First Solo Cross-Country Flight, Complete.

(First a note: for anyone not familiar a cross-country flight is anything where the straight line distance between the landing point and the point of departure is 50 nautical miles or more)

I had been trying to find good enough weather to fly to Marshall (KRMY) for some time — it had been a very rainy and windy spring, so this had not been easy.  After almost a month of waiting, I found a day where the weather was supposed to be good, and I could go — a tough combination.

Unfortunately, that morning the winds at original destination were no good (stead at 16 knots, gusting to 24 knots — ugh), so my CFI and I decided on a quick replan.  I had come up with an alternate plan to an airport in northern Ohio, but CFI didn’t recommend that unless “I wanted a challenge”, since it would be more difficult to find in the middle of farmland. Hrm, I don’t need a challenge on this flight — so I quickly planned a flight to KPHN while the CFI preflighted and filed my flight plan (wow, what a great guy).  Checkpoints, enroute times, fuel burns, and I’m all set.  I get endorsed to go with a signature in my logbook and after a few last questions, I’m off…

Once on course and level I set up to call up Lansing radio.  “Lansing Radio, Cessna, XXXX. Listening on the Salem VOR 114.3”.  And I open my flight plan at :55 past the hour.  Easy.  Talking on the radio isn’t really that bad.

The rest of the flight is flying via pilotage: verifying my position on the map with what I see out the window. It’s easy through the first leg as I’m more familiar with the area. I skirt around some tall towers in Southfield and Oak Park and soon I’m clear of the class B shelf and ready to climb to my real cruising altitude.

I start making CTAF calls at my destination about 14 miles out. There seems to be a few planes in the area, so I figure earlier the better. There’s one plan doing a practice IFR approach to runway 4 and as I get closer he asks for my position as he goes missed.  There’s also a King Air transitioning along the river just east of the airport. I can’t spot either from my distance, but I can picture where they are.  

I overfly the airport to from south to north, directly over 10/28 and then make a descending right turn to enter the pattern on the 45 for runway 10.  There is 1 plane just landing as I’m doing this and I can see him turn off and taxi back.  I make the radio calls all the way in and as I turn off, he begins to take off again.  The landing at St. Clair is not too bad, actually pretty good given that I’m not familiar with landmarks in the pattern (and what’s to come when I arrive back at Mettetal).

After the take off at KPHN, turn to downwind and exit at cross wind on course and work my way back.  Having just seen these checkpoints, things are easy and uneventful on the way back. I descend under the class B shelf and get ready to arrive at my destination.

At this point, I can see the home field far off and start to position myself to enter the pattern and I try to call up Lansing radio again to close my flight plan.  No response…  Hrm. One other guy is trying to get a response as well and after a few attempts I call it off and switch back to CTAF. I’ll call on the ground.

So I set up for a midfield crosswind to 18 and everything looks good on final — didn’t turn too late or early.  I set up the crab angle (winds are quartering at 12, but the crosswind component isn’t too high), on short final kick the rudder to line up with the centerline but float in the flare.  At this point I start drifting to the right — as I dial in more aileron to counteract, I don’t put in enough rudder to keep aligned and touch down with sideload. Yikes. Not good. The plane kicks over and finally settles down.

Man, that sucked.  I definitely need more practice.

I want to try again and do it right, but decide another trip around the pattern isn’t what I need right now.  Let’s get the plane 
parked and try another day.  Taxi in, park, shut it off.  I’m done.


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