I am EXHAUSTED after my first solo cross-country! But I did it!
It’s funny how my first solo, I wasn’t nervous at all, but for this I was a bundle of nerves. They were just replacing the beacon light when I showed up to the airport, and I preflighted in the hanger and I went over my plan with my CFI before leaving. I asked him some last minute instructions and he gave me some last minute pointers. Also reminded me to say student pilot!
I get it all started and start taxiing to the runway, requesting a right downwind departure. I forgot student pilot again! Got ready to depart runway 19, was cleared right away and I think I remembered to say student pilot to Tower. She cleared me for the right downwind, I even repeated that I was clear for a right downwind departure (I realize I should have down left when up in the air). I was on the downwind and the controller calls me up saying she doesn’t recall clearing me for a right downwind….what!? (It’s the one I don’t like sooooo…there’s that) Whatever, I was cleared to go to the Northport stacks and I stopped talking to her. I called Approach and was given another frequency right away. Call them up, got everything right, whooo!
I turned toward KPOU because I don’t do a complete direct route due to the Bravo above the airport. I cross the Long Island Sound and go between two cities in Connecticut, the easy navigation is done. The VOR was actually taken out of the plane for some maintenance, so it was completely up to dead reckoning and pilotage…well, and the GPS was there as back up which I had programmed just to be active if something went wrong. I switched frequencies a few times, and only had a bit of traffic on my way there. I picked a lake for a check point, then I realized there are a crapton of lakes in New York! I was able to see the Hudson River and followed that more, I knew the airport was near the river and thought that was a bit better to head that way.
I got the airport in sight! It was an amazing feeling and relief! I cancelled Flight Following and switched to Tower. My instructions were, enter mid-field left downwind for runway 24. I’m getting to the airport and realize I made a simple mistake of reading the airport map backwards, I thought I’d be turning to the left but actually was going to turn to the right. Thank goodness for those big numbers on the runways, I saw runway 33 and realized my mistake. I quickly fixed it, and entering the downwind I got cleared to land. Due to that mistake I was still going kind of fast and had no flaps down. I extended a bit in the downwind to slow down, and slowed up during base to final. I had to get all the flaps in during final. It worked, I floated a bit longer than I wanted but pretty good landing considering I felt a bit rushed at the start of it.
I pulled up to the Terminal and shut down. Oh my god! I did it! The hard part is over! I had to take a minute to relax. I also wasn’t sure I parked in an okay spot, but there weren’t lots of planes and I was leaving soon. I walked into one of the flight schools and had to get someone to sign my logbook (my instructor’s request), the girl at the desk said she could do it. She wasn’t too nice, but whatever. I went back outside and texted my instructor I was at the airport and he asked if I was having fun yet, I said I was too nervous to have fun, but maybe getting back I’d have fun.
I call up Ground to taxi back to the runway and then call Tower, a nice controller with a southern accent which I’ve never heard in this area so that was fun for me. He asked which way I was departing since I wasn’t sure if I needed to request it with Ground, but it was no big deal. It was nice.
I get on with Approach on the way back, I remember to say student pilot finally. He was much meaner to me, I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. Maybe my radio was acting weird or it was the controllers because it was only on some Approach channels the quality wasn’t so good. I had to reconfirm where I was going, he asked something else but I didn’t understand and since I didn’t add anything else to my destination I thought it was okay.
Since the day was so clear, I could see the Long Island Sound about 30 miles away so I wasn’t really going to get lost. The wind did pick up and I started to drift more to the west and I got closer to the Westchester Airport than originally planned. There was a ton of traffic there and when I got closer to the shore and could see the stacks I realized that and corrected my course. A Learjet passed 1500ft below me which was pretty cool. The controller asked me another question, and I finally understood what he was asking me. What type of plane I was in. I responded. I start crossing the Long Island Sound and about to see the airport and dump Flight Following when he has me switch controllers. Such bad luck, I switch and stay on the frequency a bit longer and then say I have the airport in sight right when I’m by the stacks, I squawk VFR and change to Tower.
Straight in to 19, easy enough. There is some traffic off my right and left wing. The one on my left is close but climbing and not going to the airport, but I definitely didn’t like being that close to him. The other was following me in. A little over the mall (5 miles out) I get asked to do a 270 (not a 360) and rejoin final. I’m not sure why he said 270, I wasn’t exactly lined up yet but I just did whatever it took to go in a circle and rejoin final.
My landing wasn’t so great. I pulled up too much and lifted up higher so when I sunk back down I was a little flat so the landing was a bit hard. I was just kind of happy to have it over with though. I taxi back and call for fuel.
Sadly, here’s the thing I’m almost most proud of the day. I pushed the plane back all by myself! Those push ups are working! My favorite fueler, Winston, came over and we chatted about my solo cross-country. He told me about what it was like flying in the Caribbean when he was learning and he only really had the ADF and some VORs.
My CFI was just coming in with the Cougar, another instructor from the school was already in his car ready to give me a ride to the train station so I could catch the 2:39pm train (it was 2:15pm). My instructor came over and I gave him a quick rundown of what happened. He’s on vacation next week so I won’t see him for a bit. I felt a bit empty without de-briefing him more, but I guess when I have my license I won’t do that.
I’m glad to have this under my belt now! I can’t imagine how exhausted I’ll be after my long solo cross-country. I think it will get easier as time goes by and I won’t feel so overwhelmed, but it’ll take lots of practice first.
Lesson Time: 1.8 hours
Total Time: 45.6 hours