Posts Tagged ‘150NM’

150 Nautical Mile Solo

August 22, 2011 1 comment

This morning I completed another major milestone in this quest for a private pilot license. I conquered the 150NM cross country trip landing at three airports. The short story: everything went well and I arrive back home intact…as did the airplane.

Now the long story: The plan was to go to Lancaster (KLNS), Fredrick (KFDK) and back home to Gaithersburg (KGAI). No great surprise I followed the plan no problems. The thing to keep in mind is that the airspace above Gaithersburg is the Washington DC SFRA space and it’s “carefully watched”. As I’ve explained in the past this means you must squawk a unique transponder code both for the inbound and outbound trips and never ever squawk 1200 the usual VFR code.

It was an incredibly beautiful day must have had 15-20 miles visibility with very few clouds in the sky, more like a nice fall day rather then the usual summer haze. The trip to KLNS was totally uneventful, everything was just hunky dory. I reach the Susquehanna River and get ready to talk to Lancaster Tower. I had already dialed up and listened to Lancaster ATIS and the weather was clear and wind from 340 with 12-15kts. Quite breezy. I figure that ATC will take me in via runway 31. I call in to the tower at about 10 miles out with “Lancaster Tower 911 alpha tango student pilot inbound 10 miles to the southwest with information Delta”. They say something like use runway 31 and left base contact when 3 miles out. Well I don’t exactly know what happened but I had a hard time figuring out which of the two runways was correct and I just wound up traveling parallel to runway 31 kinda like on the downwind but it was the wrong side of the runway! I just continue for a bit and the control tower asks where I was and I try to describe it to which he says: “you sure you’re looking at Lancaster airport”? I reply, “yes definitely Lancaster now about 4 miles from base to runway 31. He tells me to extend the downwind (although I’m pretty sure this is not the real downwind) and to be number 2 for the runway, there is some traffic. At about 6 miles out he says I’m approved to make the turn to base and clear to land on runway 31. I turn and wind up with a freaking 7 mile final which is kinda ridiculous. Another plane has time to take off while I”m on this approach. I come in with no further problems but it was clear to the tower that I was a student 😉

I get to the ground and ask the tower if I can do a pattern and he says in a rather annoyed tone “contact ground”. I do that and every thing was pretty much fine he leads me to the runup ramp for runway 31 I contact the tower one more time and he approved clearance to do a pattern on runway 31. I do the pattern just fine, land and contact ground about where to go to which the tower says “clear the runway! you should know to always clear before anything” and I say “got it”, so then I contact ground when on the ramp and go to the pilot shop where I purchase my obligatory box of Wilbur chocolate. I definitely have issues approaching airports and this is just the first of three today.

I prep the plane and take off again on runway 31 this time headed for KFDK. There are two runways at KFDK and I hadn’t quite made up my mind yet which one to use when I hear on the KFDK CTAF…”911AT are you on this frequency?” It’s my instructor! I say hi and he asks how’s it going and says “I assume you’re using runway 30 because of the wind” and I say I wasn’t sure yet I hadn’t heard the AWOS yet but that sounds fine. Was very amusing hearing him call out from the airport’s CTAF. In short order I’m getting close to KFDK and thankfully there is MUCH less traffic then yesterday. I am unclear (again!) which runway is 30 although it should be obvious based on the heading. I kinda circle around KFDK until I have a clear visual of runway 30 loop around until I am correctly entering the base do all the usual radio calls to let people know what I’m doing and then come in for a landing. I wind up (thanks to some useful instructor advice before I took off) landing with only 20 degrees of flaps and a little fast which improves the control in gusty conditions. I landed fine nothing great but hit the ground at a little to much of an angle but nothing horrible, there was quite a bit of wind.

All done with KFDK so I just taxi on over to runway 30 and take off. It’s not too far from the SFRA border so my main concern is to get in touch with Potomac Approach and get the new squawk code. I climb to about 2200 and continue climbing when I start contact with Potomac Approach. They respond fine but tell me to switch to another frequency which I don’t quite hear. The radio with Potomac had lots of static, perhaps because of my relatively low altitude, but I didn’t ask to repeat the frequency cause I could barely hear them. I switch instead to one of the two published frequencies I had and they were OK. They just asked me to ident and asked if I had filed an SFRA plan. They give me a code and say “stay out of the SFRA” which I now know they always say, until they see the transponder code. I was however about to break the SFRA line so I turned away from it. In a few seconds after the turn they contact me and say the transponder was observed continue on course and stay out of Bravo airspace. Great I think…so I turn back to the correct heading for KGAI and then look at the altimeter only to see that it says 3700 ft!!! I’m like oh shit this whole time that I had been futzing with Potomac I had the throttle on full and was climbing! The boundary for Bravo air space right about where I was, is 3500! Not good…I reduce the throttle back immediately and pitch the nose down for a rather rapid decent. Potomac Approach calls and reminds me not to break Bravo airspace, I suspect I came real close 😉

Well all that’s left is to go home to KGAI. I see the airport probably 12 or more miles away and wait until about 6 miles to tell Potomac Approach they say fine go in and keep the transponder code as usual. Off to my right I see my place of employment (a large campus area) and start to turn there but decide that I”m not sure if that is kosher with the SFRA folks or not. So I just head on over to the airport. I wind up again doing a large loop around to get positioned correctly to enter the base, and this time it was more deliberate as it was a gorgeous day and great for sightseeing. I enter the base and land with no incidents and that’s all for today folks!

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