Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Long Solo Cross Country Flight (Student Pilot Swayne Martin)

One of the largest, most important, and most fun requirements for your Private Pilot's License is a Long Solo Cross Country Flight that: is over 150nm in length, has one leg over 50nm, and includes three total full stop landing points. For many student pilots like myself, a flight like this is the longest they've been in the air by themselves. It requires a lot of cross country flight planning for each of the three legs to be flown. 

After speaking with my instructor, we decided on a pretty familiar route for my trip. Hanover KOFP -> Charlottesville KCHO --> Farmville KFVX --> Hanover KOFP (all airports that I have been to). The trip was planned to be a total of 154nm, with both OFP-CHO and FVX-OFP being over 50nm. 

Another requirement for the PPL is for the student to complete 3 solo full stop landings at a towered field. We chose for me to fly into Charlottesville CHO (Class D) so that I could fulfill this requirement, knocking out the long solo xc at the same time. 

My instructor asked for me to make some quick-look sheets for each leg of my trip, which included: navigation aids, appropriate frequencies, a quick sketch of each airport, and other relevant airport information (in LARGE font). Writing the information largely was easier to read than on one of the typically crowded flight-plan sheets. I recorded each of my visual checkpoints as distance remaining, so I could cross check with the distance remaining on both the Garmin 496 and my iPhone's ForeFlight navigation app. With that much navigation power in the plane, it'd be really embarrassing (and very unlikely) to get lost! 

We got to the airport early, at about 9:30am. I called 1-800-WX-BRIEF for our weather forecast and other information. There was a moderate turbulence AIRMET for our area, from the surface up to 8,000ft; this luckily did not affect the flight until the last leg. Other than that, the forecast and METARs for our area were perfect with great visibility and light winds. It did get a little windy later on, but more on that later. 

It was definitely a cold pre-flight!

As always, I had my GoPro onboard with me, filming my landings, takeoffs, and some en-route footage, all with audio from the aircraft's intercom. A video summary of my flight is below: 

En-route from Hanover KOFP to Charlottesville KCHO couldn't have been better. There was zero turbulence, clear skies, and great visibility. I flew at 4,500ft on the way to CHO, and called Potomac Approach while passing over the Gordonsville VOR. Below are photos from my route, some of which are screenshots from my CloudAhoy account (article soon on this). 

Departing KOFP

En-route to KCHO

Arriving KCHO

After passing over GVE, I was switched over to the tower and cleared to land. Descending into Charlottesville is always fun over the mountains, it was even more special this time with all of the snow.

For a nice day, CHO was surprisingly quiet. There were a number of regional jets sitting idly at the terminal, and one Cessna Citation getting ready for pushback, but that was about it. I was pretty much the only one on the radio. In the photos and videos below, you can see some of my pattern work at CHO (my 3 full stop landings): 

Pattern work at KCHO

After I completed my last landing, I departed again, this time towards Farmville KFVX. Due to wind direction, I set myself up on a long final for runway 21. Photos from the route: 

A rapid KCHO departure

Departing KCHO

Passing over Charlottesville en-route

The far track-course shows my approach to FVX

Video of a landing and takeoff from Farmville KFVX's runway 21 (these video were taken over last summer): 

The last leg was the bumpiest of all. That moderate turbulence AIRMET I mentioned earlier came into full effect with some pretty moderate to severe turbulence. I was being thrown all over the place in my tiny Tecnam! 

Departing FVX to the Northeast

After all of the bumps, I was relieved to be landing again at Hanover. There was a 10kt crosswind, and a harder than planned landing, but nothing too bad. In all, I flew for about 2.7 hours that day. Considering all of the time I spent at Charlottesville, that made sense.  

Arriving back at KOFP

Overall, I had a really fun and challenging long solo cross country flight. It's definitely not a requirement because it's easy! You have to plan thoroughly and multi-task constantly, but once you're past that, you get to enjoy a long and rewarding flight. 

Thanks for reading and watching!,
-Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation


  1. Swane -

    Looks like a great day to fly! Moderate TB tends to show up in Colorado during the winter and after a while, I got used to it. While teaching in ND, I started to like it. Your planning looks great - when students had problems on my PPL rides during the XC, it was generally because they were disorganized and distracted. Looks like it won't be a problem for you!


    1. Thanks Aleks!

      Being organized is one of my goals because I've found that when I am, flying becomes much more fun and less stressful... I'm not having to scramble around trying to find the right frequency or anything.

      Thanks for the comment,


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Many Thanks, Happy Flying,
Swayne Martin