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I've done it. On Sunday I completed my long cross country flight requirement. The route was KPAE (Everett) - KCLM (Port Angeles) - KBLI (Bellingham). There were low cloud ceilings first half of the day and I had to wait for the afternoon before taking off. I had prepared two flight plans to choose from in case the weather is bad on one of them. It turned out to be a good decision: even by afternoon ceilings were lower than VFR minimums along two legs of my first choice route: Everett - Port Angeles - Olympia - Everett. So at 14:00 I filed backup fight plan, preflighted and fueled the plane and took off.

Being two weeks out of practice I felt rusty and decided to stay in the airport pattern for a while and to refreshing landings a bit. Boy was I right, my landings sucked. First one was ok but on the second I was too high, tried to slip and gained some extra speed, ballooned and had to abort the landing. After I did three more, and they were consistently improving, I announced westbound departure and left Paine Field towards Port Angeles.

Flying to Port Angeles was somewhat adventurous. Since I departed from the south end of the airport and climbed in southwest direction for a while I ended up way south of the 265 radial from the Paine Field VOR which I intended to track.  I couldn't intercept my course right down to the peninsula shoreline and then had to take north of planned path because of low cloud layer hanging from Olympic Mountains. Being busy chasing down the course and thinking about rusty landings I didn't open flight plan for this leg and did not get the flight following. Granted my route fell in between areas controlled by Seattle and Whidbey approach so neither would be able to provide continuous radar services. Meanwhile, as Port Angeles showed up I got to the business of landing. There were no planes in the pattern and I announced my intentions on common advisory frequency, overflew the airport from south side, turned 180 and entered I realized later from the wrong side. Runway 26 has non-standard right traffic pattern in order to avoid flying close to mountain ridge on the south side of the airport. I had the airport diagram, made notes in my navigation log and nevertheless made standard left traffic entrance. I even ingored pattern indicator on the ground, definitely two weeks break did not do any good. The airport is uncontrolled and I was alone in the pattern so nobody pointed out at my mistake. Landing was not bad given 8 knots crosswind which is about my maximum endorsed limitation. I decided to park, take a breath and meditate on just happened experiences. After 20 minutes of break, taking pictures and snacking an apple I went off to the next destination - Bellingham.

During flight to Bellingham everything fell in place: take off, course tracking, flight plan activation, climb and level off, in route checkpoints. I climbed to 5500, contacted Whidbey Approach radar control and enjoyed flight following by their friendly controller. He asked do not directly overfly Whidbey Naval Air Station, and that's the only deviation I had to make during this leg. It was pretty cold at this altitude (~0C), so a little of cabin heat made me feeling warm and cozy. In route I observed beautiful views of Puget Sound, made some pictures, and watched Bellingham approaching on the horizon.

Stop at Bellingham International airport was concise. Land, clear off runway, request taxi to departure and take off. On the way back I got some nice views of Lake Whatcom and peacefully flew back home with Whidbey Approach (East) flight following. Landing was in direct crosswind with 9 knots velocity. I was too high on final again, had to forward slip like crazy to loose all that altitude, but did a good job in maintaining speed and landed firm and safe.

The bottom line: I have completed all requirements for FAR Part 141 training. From now on, I'm on final approach to my goal - becoming certified private pilot.

Photo report is here.

Posted on Sunday, September 17, 2006 8:09 AM Aviation | Back to top

Comments on this post: Long Cross Country Flight Completed

# re: Completed 174nm Flight
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Wow, man. Nice pictures. That must really be a rush. I don't have my license yet, but I have a goal to have it within 5 years. Congratulations on reaching your goal! (Or at least by this point I assume that you've done 5 hours of the longer hauls.)
Left by Lorin Thwaits on Sep 17, 2006 2:13 PM

# re: Completed 174nm Flight
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Thanks! I had a blast; it's probably one of the most satisfying moments in training. I got all requirements done by now and technically can take FAA final test (aka "check ride"). I just need to polish my pilotage skills (stalls, performance maneuvers etc.) and make sure all theory things covered.
Left by Paul Petrov on Sep 19, 2006 12:41 PM

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