Flight School Update: Cross Country Time Building (Part 1)

This got long, so it’s going to be 2 parts.

Commercial pilots will be looking at that title and going, “uh huh, yep, that.”

So, I’m at the point where I’m supposed to be just kind of going around flying places and getting experience, mainly doing cross country flying to other airports.

I’m a goal oriented person, and I have trouble motivating myself to do something that’s pointless. And I have trouble convincing myself of a purpose to flying around southern Manitoba, once I’ve seen most of it, when there’s no score displayed to show me how well I did at the end of the level.

And getting ready for a cross country is a lot of fuss – the nav log still takes me forever, and getting friends together to go with me, for someone with Aspergers, it’s more stressful than it is for other people. After the first one, I did a couple trips alone, just to let myself get in a rhythm without having to worry about getting passengers organized.

The first time I took passengers was to Lac Du Bonnet, and on the way back I got a bit off course. There’s two sets of power lines running at an angle from Lac Du Bonnet, and I ended up following the wrong set, and when I came to the end of them, and didn’t see anything I should have seen, I realized I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. It was the first time I’d gotten even a little bit lost. And honestly, that was only a little bit lost. There was a bunch of contributing factors – I forgot to get a cushion, so I was having a hard time seeing to navigate, the clouds were low, so I was down at 2000 feet, with only about 10 statute miles visibility – way more than minimums, but, I realized, just a bit more than I was ready for, plus, forgot to reset my heading indicator.

But I did get my time over my set heading point, so knew how far I’d flown. So I knew there was a point where I’d hit Winnipeg airspace, and of course, that’s class C, and you can’t go in there without giving them 30 mins notice, so I had to turn away before then. But if I turned North, there’s the river, and the river’s big and you can’t miss it, and St. Andrews is right next to the river, so all I had to do was turn North and I’d find my way. And at that point where I knew I’d have to turn North, that was the moment one of my passengers pointed out a small town, and I recognized it right away as Oakbank.

I was pretty embarrassed at the time about getting that far off course, but it was also a learning experience. I was a fair ways from making a desperate radio call for help, and I wasn’t short of fuel (I had enough fuel to get a lot more lost than that!) but my mind was working out the next step, if I couldn’t get my bearings. The obvious one was turn North, but had I not had that option, I could have hopped on the radio, because I was still well within radar range and I figured I could ask Terminal to help me out. But I was starting to work out at what point I did have to admit that I was all out lost and make that radio call, so it was valuable experience.

Anyway, after that, I went to Kenora, and did another trip to Brandon – those were the couple I did by myself. Those both went well, though the Brandon one I was racing weather, and that never goes well for me. When I got to Brandon airport, Brandon Radio gave me the winds as something gusting thirty two, and I decided discretion was the better part of valour and did a low and over (flying over the runway without touching down). I think I could have done it – I’ve done landings in winds like that – not solo, but I’ve done it. I could not kill myself, if I had to. But I didn’t have to, and Harv’s Air school rules are that no student go up if the winds are gusting over twenty. I knew the winds would be fine when I got back to St. Andrews though, and they were. It was a piloting decision, and any instructors I’ve talked to agreed it was a good one.

And in Part 2 I’ll talk about my trip with Nathan to Gimli>Dauphin>Brandon and back.


5 responses to “Flight School Update: Cross Country Time Building (Part 1)

    • 😀 Oh yeah, especially in the winter, when the snow on the ground makes them really easy to spot. Also, the ones that go through forests are easy to see because of the long straight lines of cleared trees. The power lines are marked on our aeronautical charts with wavy lines.

  1. I’m reading this (with no knowledge of piloting of course) and thinking – “hey this sounds like plot development”

    Am I off course?
    Should I head North?

    Maybe radioing the terminal and asking for help is the piloting equivalent of throwing some “deus ex machina” into your book because you can’t see another way out of where you’ve got yourself.

    I’m sure the analogy doesn’t hold too far, there’s some serious and immediate dimension to piloting a plane – with the objective of keeping everyone on board alive – that you just don’t get even with a brilliant plot development.

    Still maybe every air flight is a story in itself.

    Bring on part 2! 😉

    • Well, it might be deus ex machina if the point of the story was about getting unlost – because that basically says there was no danger in the first place.

      It might not be in a story where the main conflict is the pilot getting over their pride.

      The climax of my nano novel will involve the MC getting lost though, in a storm. In that case she’ll have more than just being lost to deal with – but controlling the plane, and worrying about her captain, who’s passed out ill from the plague. No radar services in this story. Or GPS 😛

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