I flew across the country! Well according to what the FAA considers a cross country trip. I traveled for the first time in a plane that I was flying over 50 natuical miles from my home airport.
My trip was to Okeechobee County Airport known as OBE from here forward.
TIME: 0930 – 1530 EDT
ROUTE: FMY – OBE -FMY – OBE -FMY
MILESTONES: 1st Cross Country, 1st SOLO Cross Country
After checking (and fixing) my flight planning numbers in the morning we did a through preflight of N3521Q and we were off on a north east departure to OBE.
In the air I became familiar with our new GPS, the Garmin 430W, and really learned how to spot for landmarks and cross reference my checkpoints against the clock.
Looking for landmarks was tough, this part of Florida (like a good portion of the state) is pretty flat. From my preflight I knew I was going to have a tough time with my checkpoints, not a lot of distinctive things out there.
Skip reassured me and he really did point out everything that I wanted to use as checkpoints.
Ocean, what ocean?!
From 3,500 feet one cannot see the other side of lake Okeechobee. For a minute I thought I was looking at clouds, That day the visibility was less than perfect but still very safe to fly in. Then my brain connected the dots. That’s no cloud formation, that’s the western end of the lake!
We enter the pattern and I land long almost halfway down the runway, but the touchdown it self was pretty darn good.
There’s that big smile on my face again. I just made it across the state in a single engine plane.
Breakfast at The Landing Strip Cafe and it was time to head back to drop him off at Page Field.
In the runup area (the taxiway just before the runway) Skip showed me how to turn the plane 360 degrees (while still on the ground) so I can get a clear view of the sky. Seeing the whole pattern is important in an uncontrolled field, there are pilots who don’t speak or don’t even have a radio, which is legal at an untowered airport and, pilots who incorrectly report their position in the pattern.
Remember that the ‘V’ in VFR stands for Visual, it’s up to us to make sure we keep visual separation from other planes.
On the way back to FMY Skip introduces a service that is available to pilots who are on VFR flights: Flight Following. Air Traffic Controllers keep an eye on me and advise me of traffic and weather while in the air. I think the coolest thing (besides being providing an extra margin of safety) is that I can fly through the Class C airspace of RSW. I have a feeling I’ll be flying with Flight Following as often as I can.
Back to Okeechobee, ALONE!
I drop Skip off at the hangar, he gives me a few last minute pointers and signs the paperwork. I get out stretch my legs, and call my wife, letting her know I’ll be flying back to OBE now, solo.
Page Tower instructs me to take a different taxiway than normal to get to Runway 23.
The flight there felt like it went much faster without Skip in the plane, I’m not sure if it’s because the plane was lighter of person and fuel or if it was because my mind was racing thinking, “I’M FLYING TO OKEECHOBEE BY MYSELF!”
My landing was still long, but I didn’t need the whole runway this time. At the restuarant, I have a piece of Lemon Merenge pie and bring back a slice of Chocolate Mousse for my wife.
On my trip back the clouds started to form, I should have skipped the pie and headed back sooner. My original planned altitude was 4,500 but the clouds were around 5,000. The weather report estimated at 12,500. Yea right.
But because I have eyes, I flew further south than I planned to avoid the maturing clouds. Seeing rain fall from the sky is neat, almost looks like Fog.
I started to decend a little more, just to give me enough clearance from the clouds above. It was at this time I decided to get Flight Following, and my instinct was right, they told me to descend to 3,000. From there the flight was pretty smooth and being handed off to Tower was fun, knowing that they were expecting me.
About 5 miles from Page Field, Tower tells me that there is traffic below me, I dip my wing and go to the right, while maintaining my altitude and spot him, and sure enough there is a plane, directly below me. Because of the Class charlie airpsace from RSW I’m guessing he was at about 1000 feet. I hear him tell tower that he has me on the “fish finder” and I tell tower I hav ehim in sight. Because I could see him and maintain visual seperation I was instructed to follow him in for a landing on 23. It was almost a race home, we were trying to beat the storms.
Getting ready for my other flights will be fun. I think the next stop is my Long Cross Country.
Stay tuned, the next blog post will have my GPS track for these flights in a new format using a system that is dedicated to aviation.