Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Long Cross Country - Part I - The Plan

I completed my long solo cross country yesterday (Monday). It was awesome... I have much to share, but not a lot of time to type. Not to mention I think its a bit easier to digest long stories in small chunks. This will be the first of several posts on this flight.

My flight had to involve taking off and landing at three different airports, there had to be at least 50 nm between airports on one of the three legs, and I needed 2.9 more hours of solo cross country flight time to meet the cross country portion of aeronautical experience requirements for my private pilot license. I wanted to fly up to Colusa airport because a friend of mine used to manage that airport and I was hoping to see him there. Turns out he was on a cruise in Alaska at the time. Jeff was sure I would not get permission to fly up there because it was far, much further than I would need to go. But I asked anyway.

In the end Scott asked me to describe the route I would use and what I would be looking for to keep from getting lost. So I did my high level plan and emailed him with my checkpoints and plan. This picture shows the plan drawn on a sectional. What follows is my description of my plan. My plan was good enough that Scott agreed I could go ahead and plan to do that flight. All I had to do then was wait for the weather and the schedules to come together right. Fortunately for me, it only took two attempts to be able to do the flight. Last week's scrub and this week's success.

The Plan - Reid-Hillview to Lodi to Colusa and Back

I mention Travis a couple times in the plan. This is because my planned route flew through the Travis AFB Alert Airspace. An "Alert" airspace means there is heavy pilot training activity or unusual activity and you have to be extra alert to fly through. In this case the activity is military training. More on what I saw flying through the alert area in another post.

RHV to Lodi
*LVK > *Byron landmarks: windmills, lake and the peak between Mt. Diablo and Livermore
Byron > *SCK large runways south of large city and north of smaller city
*SCK > Kingdon (O20) train tracks goes straight from stockton to this apt. This will set me up better to arrive at Lodi
Kingdon > Lodi (*1O3) the airport is approx. 5mi north of Lodi the town.
Most likely will have to cross midfield then do either LP for or RP for 26. Watch for planes using 12/ no matter what winds are doing. Watch for parachute drop zone.

Lodi to Colusa
Lodi > F72 (this will be my most likely miss, so I will look for the highway and if I cross the highway before the set of 2000 ft towers
I'll know I'm probably overshooting the airport, can also use the Sacramento VOR to help find it)
F72 > *DWA (Yolo Cty) - Contract Travis Approach, let them request permission to cut corner.
Landmarks: cut in the mountains at Lake Berryessa, and right in front of that is the town of Winters and the University airport SE of Davis which will be right under my path to Yolo Cty
*DWA > I5/I505 aim for the confluence of I5 and I505
I5/I505 > Arbunkle (next town up the highway from the intersection)
Arbunkle > Colusa head towards the the Butte. I'll use the Williams VOR plus the butte plus the town of Colusa to pinpoint the airport, Colusa has fuel 24x7 and I have personal resources there. Another situation where will have to cross midfield then come back in to land, most likely on 31. Do not fly low over birds to S and W.

Colusa to RHV
Initially I'll fly roads, keeping the mountains on my right.
*1O3 > Arbunkle If I don't see Arbuncle, turn left and fly down I5 once I hit I5
Arbunkle > I5/I505
I5/I505 > Watts Woodland (*O41) First airport in the middle of the V of the two highways
Contact Travis Approach 126.6 and get permission to fly over airport at 5500 ft.
*O41 > Nuttree (*VCB) - this is where I505 and I80 meet and the highway gets closest to the ridge
Nuttree > Travis (SUU - big runways, really big) will see it before the big group of windmills on the delta and to the left of the highways and fairfield
Travis > Buchanan (*CCR): keep ghost fleet on right over the delta, Benetia bridge will point straight at it. It will be just left of highways
Buchanan > LVK Keep Mt Diablo on the left and if I fly the right heading a nice valley in front of me should be pointing straight at livermore
LVK > Calaveras the water in the nice valley in front of me is NOT Calaveras, Calaveras is the next dip to the right. Go for the dip just to the left of the peaks with the towers. Fly the right heading and can't miss it
Calaveras > RHV

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