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Flight 42 at SpanaFlight 
(Total: .7 PIC, 52.2 Dual, 2.0 Sim IFR, .2 Night, 1.0 Complex, 193 Landings)


I got a copy of Matt's Cool Cross Country Checklist.  You can download it from here.

I think I the luck was with me today.  It was with me several times, as you are soon to find out.  First, the skies were clear and the winds were calm, and most important, it fell on a day of a hard to schedule long dual cross country flight.  I started planning from home about 2 hours before expected liftoff, and called FSS to get the current forecast.  The winds were at 14 knots on the coast, but seemed to be nearly straight down the runway.  The weather was supposed to start deteriorating later that evening, but well past my intended landing time.  Things checked out ok, and Matt calls me to go to the airport early to get a head start on the incoming weather.

I arrived at the airport about 5 minutes later, and we started with him reviewing my flight plan for completeness and accuracy.  I must say that planning a long cross country took me almost 3-4 hours to complete and gather all my information correctly BEFORE I got my first weather forecast.  I'm not complaining, mind you, I just wanted to let you know of the time involved.  

Matt said it was fine, and we headed out to preflight the plane.  After checking things out, we loaded up, and headed out to 34 for the runup checks.  I checked the plane, and almost started without setting my radios.  I caught it, however, and situated my chart and flight plan log so as to get at it easy enough.  We taxied to 34 and took off, turning west and departing the pattern off the crosswind.  I called McChord tower, and although I bungled my radio call some, requested a transition across their airspace.  They advised me to watch for a C-141 that was doing VFR pattern work in the area, so I climbed to 3500 and announced that I saw the traffic.  The plane actually went right underneath us while over the Air force Base.  If I only had my camera....

We continued to the south tip of an island that I had marked as my first checkpoint, and prior to arrival, opened my flight plan with FSS.  We then requested Flight following from Seattle Approach for traffic advisories.  They had us squawk a different transponder code and ident, then they had us on radar contact and advised us of a plane 1000 feet above us 5 miles northwest of our current position.  I spotted him shortly, and informed Approach that I had the plane in sight.  He wouldn't be a problem unless he changed course and descended so we continued past the first checkpoint and turned west to continue our flight.

I must say, that I was doing a lot better at navigating this flight, and my cockpit management was better as well.  We approached my second landmark which was a hill that had 2 towers on it, and Seattle approach advised us that we were going to lose contact shortly with them, so we climbed to 4500 feed to maintain contact.  As we arrived at our altitude, I then could see out destination, and ALL the checkpoints along my intended route.  That was pretty cool.  We didn't often fly that high, so it was kind of nice being able to spot a runway 35 miles away.

I tuned in the Hoquiam VOR next and set it to see the radial we were supposed to be on, which matched up precisely with where I wanted to be.  Matt had to remind me, however to reset my DG which had drifted 15 degrees when he noticed it. (Gee Matt, why is my calculated course and my actual course so different?)  After the blush cleared, I reset my DG only to find out that I was steering the right course all along.  I confirmed my location along the route visually as well.  

We reached Satsop, my third and final checkpoint on this leg about 2 minutes ahead of schedule.  Seattle approach wanted to know if I had the airport in sight and if I was willing to release them from flight following.  I was, and informed them so, and started descending in preparations for landing.  Matt had me hold at 2500 feet so as to avoid some of the mountain turbulence we would have otherwise experience had we descended further.  I headed out over the water to enter on a 45 Right downwind to land on runway 06 at Hoquiam Airport.

Now, realize this, I hadn't done a right hand pattern yet.  I felt that I did pretty good on my pattern work considering I hadn't done one like this before.  The wind was only 20 degrees off the runway, and at 14 knots, that left about 5-6 knots of crosswind.  No sweat.  What I hadn't realized was that the headwind was going to slow the plane as much as it did.  We turned final, and it seemed that we were at walking speeds approaching the airport, even though my airspeed read 65 knots.  It was a terrific landing.  I couldn't see how it wouldn't have been, as I had all the time in the world to make this landing.  We taxied around and took off to do another trip around the pattern.

This time was just as easy, and slow in final.  I landed pretty good and we pulled off the runway to set up for the next leg of our journey.  I put the first flight log away, and pulled out the HQM-AST Log out.  I refolded my chart so that there wouldn't be that much messing with it in the air, and I tuned all my radios and VOR's to the appropriate frequencies.  We were then off.  We did a short field takeoff and climbed like a homesick angel.  I think I hit pattern altitude before I even left the end of the runway.

We turned south and started towards our first checkpoint.  I forgot to perform my climb and cruise checklist, and Matt reminded me.  It seems I am always forgetting to turn off that damn landing light.  We followed the coast south and made quick work of the checkpoints.  The wind shifted to 220 at 12 knots, so we had a ground speed of about 87 knots this leg and we lost some time because of it.  I spotted (with difficulty) Astoria airport and heard another plane in the area doing IFR holding patterns above the Astoria VOR at 3500 feet.  We had descended to 2500 feet, but I still couldn't see him.  He must have been in the cloud layer that was over Astoria by then.  I got a little confused as to which runway I intended to land on, and we ended up over flying the airport to get oriented better.  

I entered the pattern for a left downwind landing on runway 26.  I had a pretty bad approach, so decided to execute a go around and set up better for the landing.  I then took the plane around and although the approach was only a little better, I felt it safe to land and did.  I then realized that I hadn't closed my flight plan, and called McMillan FSS on the radio and closed it.  I again pulled off the taxiway and got my charts and logs ready for the next leg.  Matt decided not to land in Kelso, but to over fly the airport and turn north to Olympia airport instead.  

We took off from Astoria, and I used pilotage and radio navigation to head out to Kelso.  We still had a head wind and our groundspeed was at 90 knots or so.  I was a little left of my intended track on the first half of the leg, but was correcting for it and arrived at Kelso right on time.  We turned north and started following I-5 north towards Olympia.  Matt stated that he could see the airport, which of course I couldn't.  I wasn't too worried as we were about 35 miles from it.  

Matt had me don the hood for about 15 minutes of radio navigation.  That went smoothly and I then took off the hood.  Matt then wanted me to find out where we were by reference to ground.  I checked the chart, and in a couple seconds, had our location.  Another test passed.  We passed by 2 airports, Toledo and Chehalis and as I finally spotted Olympia airport, things got interesting.

I mentioned I felt lucky today, and here is why.  We were at 4500 feet and had the airport in sight.  As we approached 15 miles from the airport, I looked to the right, and saw a plane...on my altitude...crossing my path to the left.  We were less than 1000 feet from each other.  I immediately turned the plane right and announced to Matt that I had a plane nearby.  Matt spotted the plane, which passed in front of us pretty dang close.  We felt his wake turbulence as we flew by him and Matt commented that he hadn't seen the plane as it was behind the wing strut.  Matt also commented that he recognized the plane and realized that it was one of SpanaFlight's planes.  It was the same plane I flew in with Matt on an earlier flight.  I must say, I watched for traffic 10 times better the rest of the flight, as I was pretty spooked from the encounter.

We started descending to 2500 feet and contacted Olympia tower with out intentions to perform multiple full stop landings there, and they cleared us for a straight in approach for runway 35.  I had the airport in sight, but the runway didn't seem right.  There were no numbers painted on it, and it didn't seem at the right angle.  I told Matt this and he informed me that on this course, I would be landing on Taxiway Alpha and I then spotted the runway and oriented the plane accordingly.  TPA here was 1200 feet and I descended to the correct altitude.  I continued my descent when I noticed the Vasi change to red over white, and slowed and lowered my flaps some. 

I had a decent approach, although Matt commented that I got a little low on final.  I misjudged my height some on this landing due to runway illusions, and landed harder that I wanted to.  Still not as bad as a couple of flights ago, however.  We taxied clear of the runway and contacted Ground Control for permission to taxi to 35 again for takeoff.  I handed Matt the controls so I could stretch some, and had him take it around the pattern once.  After landing perfectly, as always, I then took back the controls and taxied back to 35 and after requesting and receiving permission to takeoff, did so and landed a lot better than my first one.  I missed the taxiway, and tower had me back taxi on runway 8 to intercept the appropriate taxiway to head back to 35.

We decided to head out south, and after receiving permission to takeoff, turned south off the crosswind leg to continue our journey.  I requested a frequency change a few minutes later, and we then steered a course to avoid an MOA to our left.  We were still a little shaken up from the near miss, and we were pretty damned eagle eyed for other planes on this final leg.  We followed just north of some mountains turning east as we neared them.  We then headed right for Mount Rainier towards the practice area I know all too well.  After about 15 minutes, I spotted the landmark which told me where my airport was, and turned towards it.  I was flying at 2500 feet on this leg so I had a little trouble actually spotting the runway.

After searching for a couple of minutes, I got situated, and descended to TPA and called my entry to the 45 at Pierce County field runway 34.  My landing was pretty solid, although my approach was high.  Matt actually added more flaps towards the end of the approach, which I was about to do anyway.  I landed smoothly, and taxied back to a parking place and shut down the plane.  We headed in shortly thereafter, and debriefed.  Matt stated that he felt pretty good about my flying today, and although I kept forgetting to perform my climb, cruise and descent checklists, thought I did pretty good overall.  I felt that I did a lot better than my last few flights, and I think I have the confidence and skills now to go it alone.

We met up with the pilot we almost hit at the FBO office, and talked about the incident.  He spotted us only shortly before we spotted him, and he felt that as he was going faster, we would have passed behind him harmlessly.  I didn't agree, but then again, I am not "Mr. super-experienced pilot" here.  Both of us felt pretty lucky about the encounter though.

Next flight is scheduled for Wednesday, and it is supposed to be solo to Hoquiam and back.  I am really looking forward to it, as I will get to do some more proving to myself that I am really getting close to this pilot license thing that I so long for.  

Overall, a good LUCKY day...

Until next time....Journal Page 47






Last Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2000


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