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 22 - Long Cross-Country Solo
Tuesday, 7/25/06 7:00am - Clear skies, no wind. Spent last night cramming my flight plan for my long X-country trip and talking to Jerroll who had just landed from his. I arrived on the ramp fifteen minutes early to find Stan taxiing the plane over to the manual fuel pump. He topped it off, which was great by me because then I didn't have to stop in Poughkeepsie for fuel. After looking my coursework over he wished me a good flight and then took off on his motorcycle.

Preflight, run-up, everything was good except I radioed for clearance before fully taxiing over to the hold short line and got spanked by the tower for it. I misinterpreted "Delay roll" with what the operator actually wanted me to do. After a quick apology I was cleared for takeoff and made a left downwind departure for the Northport stacks.

At 2500 feet the haze was a slight factor but it wasn't all that bad. One thing I've learned is that haze usually means smooth air, and I'll take smooth air over turbulence any day. Headed out toward Norwalk and then used the loran to track inbound to POU, monitoring ATIS early and finding out the skies were clear. Came into POU completely alone, no traffic, made a decent landing and decided spur of the moment that I would do another one. Reported downwind, got cleared for the option, and made an even better landing and this time. Rock on.

The sun reflecting on random Connecticut lakes en route to KPOU

After announcing that I was departing the area I climbed to 3500 feet and began to monitor the Waterbury tower frequency as I headed southeast. I had to stay above 3200 to remain clear of their airspace, but judging from the radio there was very little going on down there. The trip from Poughkeepsie to Groton was very boring. The landscape was monotonous rolling green hills and a few two-lane highways, the sun was in my eyes and it seemed to magnify the haze. I screwed around with my camera, deleting stuff and making more room so I could film my Groton landing and maybe some views over Long Island.

Finding Groton was easy and I was given a right base approach to runway 23. I banked gently into a smooth final approach and landed so perfectly in the dead center of the runway that it actually freaked me out. It really was one of the most fantastic landings I've ever made. After touching down I made a straight-out departure and could already see Plum Island, which was really cool because I'd read books about the place but had never actually seen it before. I took some photos over it and moved on down to Orient point, past the ferry, through mastic, onto Riverhead... I could see the wineries, the traffic circle on Jericho turnpike, the Tangier Outlets, etc...etc...etc... Flying over familiar terrain like that is always enjoyable because you're confident in exactly where you are.

The scenic final approach to runway 23 - Groton airport

I made my last move over Port Jefferson. I dropped down to 1200 feet in order to get clear shots of the harbor but I think I remained a little too far over the water because it came out kind of blurry. From there it was a short hop to the Northport Stacks, which made my cramped legs feel pretty psyched.

As I was coming in over the Northport Smokestacks I had just radioed the tower when all of a sudden another aircraft immediately radioed that it was in the same vicinity. Looking ahead I could see the Cessna above and slightly to the right of me, heading in toward the mall just like I was. Without being prompted I announced to the tower that I had that aircraft in sight, and the tower asked me what I'd like to do. Reducing speed I dropped a notch of flaps and told them I would fall back and allow the Cessna to approach first. The tower repeated my intentions to the Cessna while I slowed down to 80kts and kept my eye on it. I felt pretty good about handling that situation by myself and showing good airmanship. Technically I was at a lower altitude so I did have the right of way. Stan would later tell me I made the right move because that particular Cessna was faster than my Warrior, but at the time I had no way of knowing that.

Coming in over the mall the winds began gusting and blowing from different directions again. I increased power and delayed flaps to try and smooth out my approach, but still I got buffeted around. I don't know why, but the approach to runway 19 seems fraught with crazy wind. I'm digging runway 1 and 32 much more than 19. Came in with a good decent rate and according to the windsock the winds were blowing right down the runway. Still felt like a crosswind, and I managed to bang the landing. Oh well, can't always be perfect.

Stan showed up as I was tying off the right wing, scaring the crap out of me. He'd listened in on the tower frequencies (both outgoing and incoming) and explained to me what the controller meant by the 'delayed roll'. He'd also heard me give way to the Cessna over Northport. On the way back to the parking lot we picked Thursday morning for me to take the FAA written exam, so I guess I'll be studying all of tomorrow.

Flying hours today: 2.5       Total: 30.2

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