The 3rd stage of the course is almost entirely about cross-country flying. This means that the student must prepare and safely conduct the entire flight to some remote airport (more than 50 nautical miles from the departure airport).
First of all, I’ve never created a flight plan before. Of course, I was preparing mass and balance, weather briefing and fuel, but I’ve never done the plan itself. Fortunately it is relatively easy in the US and can be done online.
The most challenging parts for me are still approaches and ATC, especially IFR clearances. The flight itself is relatively easy, just instruments monitoring and keeping all flight parameters inside their limits.
We had some issue with our flight plan though. I used 100wsbrief.com for filing, and it uses EST timezone by default. I used to UTC for my logbook records and all related services (like weather), and as a result our plan was filed for 5 hours later. We had VMC, so decided to continue in simulated IMC with the instructor as ATC, and changed our flight plan for the way back to our airport to get a proper clearance.
I still have to work on my approaches to better keep the glideslope and my approach path. The enroute part is OK.
I always wanted to see the mountains and lakes near the Austrian border. It really worths to see them, they are incredible. The problem is that you should climb pretty high, up to 6000 feet, but today’s weather allowed to do it.
I bet that glider pilots would be jealous about my flight today. There were very wide and strong thermal flows, that weather is ideal for gliders. Even in Cessna I could turn a little bit and get +200 feet without any power change. I wonder whether it is possible to stay in that flow in Cessna, probably it is, but of course I did not check it 🙂
One more impression for me today. In the pattern at České Budějovice I was the second after a small jet. Actually it’s the first time when I see a jet flying out of a large international airport.
I saw incredible landscapes today. I cannot find proper words to describe them, so I am just attaching some photos. Sorry for my camera, some day I will replace it.
Today I planned a long flight across the country. I literally wanted to fly almost half of Czech Republic. The weather was not so bad, and I headed to the East.
The significant part of the route laid in controlled airspace, therefore my workload was higher than usual. I’m still not used to talking to ATC so much.
At some moment the cloulds moved lower, and it became really dangerous to fly below them because of the terrain, the margin was not so high. There were still some VMC corridors to climb, and I asked the ATC to climb to 5000 above the cloud layer. The weather about 20 nm to the East seemed much better, so I just needed to overfly that layer. Neither the online wx radar nor ATC observed any thunderstorms, so it should be pretty much safe. After overflying the hills I finally found a VMC corridor to descend below a cloud layer: it was more than 3000 AGL there. The rest of the flight was pretty calm.
Vysoke Myto has three runways, one of them is paved (asphalt). The aerodrome also has runway and taxiway lights and some hangars nearby. However, there was nobody there. I didn’t see a single person. Neither on the frequency, nor at the hangars. Complete silence.
On the way back I came across one more abandoned military aerodrome with a perfect wide concrete runway. It looked like a precise copy of my home base (LKLN), even the hangar looked the same. I saw a stage and some temporary buildings, probably it was some openair. Of course I did not land, I just overflew the runway.
It’s always better to practice more, so I made 7 landings on different aerodromes on the way back 🙂
Today I had one more check conducted to sign me off for navigation flights. That check is internal, and it is mandatory for all students according to our syllabus. It was nothing special, just a usual cross-country flight using a paper chart. We flew a very beautiful route today.
I am not afraid of the navigation flights. To be honest, on one of my previous lessons, I miscalculated my heading and deviated about five miles off course, but after that I saw Pilsen, and it was impossible to get lost as it is a very big city. Of course I flew without a GPS that time, and today flight was also without a GPS. In any case, I feel that I don’t have any problems with cross-countries.
The flight was very relaxing as the wind was calm and the landscape was absolutely awesome. One more record to my logbook!
Once again, I have a new instructor. I hope that this time he will stay with me until a checkride, because it’s fun to fly with different people, but there is a significant overlap between exercises. As a result I fly more hours. Of course, it is an experience, and those hours are credited to my total time, but I want to move faster.
We are finishing navigation flights and continuing practicing landings and stabilized approaches. The weather is great now.
The first navigation flight with a full stop in a different aerodrome. The complete planning: map route, NOTAMs, weather, fuel and time estimation.
The interesting thing is the definition of cross-country time. For example, FAA strictly states that cross-country flight should be more than 50 nm from the departure point, but not the EASA. Moreover, there is no even a column in my logbook for logging cross-country time. EASA simply requires using flight preparation and navigation procedures, i. e. technically even 5 nm between adjacent aerodromes qualifies, if you prepare for that and use navigation procedures. If we strictly follow the definition, it can be even the same aerodrome! It seems that I will have some troubles computing my totals in future. Just to be totally safe, I am going to follow FAA rules for my commercial time, but now I am just following the syllabus and EASA regulations (I am in Europe now, am not I?). So, navigation.
It is relatively easy to follow the map in Czech Republic: a lot of roads, villages, towns, rivers and lakes (ponds?). For me rivers are the most straightforward, but I am trying to use pilotage (i. e. spotting enroute landmarks) as much as I can.
We flew to Roudnice (LKRO). Much easier to land there: no trees on final, so, less turbulence. But the runway is a little upslope, and I have to keep the nose higher. Somewhat unaccustomed.
We found precipitation on our leg, and had to divert for some miles. I am glad that I did not have any difficulties to find where I am after that.
I failed to properly estimate my time: my computations showed about 10% faster route than the real one.