Posts Tagged ‘Pilotage’
This afternoon, I experienced my first cross-country flight while at SIU with my flight instructor. I was supposed to fly this trip last weekend but the weather said otherwise. Anyway, I woke up about 8:00 this morning to start the preflight process. I started off by drawing out my proposed course to our destination, Hopkinsville-Christian County Airport in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. After drawing my course, I chose checkpoints 5-15 miles apart. I used the checkpoints to evaluate my progress mid-flight. By using the checkpoint method, I can determine if and how far off my planned route I am before arriving at the airport. This is called dead reckoning. Combining this with pilotage, determining your position by referencing landmarks on the ground with a map, allows pilots to accurately find their current position. With the increasing popularity of GPS receivers, however, dead reckoning and pilotage have become methods of the past. Nonetheless, they are important skills to have in case of a GPS failure. Using wind forecasts, I then calculated my ground speed and true heading. I was shocked to see that the winds at my cruising altitude, 5,500 feet, were nearly 50 miles per hour! Although we would arrive at Hopkinsville fairly quickly, the trip back would seem like a life time. I quickly calculated the amount of fuel I would use, filed my flight plans, and preflighted the aircraft.
At 10:45 we departed Carbondale for Kentucky. As we began to get higher, we realized that the wind forecast underestimated the winds. We adjusted for the stronger-than-expected winds and continued on our course. We opened our flight plan and received flight following from Kansas City Center. Flight Following is a service provided by air traffic control facilities (who aren’t too busy) that alerts pilots of other traffic in their area. I think it’s really cool listening in because everything from small training aircraft, to corporate jets, to huge commercial jets is interacting on one frequency. It reminds me of just how large the aviation industry is and how it caters to so many people. Climbing up to our cruising altitude, we passed through a scattered layer of clouds. The view was absolutely beautiful. Large white groups of water vapor nuclei surrounded us as we traveled above the beautiful, unpopulated terrain below us. Flights like that remind me of why I love to fly. On the way to our destination, the winds pushed us off course quite a bit. Once we got a good handle on the actual wind direction and speed, we were good to go. The landing into Hopkinsville was interesting to say the least. The winds orientated themselves to give us a direct, 10 knot crosswind. The landing wasn’t awful but I’ve definitely had better. Once closing our flight plan and opening our new one, we departed back to Carbondale.
As expected, the winds were helping us go nowhere fast. Our cruise altitude for the ride back was 6,500 feet because of the clouds. They way back proved to be easier than the trip down. We were now familiar with the area which helped us keep on track better. The clouds also decided to subside which gave us better visibility. After what seemed like a life time, we finally arrived back in Carbondale, half an hour late. All in all, the flight was successful. We landed with the plane still intact and 2.8 more hours in my logbook.