This is the final installment of my long-overdue update on the Cross Country endorsement. After what turned out to be a 3 hour solo flight due to stronger than forecast winds, I returned to Young with another small personal triumph under my belt.
Which was nice, because the last Triumph I had, I had to sell to pay my mortgage after a layoff.
Anyway, just like on a motorcycle, after (now) 6 hours in the saddle, I had a serious case of Monkey-butt and was in no hurry to get started right away. It was the middle of the afternoon so I only needed to make sure we left in plenty of time to get back to Bankstown well before the end of daylight.
So I walked around to stretch my legs, drank plenty of water, and settled in for the final stage of planning for the return trip. While I was doing that, Brett topped up the fuel in the Jabiru just to make sure.
Plan was (nominally) just to go back the way I’d come – via Goulburn to Moss Vale then up to Camden and over to Bankstown. I say nominally, because this was the Test and anything could happen and it certainly did.
As this was the test, I made extra sure to leave no stone unturned when it came to planning. I have to demonstrate to Brett I’ve done all the flight planning including wind speed and direction, heading, ground speed, and estimated times. I had to show proper fuel planning, weight and balance calculations, as well as my planned route.
Once he was satisfied, we strapped ourselves in an taxied once again to runway 19 and made a standard takeoff and a crosswind departure to the East for Goulburn.
But before we even got to the chosen height of 7500 feet, Brett goes into Role Playing mode and says he’d like to check out his property near Crookwell. So… a diversion for the first Task.
No problem. So I keep trimmed for straight and level flight and draw a new line on my chart and quickly estimated that it was about X degrees off my original heading. So I changed to that heading and kept it straight while I worked out an estimate for the effects of the forecast winds so I could refine the heading and ground speed and calculate my estimated times from that. As luck would have it, once I was on the new heading I could see a huge windfarm dead ahead which seemed to correspond to what I expected to see on the map – so all I had to do was keep focused and maintain that heading.
Once overhead the windfarms, I couldn’t see Crookwell so I needed to use dead reckoning to look for some other features and see if I could refine my position. As it turned out, the wind farm I saw was a bit to the South of the ones that I thought they were – so I had myself temporarily convinced I was headed in the right direction.
But dead reckoning is like that, and given it was an unplanned diversion, it still got me in the right area – Crookwell was just a couple of miles to the North – so a quick left turn and I was overhead in a few minutes and had my positive fix.
That was rather easy, so this time Brett decided to turn up the heat a little – he now wanted to fly over the Wombeyan Caves. This is a popular tourist attraction but if there is anything caves are reliably known for, its not being visible from the air. So while I did get us in the area, Brett had to point them out to me. It wasn’t exactly like Disney World, but at least we got there and he’s happy with my ability to divert and get un-lost.
The biggest lesson I am still learning is having proper expectations of what I’ll see. For example, just because the chart shows a river, it might be a dried-up little track in the dirt. What looks like a township on the chart might be a few houses and a silo. And so on… So its about not waiting to see what you think you’ll see, but flying accurately and having a good idea of the range of what is possible. That will just be a matter of experience, I’m afraid.
So at this point, Brett just said “take us home”. I could see the massive gorge that parallels the dividing range between us and Sydney, and was able to spot enough features to know exactly where I was.
I just cruised it on in toward Camden, but had the same issue coming back as we did leaving, a cloud layer between me and where I needed to be. So I did a spiral descent in a clear area to get down to 2500 feet or so and continued on to Bankstown where I managed exactly the sort of landing you’d expect after a full day of flying – no points for style.
The debrief was short and sweet, just a few minor corrections and observations but overall he was happy with everything and I am happy to say has signed off on my Cross Country endorsement! This removes the 25 mile radius limitation from my departure airport, and opens up the entire country to me!
My next step is my Passenger endorsement – I only lack 2 solo hours and a quick checkride. Actually, at the time of this writing, that’s been done as well – stay tuned!