Here’s the final stretch now. I went out with Tom to review everything I’ve learn and make sure that all the maneuvers meet the “practical test standards.”

This flight also gave me the opportunity to get acquainted with the area and landmarks to the west and southwest, a place we don’t typically fly.

We transitioned through Morristown and tracked the Solberg VOR. Just outside of Solberg, Tom pulled the throttle out. I made a simulated engine out landing at Somerset Airport. So far so good.

We went on to do all the maneuvers including ground reference, slow flight, stalls, steep turn, and unusual attitudes.

The challenge was finding my way back to Caldwell, but after Tom pointed out some landmarks, we headed towards it. We transitioned through Morristown again and descended into Caldwell. We practiced some short and soft field landings and wrapped it up.

Plane: N272LP (C172)
From: CDW — SMQ -
Duration: 2.1

Long Solo Cross Country

This was like the short cross country packed with more airports, more miles, more communication and more fun.

I planned a trip from Caldwell to Allentown to Sullivan County and back to Caldwell – a total of 170nm.

I used the GPS, but I didn’t really know how to use the GPS. So, after my run-up, I spent a good couple of minutes trying to get it working. I finally realized that it was two units and the second one wasn’t one. derr. Once I got that on, I plugged in “Direct to KABE”  and was on my way.

All went smoothly. I transitioned through Morristown’s airspace, then opened my flight plan, and then contacted NY Departure as I was leveling off at 4500ft. The GPS took a huge load off. I was able to spend more time looking for other airplanes and less time looking at the ground and my map. I was passed off to Allentown Approach, then another controller, and then Allentown tower. The landing was a bit of a plop. I think the wide runway threw me off and I leveled off too early.

I closed my flight plan, got my clearance out of Allentown’s Class C, and waited a little while for other traffic.

Always talk to ATC! I’m glad I was getting flight following from Allentown on the way to Sullivan County. About 10 minutes after I left Allentown, the approach controller said “677DM, traffic 12 o’clock 2 miles same altitude converging.” It was pretty hazy, I couldn’t see the other plane, and that’s exactly where I didn’t want someone to be. I said “not in sight” and the controller said “I advise you climb.” So I did. I climbed 400ft to about 5,900ft when the controller said the other traffic had passed on the right. I looked, but didn’t see him. And the pilot of the other plane, who wasn’t talking to ATC, will never even know.

The rest of the leg was less eventful. I was passed off to Wilkes-Berre Approach, which I failed to even consider in my planning. In fact, I think I was so focused on planning that first leg that I didn’t give enough attention to the other legs. That really became apparent after I left Sullivan County. I tried to get Millville FSS on the radio to open my flight plan. I was listening in on Stillwater VOR. After trying three times, I realized Stillwater VOR is too far. I switched over to Huguenot VOR. I got an answer, but it was from Islip FSS. “Shoot,” I thought. I had totally failed to plan that I would be speaking to a different FSS. It worked, though.

I made it back to Caldwell to a seemingly frazzled controller. I reported 10 miles to the north and she asked me to Ident. Another guy calls from the east and she asked him to Ident. Then a third. Man, it was busy. I was originally assigned a right base for 22, but it was switched to a downwind entry. I heard another plane coming in from the west and recognized it as my instructor. “Ooo.. I better not screw this up,” I thought. Tom gave me the right of way and I turned towards the downwind. The controller told me of traffic on the downwind. He was basically crossing my path, so I told her I can do a 360. She said, nah, just keep it wide. So, I flew basically next to this guy on the downwind leg. He did a short approach and I went long. Tom happen to come in right after me.

And that is a big step closer to getting my license.

Plane: N677DM (C172)
From: CDW – ABE – MSV -
Duration: 2.6

Fourth Log Book Page Filled

Another 10 flights down.

Here are the totals since I started my lessons:

Flights: 40
Duration: 54.9 hours
Actual Instrument: 0.7
Simulated Instrument: 2.9 hours
Day Landings: 169
Night Landings: 11
Ground Training: 2.1 hours
Flight Training: 48.3 hours
Cross Country: 8.7 hours
Night: 4.2 hours
Solo: 5.0 hours
PIC: 5.0 hours

Some More Crosswind Landing Practice

I was scheduled for my Long Cross Country today. It was a little bit windy and after yesterday’s crosswind landing performance, I wasn’t too thrilled about going out alone. Besides that, the ceiling at Sullivan was a bit lower than what my instructor would have liked.

My instructor was busy today, but he managed to get Pat to go up with me.

And so I practiced crosswind landings, keeping in mind the lessons I learned yesterday. They were much better than yesterday’s. We also played around with both crabbing and slipping.

It’s easy as cake if you remember to keep your eyes outside.

Plane: N677DM (C172)
From: CDW
Duration: 1.1

Some Crosswind Landing Practice

I hadn’t flown in almost three weeks and I was scheduled for a Long Cross Country tomorrow. I also hadn’t practiced crosswind landings all summer (there just wasn’t that much wind). So when I stepped outside and it was a great day but really windy, I thought, hey let’s go flying.

I went up with Tom and stayed in the pattern. I’ll admit, the landings weren’t that good. The wind was a 70 degree crosswind at (something like) 7 gusting to 15.

Here are some of the things I was doing wrong:

1. Chasing the Airspeed

My eyes were inside a bit too much and fixated on the airspeed. Because of the wind and the gusts, it would fluctuate. I would try to bring it back by pitching up or down. This really led to leveling off the descent and ending up too high on final, or making the airspeed fluctuate more. What I needed to do it keep my eyes outside and hold my sight picture constant. The airspeed would come back on its own and I would keep my descent steady.

2. Compensating for No Wind

We were using Runway 4 and there’s a funny thing about Runway 4. There are trees lining most of the runway, so once you descend below the tree line, the wind goes away. Since I was anticipating the crosswind, I kept a left correction in the whole time. Inevitably, as we got closer to the runway, we drifted off to the left. What I needed to do is keep my eyes outside and control only for what really is happening, and not for what I anticipate is going to happen.

They shouldn’t be a problem if I keep these things in mind.

Plane: N272LP (C172)
From: CDW
Duration: 1.3

Short Solo Cross Country

Let’s clear up one thing first – “cross country” does not mean I flew to California. It means I flew from one airport to another. The requirement for the short cross country is to fly at least 50nm away. So, I planned my trip from Caldwell (CDW) to Sullivan County (MSV).

Tom was laughing as I was leaving. I asked him, “What? Are you worried?” and he said, “No. What, I can’t be happy? I like seeing progress.”

MSV is quite an airport. It’s a 10,000 ft runway with all the instrument approaches you might want in the middle of nowhere. It’s pretty quiet over there, so it’s a Class E airport.

I took off of 28, found the starting point near Lincoln Park and turned on course. I did the whole trip using pilotage – meaning looking at the ground and a map. I actually didn’t know my instructor would have been fine with me using other navigation – we always trained for the worst-case. The course took me through our typical practice area anyway, so I was familiar with half the route.

I opened my flight plan with Millville FSS, but didn’t call NY Departure on the way there. I thought it would just distract me and I wanted to focus on flying. Then I realized it would have been nice talking to them. I was just leveling off at 4500ft when I see a commercial airliner fly right over me at 5000ft. Don’t worry, 500ft is the required separation, so it wasn’t too close, but it would have been nice to know.

At some point during the trip, I realized I was having trouble holding altitude. I went through why that might be and found that I was gripping the controls …and that’s where Tom’s voice popped into my head.

There was another person in the pattern, so I watched out for him and landed. I don’t really remember the landing there. I closed my flight plan and took off again.

On the way home, I did contact NY Approach. I had no advisories and cancelled flight following as I was descending below the Class B.

The winds were dead all day. My planning was easy because I didn’t have to calculate any wind correction. But, I got a bit nervous coming into Caldwell because the tower said the winds were (something like) 5 gusting to 11. I hadn’t done crosswind landings in a while. It was a straight-in for 22 and I kept in mind the crosswind. It may have been the smoothest crosswind landing I’ve ever done, with the upwind wheel touching first.

When I was packing up my stuff, I found myself laughing to myself. I did it. I did everything. It didn’t really occur to me earlier, but that was a whole trip I piloted and I’m just about done with my training. I then realized why Tom was laughing earlier.

Plane: N677DM (C172)
From: CDW — MSV -
Duration: 1.6

Pre-solo Cross Country Stage Check


I went up with Marc today for my stage check. I had planned a flight to Albany, which we reviewed and set out for.

Off of Caldwell, I turned looking for my landmark, a road, where I set my calculated heading. It was going alright and the landmarks were matching up, but the were a bit to the right. So I tweaked the course a bit that way. When we came up at a major intersection, my over-correction was apparent, since we were on the right, instead of left, side of the road. We went back over to the left and it wasn’t long before we crossed our first checkpoint, a road on the 69 degree radial of Sparta.We were late by only about 1 minute – not too bad.

Marc asked for a diversion to Randall at that point. I turned to a heading towards Randall, and made an intersection using the Sparta and Huguenot VORs. It wasn’t easy to spot, but once I followed the road on the map, it was right where it was supposed to be. We flew over it to take a look at the wind sock and check the runway numbers. We flew a left pattern for 26. The crosswind picked up on short final, but that was corrected. The runway was hilly – no joke, like a wave. It threw off my flare, but we landed just fine.

We did a short field takeoff and headed back to Caldwell. After a minute or two I recognized a mountain near the onion fields and I knew where we were. From there, it’s a walk in the park.

We landed on 28 at Caldwell and that’s all there was to it. Millville FSS didn’t answer us, so we didn’t open our flight plan, which meant we didn’t have to close it. And tomorrow will be my first solo cross country.

Thanks, Marc.

Plane: N677DM (C172)
From: CDW – 06N -
Duration: 1.2