X Country and Checklists…

With the solo flight done, albeit a very short flight, it was time to start some cross country flying. The airport my CFI likes to go to is Ramona (KRNM). Ramona is about 67 nm southeast of Chino and is not a difficult flight to navigate. In fact, you basically…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
9 Jul 2016
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With the solo flight done, albeit a very short flight, it was time to start some cross country flying. The airport my CFI likes to go to is Ramona (KRNM). Ramona is about 67 nm southeast of Chino and is not a difficult flight to navigate. In fact, you basically follow Interstate 15 south and when you get to Escondido turn east. You can actually see the Ramona airport when you are over Escondido if you know where to look.

He wanted me to put together a VFR flight plan the best I could so I spent some time a couple of days before going over the sectional and mapping out my route, check points, etc… (After flying the route today I have some ideas about how I want to plan it for next time.)

We went over my plan and then went out to pre-flight the plane and get going. This was not only my first experience flying more than 15 nm from Chino, but my first experience with flight following (which is very cool and very fun) and since we were actually ‘going somewhere’ I used my knee board for the first time. My CFI explained to me how to let the tower know that I had a “VFR request” and to ask for flight following.

For those that don’t know, flight following is basically getting handed off from one controller to another along your route with them looking out for you, providing traffic and weather advisories as their workload permits. Their primary responsibility is the IFR traffic, but the try to make time for VFR traffic as well.

I got our taxi clearance and taxied out to the run-up area. Everything looked good on run-up so I got our take-off clearance and we rolled down the runway. It was a nice smooth transition to flight and we started climbing up at 80mph (just below Vy), wings nice and level, when about 150′ up, still over the runway it felt like something just hit the plane in the right side and the right wing dropped on me. I quickly corrected for it with some left aileron and rudder and looked over at my CFI and asked what that was. He said it was just an air pocket, no harm done.

I made our turn to the south-east and we were handed off to Socal Approach. Another cool thing about flight following is that they can handle your transition through other airports airspace. Socal asked what altitude I wanted to fly at so I told them 3,500 and they gave me clearance to climb. That was nice because normally I have to stay below the 2,700′ shelf of Ontario’s airspace until I am about 6nm south-east of the Chino airport.

The flight down was fairly uneventful. We were told by Socal to stay clear of the jump zone by lake Elsinore (CFI said always just stay east of I-15 and you’re good) which we did and got to see some folks skydiving as we went by. My last checkpoint was Escondido where I would turn east towards Ramona. As we were about 10nm north of Escondido the following conversation began.

CFI: “So what’s your next checkpoint?”
Me: “Escondido.”
CFI: “How will you know it’s Escondido?”
Me: “I know about how far it was from the last point, and there’s nothing between that one and Escondido. (Now I’m second guessing my plan) Why, is that a bad checkpoint?”
CFI: “Nope, just wondering how you would know.”
Me: “Well, we’re following the 15 freeway and there’s a major freeway interchange where another one goes out to the west, that’s where I’m planning to make my turn.”
CFI: “Sounds good.”

He dialed in a VOR and had me set it to a radial that he likes to use as a checkpoint and I made my turn at my checkpoint about a mile north of his. We could also see the airport about 10nm away when I was making my turn.

I contacted the tower, we entered the pattern on the right downwind and came around for a nice landing. (But this is where I missed a checklist and it was going to bite me in the tail shortly.) As we were rolling toward the first taxiway exit I asked where he wanted us to taxi to (Something I should have asked about beforehand so I wouldn’t be distracted when I should have been going through my after landing checklist) and he said to just ask for a taxi back so we could take off. I did and we were taxiing back, with me completely distracted by CFI as he was pointing out to me the firefighting planes on the ramp and the Pilatus they had there. (I’m sure the whole time he was grinning a little as he got ready to point out my mistake.) 

We waited for another plane to land and then got our takeoff clearance. We rolled out onto the runway and as I got lined up and started to push in the throttle he said “So what’s the maximum flap extension for take off?” (Crap, I immediately realized I had forgotten to raise flaps upon landing.) I quickly raised flaps, finished pushing the throttle in, rotated about halfway down the runway and we were off.

Me: “Can’t believe I missed that…”
CFI: “Yep, you would have figured it out when you couldn’t leave the ground and ran off the end of the runway.” (He said with a grin on his face.)

I’m glad he didn’t point it out when we were taxiing back, instead he waited until it was obvious I wasn’t going to catch my mistake and then pointed it out. I know it sticks in my mind better that way.

On the way back he showed me how to use the VORs to navigate.

Me: “So why not just use VORs instead of all the ground checkpoints?”
CFI: “Because then you would be flying IFR. And they want to make sure you can navigate with pilotage and dead-reckoning.”

About half-way back he asked if I wanted to try shooting the ILS approach to KCNO for fun. Sounded good to me so when we got closer he asked Socal Approach if we could fly the ILS (I don’t remember the term he used with Socal) and they gave us the clearance.

It was cool flying it. I got lined up and he said to just watch the instruments and try not to look up until we hit the minimum, I think it was 886′ for 26R and KCNO. I’ll admit, I cheated and glanced up a couple of times, but it was fun. When I finally looked up for good I was a little to the right and a little high. I made corrections and we landed nicely.

Next flight we will go to Ramona again, this time he’s going to bring the foggles along so I can fly some of it with them. The goal is to work as much into the cross country flights as we can so we don’t have to just fly around the training area to do that. We’ll be flying it Wednesday evening so if we get back a little late I can get in some night landings as well. One more flight to Ramona after that and then I will fly it solo, followed by planning my long cross country and flying that.

Moving right along, I just need to remember my checklists…..

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