Wow! What an amazing day I had today flying! I’ve been waiting to do my long Cross Country flight for a couple of weeks now due to weather. Today the weather gods smiled upon me and I got an amazing amount of flying in.
The plan for the day was to take off out of Puyallup (KPLU) Thun Field, cross over McChord AFB, hang a left at Anderson Island, overfly Olympia (KOLM), overfly Centralia/Chehalis (KCLS), hang a right over Kelso (KKLS) and follow the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon (KAST). After landing at Astoria, I would stretch my legs, then hop back in the plane for a trip to Hoquiam, land there, stretch my legs and finally head back to Pierce County, Thun Field skirting around the Rainier Military Operations Area (MOA) to the South, overflying Eatonville airport on the way.
My flight was scheduled for 12:00PM and I had the plane booked until 5PM. MORE than enough time! (Sic) When I got to the airport, I asked my instructor, if after I got back, she was up for it, could we get my last two night landings in? She was, so I added that to the plan. At 12:15, the plane still wasn’t back. I wasn’t worried, I had 5 hours booked and it shouldn’t take me nearly that long to accomplish it. Finally at 12:30, the plane was back, but not fueled up. So we towed the plane over to the fuel pumps and topped her off. Finally at about 1:20, I was OFF!
I climbed out of KPLU and once I hit 1,200 feet, turned to the west and contacted the McChord tower:
“McChord Tower, Cessna one one five one Mike 5 miles to the east at 2,000 requesting permission to transition your airspace east to west”
They approved my transition, gave me a discrete transponder code and I flew on over. Once I was out of their airspace, they gave me permission to change frequencies and I started my climb up to 4,500 feet. At Anderson Island I banked the plane left and started my flight towards KOLM. I tuned in the frequency for the Olympia Tower so I could hear the traffic coming in and out of Olympia. Even though I was going to fly over them above their airspace, I wanted to know if anyone was coming and going.
The sky was beautiful today! At one point I could see Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood all lined up. I was basically following I-5 south towards Centralia/Chehalis. Once I reached KCLS, I turned just a bit more left and continued on to KKLS, Kelso. I tuned in the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) for KKLS to listen to who was coming and going. Again, I’d be well above any of the traffic, but still like to know what’s happening.
I could see the Columbia River ahead and could just make out the Kelso airport when I turned toward the west and began to follow the Columbia out to the coast and Astoria. I had my iPad mounted on the Passenger’s side Yoke and had Foreflight running with my route programmed into it. I was tracking the VORs on my way down and verifying that I had calculated the correct radials to find my position on the chart. I used Foreflight more for a backup than anything else. When it comes time to do my FAA checkride, I won’t have the option of using Foreflight, but it’s nice to have when I’m flying solo cross country as an additional navigational aide. (I also have a handheld radio and my DeLorme InReach SE in my flight bag for additional safety. Never too cautious!)
Coming into Astoria, the winds were favoring Runway 08 and there was someone ahead of me in the traffic pattern. Although I couldn’t see her. She was on final when I turned onto the downwind leg and I never did see her. She ended up aborting her landing and going around. I hoped I didn’t stomp on her landing. I set up for my base turn, then to final and touchdown! I landed in a different state than the one I took off from! One of my goals accomplished. I taxied to transient parking and shut down the plane. When the other plane landed behind me, they parked right next to me. I went over after they shut down and asked if I had screwed up their landing somehow. They assured me I hadn’t. I was very glad about that! Turns out the two women in the front seats of the Piper were Naval pilots and were just out for a bit of a pleasure flight. Pretty cool!
I took care of business at Astoria and hopped back in the plane. The winds were pretty brisk, I’d say 10-15 knots straight down the runway. Glad they were straight down the runway, I’m only allowed to take off or land in up to 12 knot cross winds! 🙂 Climbing out of Astoria, I pointed the nose north and flew up the coast passing over The Port of Ilwaco (7W1), Long Beach, Westport (14S) and finally over Ocean Shores (W04) I turned East towards Hoquiam.
The winds were favoring runway 06, which I’d never landed on before. I DID know that because of the hills on the North side of the airport, runway 06 is Right traffic. (When you say right or left traffic describing an airport, that means that all the turns in the traffic pattern are that direction. So in the case of Hoquiam, runway 06 is right meaning the downwind leg is on the south side of the airport, facing west, turn right, or north for base, and right again, or east, for final. Runway 24 is left traffic, so the downwind is still on the south side, but all the directions are opposite and the turns are to the left) So I flew out north of the airport, overflew the airport at 1,500 feet (500′ above pattern altitude) and did a left circling turn to end up on the downwind leg at about 1,000 feet, pattern altitude. As I turned final I saw a whole FLOCK of geese just hanging out in the grassy area just before the runway. I said a silent prayer that they were used to planes landing over them and wouldn’t freak out and all take off as I passed over. Apparently they are, and they didn’t. PHEW. I landed at Hoquiam, taxied over to the ramp and got a text message from my instructor. “Don’t forget you have to do 3 takeoffs and landings at a tower controlled airport today too!” CRAP, I totally forgot about that. So I told her I was going to go to Tacoma Narrows to get that accomplished. That will add about 45 minutes to my day. And flying from Hoquiam to Olympia is going to be into a pretty much straight on headwind.
I didn’t even get out of the plane at Hoquiam, just snapped a couple of photos and headed to the runup area to get ready to fly again! Taking off of runway 06, I noticed there were some cranes just beyond the airport, but they were low enough they wouldn’t be a factor. I climbed up to 5,500 feet and headed toward Olympia. At one point my groundspeed was about 63 knots. That headwind was brutal!! I could drive faster than this. Of course without the view! At Olympia, I turned north for Tacoma Narrows.
About 10 miles to the south of KTIW I contacted the tower and requested permission to land. He asked me to ident (Push a button on the transponder so they can see me on radar) and then asked if I wanted the straight in approach or if I preferred to enter on the downwind. I asked to enter on the downwind and was told to report when doing so.
I flew out over fox island and did a 180° turn to downwind and let the controller know where I was. I landed just fine, taxied off and lined up to take off again. He had me make right traffic after taking off (which meant I would fly over the narrows bridges). My second landing was without incident. I lined up for lap #3. The sun was going down. I was going to be pushing it to get back by dark. I’m not allowed to fly by myself after dark!
I took off on runway 35, turned cross wind and then turned downwind over the bridges. I was told I’d be following an Archer and was second for landing. After the Archer was about 45° behind me, I made my base turn, then my final turn. But I was obviously going faster than the Archer. I slowed down as much as I could, but certainly don’t want to stall the airplane out over a big body of water like the Puget Sound. I kept creeping up on the Archer and then the call came . . . I kind of expected it. “Cessna five one mike, expect to go around” and then about 10 seconds later “Cessna five one Mike, go around stay to the west side of the runway, follow the Archer out on upwind” So I continued to follow the Archer. I waited beyond where he turned crosswind before I turned. Then I waited beyond where he turned base, to turn base. This time all was good and I got my 3rd landing in.
But it was still getting darker. I turned on the light in the cockpit. I could still see outside just fine. But lights were beginning to come on and my landing light was actually visible on the runway. At the end of the runway I called up “Tacoma tower, Cessna five one Mike, ready for takeoff runway three five with departure to the East”. They had me wait for one plane that was landing, and I swear, the only thing I heard in my head was “Tick tock tick tock”. I wasn’t sure how mad my instructor would be if I got back and it was “officially” dark, but I’m quite sure I didn’t want to find out!
Finally “Cessna five one mike, clear for take off runway three five, east departure approved” and I was off! Now if you take the time to watch the video I put together of my flight, that last take off and subsequent flight back to Thun field looks like it’s pitch black. I assure you it was not. Because I have the prop filter on my Garmin VIRB, it tends to filter out some of the available light as well as the propeller. I also think, had I turned off the camera and turned it back on, it may have been able to adjust for the available light a little better? On my downwind leg at Thun filed, I could still see the mountain plain as dusk. After landing at Thun field, I taxied over to the the fuel pumps where my instructor was waiting for me. Oh boy. Well time to find out if I’m in trouble. I cut the engine and coasted to a stop by Pump 4, secured the airplane and got out.
“Well?” I asked, wondering if I was in for it or not. “The sun set at 4:30, it’s 5:08 now, you’re fine.” Since night flying is defined as the period that starts one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise, I made it. But I was sweating it for sure! We gassed up the plane and headed into the flight school to finish the paperwork for that flight. Turns out I was flying for 3.7 hours! Wow! New record for me by a long shot! That was an awesome trip around the state! And getting to land at an airport in another state was super cool as well!
Teri met us at the airport and after we got all the paperwork done, it was time to head back out to the airplane for some night flying! I had to do 1/2 hour under the hood at night, and get two more takeoffs and landings at night to finish up my night flying requirements. We took off out of Thun field and headed back to Tacoma Narrows. Almost as soon as we were off the ground, my instructor had me put the hood on and I was looking at nothing but instruments. She had me do some maneuvers including; Recovery from unusual attitudes, slow flight, turns, climbs and descents. I spent 30 minutes under the hood, and then we headed for KTIW. I did my landing, although it was a carrier trap, it would have been passable. We taxied back and took off and headed back to Thun field. My landing at Thun was much better! 8 takeoffs and 8 landings today all tolled. With stops at 4 different airports in two states.
This is not a day I will ever forget! I’m going to have to review the FAR/AIM and verify that I’ve met all the minimum requirements for my license, but I think I have and now all I have left to do is pass the check ride! My solo currency is up next week. (You have to be “re-soloed” every 90 days after your first solo) So I’ll have to get that done as I’m pretty darn sure I’m not taking my check ride in the next 6 days! I’ve got 3 hours to be with my instructor practicing for my check ride. Plus I’ve got to study my Hurlbut off for my oral exam. I’m so close I can taste it!