Flight 29 – Long Solo Cross-Country


Well, today was the day.  After a week of waiting out some serious winds, the forecast was for clear skies and light winds.  When I woke up Oshkosh was clear, but the clouds were still low over Green Bay; they began to clear up by 7:00.  All of my planning was done, so T reviewed it with me, I filed my flight plans, got my preflight briefing, and headed over to the aerodrome.  We took off from Oshkosh and flew to West Bend.  Things were just peachy along the short flight and the rain that had gone through Oshkosh at 4:00 a.m. had passed West Bend by 8:30.

On the ground at West Bend we stopped in at the Terminal and asked if there was a pilot’s phone, the guy at the front desk told me down the hall and turn right and then right again.  Well, I ended up in the lunch room and there were three old codgers but no phone.  They told me I had gone one door too far, but when I backtracked, it was a private office.  So I just used my cell phone.  I went back to the lunch room and asked if any of the codgers would like to sign my log book and they started jabbering, “Isn’t there someone up front?  Don’t you need a flight instructor for that?”  Well, wasn’t up to arguing so I went up front to ask the guy there to do it.  On the way down the hall, I heard the codgers continue, “Wow, the poor guy is being ignored.  Shouldn’t there be somebody up front?”

Thence to Sturgeon Bay, we had planned to cruise at 3500′, but the winds aloft were stronger there than the forecast I used, so we descended to 2600′.  We gained 15 knots ground speed by doing so.  Flying along Lake Michigan was plenty scenic and then the stop at Sturgeon Bay was great.  The FBO lineman there was super-friendly and helpful and recommended taking a look at the canal, which we overflew upon takeoff and it was picturesque like he said.

Thence to Oshkosh, the flight was relatively easy as I am familiar with the entire route.  In the Green Bay Class C airspace, we encountered three other ships.  You would think that when the controller tells you to look for traffic 2 miles away at 10:00 and 500 feet below you inbound for landing, it would not be hard to spot.  It took a minute, however, to pick him up and we  were only a mile away when I did.  I have to admit some satisfaction at being able to call the controller and report “traffic in sight.”  There was also a DNR aircraft that was flying circles above another aircraft that was spraying for gypsy moths on the surface.  That was an interesting operation, both because the DNR were spraying for gypsy moths and because they were using one aircraft near the surface and another at 3500′ to do the communicating.

In the last few weeks I have read two magazine articles about how pilots often take the word of a controller as gospel truth and now and then it gets one into trouble.  My student pilot’s manual also has a page on this topic.  All of these author’s explain that it is important for us to think about what the controller is telling us and if it doesn’t make sense, it is our responsibility as pilots to (respectfully) question the instructions or humbly ask for clarification if you don’t understand.  The pilot is the final authority and responsibility for the safety of the craft and her passengers.  When I called Oshkosh to announce my intentions, we were north of the airport.  The controller asked me to report a two mile right final for runway 9.  The pilots in the audience will have noted that the instructions would require us to fly around the city to the south and come back to runway 9.  This would not be unsafe at all, but I began to wonder: first I wondered whether I had heard her correctly, but my acknowledgment confirmed that I did; second, I wondered whether she was comprehending where I was.  So I called back and respectfully asked, “Oshkosh tower, seven zero gulf, that was a two mile right base for runway nine, correct?”  She asked me to repeat my position and then gave me a left final for runway 9…good experience.

Next up: Short and soft field landings and preparation for the practical test!

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