Lessons from my most recent cross-country

TripFor some people, flying a cross-country trip is no big deal. Check the weather, file a flight plan, and off they go. Sometimes I envy those people.

For me it’s usually a huge production involving much gathering of gear, checking and re-checking the weather, and making sure I have contingency plans in place for every aspect of the flight.

And still things don’t always go as planned, and I come away with valuable lessons learned. Here are a few, gleaned from my most recent trip in my Cherokee 140 from Maryland to Wisconsin and back:

  • iPads don’t like heat. I knew enough not to put my iPad on the glareshield, but just having it sit in the right seat in a hot cockpit was enough to make the thing crap out.
  • Flight planning programs suck up a lot of battery on an iPad. A three-hour leg used up all the juice in my fully chargedĀ iPad, putting it out of commission for the second three-hour leg of the day. (I had paper charts for back-up.)
  • Noise fatigue is a real thing. Try flying two three-hour legs with a passive noise reduction headset, then come back and tell me it’s not.
  • Crosswind landing proficiency comes in handy when you least expect it. A planned fuel stop in Ohio presented a 15-knot direct crosswind. I coached myself through it and landed, but kept an alternate airport in mind just in case the winds proved too much of a challenge.
  • Watch the weather, always. At that same ground stop in Ohio, I spent an hour on the ground, just trying to rest and recharge a bit before launching on my second leg. A bit of bad weather was off to the north, but I didn’t think it would be a problem—until it reached the vicinity of the airport before I was ready to leave.
  • There’s nothing quite as satisfying as traveling the country by GA. All of these minor glitches aside, the planning and (eventual) successful execution of my flights was a fun and fulfilling experience, something that certainly can’t be matched in Seat 34A, Aisle 12 of a Boeing 737 or riding in the relative comfort of a car.—Jill W. Tallman

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  • Doug

    As a relatively new pilot who’s longest XC is about 100 miles, I’d be interested in some of the flight info. altitudes, routes, etc. Did you use anything like CloudAhoy to map your trip? The picture alone is awesome.

  • http://www.aopa.org jtallman

    Hi Doug!
    I did not use CloudAhoy or any other other type of recording device; it’s usually all I can do to remember to take a photo. On the Maryland-Wisconsin leg, I was able to fly at 6,500 for most of the trip. I stopped in Ohio for fuel. Since I did not want to fly across Lake Michigan and did not want to go up the Chicago lakefront, I chose legs that took me to the edge of the south end of the Chicago Class B, to Aurora, Illinois, and then north and northeast to Milwaukee.

    On the way back, I would have flown along the shoreline down to Chicago, but as it happened, Milwaukee was having an airshow and there were TFRs along Lake Michigan, so I just backtracked to Aurora. From there, I went a little farther southeast (just about to Fort Wayne, Indiana) to stay clear of some weather. I swung back up to that same airport in Ohio for fuel. Leaving Ohio, I altered my route to go north of Pittsburgh, again to avoid weather, which was much more of a factor on the trip home and required me to fly at 3,000 feet for most of the trip.

  • http://www.JoesPiper.com JoesPiper

    Visit http://www.JoesPiper.com

    There are some tricks to counter those unwanted issues that occur with tablets, noise, distractions, etc. I fly very long cross countntry’s in a piper Cherokee Cruiser sometimes, and have learned a few of these tricks.

  • Sam

    Do tell.
    Jill!! Were you alone? cuz I needed a ride!