
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  20. injb

    injb Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It was a Bendix King, I think the model is a KLN 94 or something like that.
     
  21. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    For Garmin Pilot, we have the 5nm/10nm range rings turned on and the 10 minute vector turned on. Probably something all the other EFB's have. Does make it easy for initial call at 10nm, turn away a 5nm if no contact and to estimate minutes to arrival. I usually zoom in a bit at a time as I get closer. Sometimes (in the GP VFR view) I am zoomed in enough that I see the taxiways, buildings, etc. Of course safe taxi will switch to that view anyway once on the ground.

    Even with the EFB I always draw the runways on my kneeboard in advance and label the directions. As soon as I get ATIS and winds I draw the wind vector. The call in. When tower specifies the landing runway I then circle it, repeat it back and draw a trail from where I think I am thru the downwind/base/final to the runway. And set the heading bug of course.

    A PD may have played a role in that second paragraph :)
     
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  22. TylerSC

    TylerSC Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Agreed, it made things much easier for me when I went from leg band to suction cup.
     
  23. Stephen Shore

    Stephen Shore Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good job getting through that and you learned a lesson that you will never forget. One thing about controlled airports is that they in reality are easier to fly into than non-towered. When I first got my PPL (37 years ago) I learned at what is now a "class D" airport. After I got my license, the thought of flying into an "uncontrolled" airport scared the daylights out of me. I liked the helpfulness and "control" at a towered airport. I know some pilots now that avoid flying into a controlled airport at all costs. I guess it depends on how you learned.

    Just a month ago, I flew into Addison airport near Love Field in Dallas (obviously a Class Bravo airspace). The Addison tower cleared me to land following an aircraft "over the Racetrack". I started immediately scanning for a race track. Well, I had to ask where the "race track" was and he told me that it was a convenience store that is named "Race Track" and it is right in line with Runway 18 on short final. I am sure that everyone that flies out of Addison on a regular basis knew that "follow the aircraft on final over the Race Track" knew exactly where to look and it would have been an easy spot for them. I am still not sure that I would have used that phrase if I were the tower controller, but since I asked for clarification it worked out fine.
     
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  24. injb

    injb Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Well thanks for all the replies everyone, and since the thread is still alive I might as well follow up with some updates. You might imagine that I had learned my lesson, and I certainly thought so. But soon after that flight, I had my second cross country solo, and ended up with another embarrassing issue, again caused by a misunderstanding of the equipment.

    This time it was the radio. When the time came to dial up the tower frequency, I discovered that I couldn't do it! The frequency was 134.725, but the radio would only go from .70 to .75! I remembered by instructor saying something about ignoring the last digit (they're always given as 3 digits, like .725, but the radios only display 2). Could it be that the second digit was insignificant too? So I tried 134.70, but after listening for a bit it was pretty clear that it wasn't the tower. I had to get back with approach and tell them that I couldn't get the tower frequency. They were confused, but were pretty nice about it, and ended up arranging for me to use the ground frequency to talk to the tower and land, so it worked out ok. But it was pretty frustrating.

    On the ground, I started trying to figure it out. I discovered that Com #1 would dial in smaller increments and get me the freq I needed, but Com #2 would not. The plane had been switched to use Com #2 as the default radio due to an issue with #1. I couldn't remember what the issue was so I decided against switching. After all, I'd already managed to work around it once. Why risk making things worse by telling them I have it figured out, only to run into another problem? So I explained the problem to the ground controller and they agreed to let me stay on their frequency for departure.

    On the way home, I realized that my home CTAF freq was also a .72 so I ended up having to switch radios anyway. When I announced my downwind leg, my instructor got on the radio to ask how it went. I told him about the radio problem and he said "Oh yeah you have to pull the knob out". Mystery solved!

    Hey at least I found the airport this time though.

    That was't the last of my adventures either! I did my long cross country soon after that, but that's another story.
     
  25. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There's always something to learn in aviation, and too often I find myself not only having to learn things the hard way, but learning the same lesson more than once! :redface:
     
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  26. jaymark6655

    jaymark6655 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    At least you were at the right airport. I think my solo XC was planned through a land of single runway, all oriented N/S on purpose. I wasn't using GPS, that would have helped a little.