Daily Pilot's Journal

Read the complete day-by-day flight log of an actual student pilot, from the first takeoff to the signing of his private pilot's license. Written promptly at the end of every flight, each entry is completely unedited - detailing the successes, failures, and mistakes we all encounter along this long road.
Day 20 - Short Cross-Country Solo
Tuesday, 7/18/06 7:00am - Moderately hazy, no wind. I arrived on the ramp early today to preflight 8081G and Stan walked up as I was doing the interior. "Did you want to solo to Poughkeepsie today?" he asked. "Sure", I told him. I was confident. Even though this would be my first cross-country solo, things like this don't seem like that big of a deal anymore. After receiving some last minute instructions to monitor the Poughkeepsie ATIS as soon as possible and to turn around if I encountered any low clouds, Stan wished me a good flight and headed back to his motorcycle while I continued my preflight.

After taxiing to runway 19 I took off and made a left downwind departure. I was soon able to pick out the stacks and get lined up with my flight plan. I leveled off at 2500 feet and headed across the sound. The haze was annoying but I could still see fairly well. Air was smooth except over the two beaches, and soon I was crossing into Connecticut and snapping photos of Stamford. Everything was going pretty well and I remembered not to let my heading or altitude drift.

One by one I hit my landmarks: Norwalk, the lakes, the highway... keeping dead-on accurate to the heading given to me by the loran. The good old loran got me all the way to Poughkeepsie, where a very polite tower operator wished me good morning and gave me a right base on runway 24. Cleared for the option I came in on a very beautiful approach and made a soft, effortless landing that I wish I could've caught on film. Taking back off into the sky I felt pretty damned good. Although I would've liked to make a few more landings at this cute little airport I decided to stick to the plan and radioed that I was leaving the area.

Buzzing trucks on final glidepath to Poughkeepsie's runway 24

Southern departure was just as easy to follow the landmarks/loran. I did encounter two other aircraft, one above and one below me. The piper below me was diving and turning away, a sure sign he saw me. He was at least 500 feet beneath me, but I was glad he'd seen me before I saw him. I climbed and turned in the opposite direction, but got a good look at him as he flew by.

Back over the sound the turbulence picked up a bit so I dropped some altitude to see if I could get under it. Found the stacks and came in for an approach on runway 19. Radioed over the mall and began my descent. I think I descended too slowly and a little too late because I was very high for my final approach. I could've corrected this by going to full flaps a bit earlier but I was preoccupied with some swirling winds. I'd already gotten clearance and was a mile from the runway apron when I heard the tower transmit: "Traffic in the pattern be advised that the winds are picking up and are coming from all random directions". A few other pilots chirped in to verify this. I didn't need it verified at all because I was experiencing it as I was trying to land - and coming in high to boot. But even with these things thrown at me, it wasn't much trouble to cut power and dive off my altitude. I didn't make the runway numbers, but I made the runway. Even floating the landing I had plenty of room. Rather than burn Stan's breaks to make the alpha taxiway I let it roll down to beta. Switched up to ground, got clearance for echo, and parked the aircraft being sure to take some nice shots of the plane before I tied her off.

My first cross-country solo went as smooth as possible. I flew confidently and directly. The one bad thing about such a trip is maybe getting a little bored without someone to talk to, but then again getting some time alone isn't all too bad either.

Flying hours today: 1.6       Total: 26.5

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