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 charged 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