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Cumberland Shmumberland

Had a nice juicy long solo today to Cumberland MD, KCBE, which is way out in the far western part of Maryland. The short story: no major incidents, a smooth flight there and back via slightly different routes, great weather!

The long gory story:
When I arrive to get the plane N52632 I was scheduled to take, the guy at the school tells me the plane is grounded and that the instructor who flew it a couple of hours earlier had some FAA helicopters escort him down! The transponder wasn’t functioning. This is the same plane with the same transponder that I had issues with on my Atlantic City flight, most amusing!

So word comes down that the plane has a replacement transponder and should be fine. The routine at this school for solo’s is that your instructor first does one pattern with you he hops out and then you take off for the solo. While doing the pattern with the instructor we talk to Potomac Control while in the pattern, something we don’t usually do, and ask to confirm that he sees the transponder. He does and all is fine. So my instructor gets out and I’m off for the solo. During preflight and setting the instruments I set up the GPS, all is well and the little magenta line is waiting for me.

I set up my route to avoid a class D airport called Martinsburg (which is on a straight line from KGAI to KCBE) because I thought it would be fun, not because I was avoiding overflying Martinsburg.

For a change I also took pictures! You can see them at Cumberland Solo Pictures. It was a little amusing trying to grab the camera at various parts of the trip and click a photo. Not real happy having to take my hand off the throttle, but the nothing happened. The trip out west involved going over some higher terrain so I decided that as soon I was finished with the SFRA space (and class Bravo) I would travel at 4500MSL, not that high but not what I’m used to. There was no problem and it was fun, but at a few points it seems a little hazy and some cloud cover was a little close.  Cumberland is a very small uncontrolled airport and I listen to the AWOS and figure out which runway I will use, 23.   I have a pretty good view of the airport from a height of about 3500 and join the 45 for runway 23 downwind just fine, how novel!

Although my merging into the downwind was fine I was a tad low and overcompensated going a bit too high. I was warned that the runway was a bit high and had trees in front. It sorta did and was just sticking out on what seems to be a large mound. I was a high on the turn to final but didn’t want to drop too fast cause I was concerned about obstacles.  So I decided to somewhat force the landing partially to see what would happen and because I’ll be damned if I’m going to do a go around! The landing was kinda bumpy and took up more of the runway than normal but I had plenty of breathing room and since no one else was in the plane for the bounces…no harm done.

I got out to stretch my legs and take in the sights of the Cumberland terminal and pilot lounge…well that took about 3 seconds 😉 I preflight, setup the GPS for the return trip, run up the plane in front of the terminal taxi out to the runway and zoom to take off. OOPS! I’m on the runway with full throttle gaining speed when I realize I didn’t do a proper pre takeoff checklist and notice that my transponder was on standby! Unbelievable bozo. I wait till I get airborn and turn it on, not to mention turning on the strobes also. Yes those checklists are there for a reason! Not to mention you have to use them.

I take a slightly different route back flying over a little airstrip called Potomac that originally I thought I might land on. However the description and a friend of mine whose been there say it’s a crappy strip with lots of rocks and not that pleasant so I decided even before taking off that I would just fly over it. I did, it looked very scenic and that’s it. I flew back at 3500 ft, and wanted to be sure that just after the SFRA when entering class Bravo space I descend to below 3000 to avoid Bravo completely. That’s not a decision of mine it’s something you must do, stay out of Bravo airspace…the SFRA people always inform you of that.

I talk to Potomac Approach get the SFRA code they respond fine and see the transponder. Really glad it’s fixed. I keep on heading home to KGAI at about 10 miles out I tell Potomac I see Gaithersburg, which I think I do. They release me, I inform KGAI I’m on the 45 for runway 14. I keep flying in and eventually notice I am totally in the wrong position relative to the runway! Oy. I was on the wrong side of the runway by the base which was good but I give the airport a wide swing around and eventually correctly join the base rather then the downwind. Totally annoying, spotting these damn airports it way trickier then it seems. I have a nice landing and that’s it for now.

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