Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cross Country Flight Planning

In this life after solo I have been learning and practicing Cross Country Flight Planning. This is a picture of the table at home with almost all of the "stuff" needed spread out. The thing I'm missing is the E6B flight computer which my awesome sibs got me for Christmas...

In this picture you see the Sectional (that's the map you use to fly, it has land data and airspace data), the spiral bound book is an airports directory with details on all of the little and big airports and airstrips in CA, a rotating plotter, a flight log, the piece of paper in the back is airplane performance data... a pencil and, most important, an eraser. You really need the eraser when you're a beginner like me.

This picture is a completed flight log with all of the details filled in... I am having a lot of fun filling in the details. You take the course the plane needs to travel on the map between checkpoints (true course), adjust it for wind direction and speed to get the direction you'll be pointing the plane to maintain the true course, this is the true heading. Then you have to adjust for the variation of the magnetic field of the earth where you happen to be to get the magnetic heading, then you have to adjust for the affects of the electronics and metal stuff in the plane on the compass in the plane to get the compass heading. That's the actual direction you fly based on the compass in the plane.

Of course I haven't even mentioned stuff like calculating actual ground speed, how long it will take to fly each leg, how much fuel will be used (including the fact that you use more fuel on a climb than you use in cruise flight). Fuel is VERY important, without fuel, the plane becomes a glider, and not a great one. A good one, yes, but not a great one. Lucky for me I have the super awesome E6B my sibs got me for Christmas to make these calculations easy.. but you still have to DO them.

Of course, there are programs that will do almost all of this stuff for you. They'll even file your flight plan for you. But I'm enjoying this part, I get to put my science brain into action. My scientifically and mathematically and musically inclined siblings would love this stuff.

Then you need to know stuff about where you're going... for instance, will there be clouds there? What runways are available? Is there fuel available? What frequency do you use to communicate with other planes at the location? What frequency do you use to get wind, temp and visibility information? Is the runway long enough for you to land on?

Anyway.. with luck tomorrow will be my first Cross Country Flight. Not solo, not yet... but I am really looking forward to the adventure! I'll make sure to get pictures of me somewhere NOT at RHV :)

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