Second Solo Cross Country… almost.

I have been planning my second solo cross country from Sanford, to Florence, SC, to Albemarle, NC (Stanly County), and back to Sanford. It’s about a 222nm (255 statute miles) trip to two Class D airports (with control towers). Taking what I learned on previous trips, I designed my own flight planner to fit on my kneeboard and hold the information I needed in a format I could easily understand.

Gene and I met at 10am to discuss the plan. It went fine, but the wind near Albemarle was forecast to be over club solo crosswind maximums. We found an alternate airport with a more favorable runway orientation and I was to check the winds from Florence and decide where to go then. Our review took an hour (longer than planned), and I had 4640B scheduled from 11am to 4pm. Already running late, I made my way to the airport to preflight, get updated weather information, file a flight plan and takeoff.

Major changes have been happening to Flight Service Stations in the US; centers are being consolidated, upgraded, and who knows what else. It has been the subject of many stories of long hold times, briefers that don’t know the area, and other confusion about how to get the services pilots are used to getting. Once I finally got a briefer, I got weather information that included a chance of isolated thunderstorms near Albemarle. I knew about that before, but hadn’t read about it in any aviation weather reports. There are a lot of airports between Florence and Stanly County, so if I encountered an isolated storm, I could always land and wait it out. I filed a flight plan, called for fuel and headed out to the plane.

After organizing all my stuff inside the plane, I started the preflight. When I made it around to the front landing gear, I noticed what looked like a hose that I had not noticed before. On further inspection, I realized it wasn’t a hose, it was an engine mount bar that had completely separated from the end near the strut. Hmmm… that doesn’t look good at all. I inspected it a little more to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, and then I knew I would likely be canceling my flight. I went in to see if another plane was available, and it was. However, I was already pushing it on time, there was the issue of the weather in Stanly County, and I still had to preflight the other plane, call and change my flight plan to the new tail number, and move all my stuff to it. It all added up to a decision to scrap it and go again some other time.

I called Gene to let him know; he agreed with the decision. Then I called the club president to let him know about the plane.

Since I was already at the airport and a plane was available, I decided to make use of the time and scheduled two hours for local practice. Since the trip to Florence required extensive use of VORs, I wanted to get more comfortable with the digital VOR radio in 89333 (the plane I will likely take on the trip).

After a normal preflight, I took off to the practice area to work on basic maneuvers again. It was not smooth at all. There was a lot of thermal activity. Steep turns went surprisingly well considering the conditions. I worked on several stalls, but had a lot of trouble keeping coordinated, so one wing or the other would drop at the stall. 333’s rudder is much more sensitive than 40B, and it’s more difficult to keep coordinated. Also, the throttle does not like to go from power off to full power with any speed at all. It must be fairly slow to keep the engine from sputtering. Neither of the other 152s have that issue. After 4 or 5 stalls, I was satisfied and decided to head to Siler City for some landing practice. I worked with the Liberty VOR to get me there and became much more comfortable with 333’s nav radio.

The first normal landing was a little rough, with the variable crosswind and different than I’m used to rudder. The second was a short field, and also not so smooth, but not awful, either. The third I decided to try a short field. That resulted in gliding down the runway further than I wanted to, then getting hit with a burst of wind that lifted me a dozen feet up. I added power to keep from stalling too high and made it back down to a foot or so up. The wind was brutal, though, so I decided I should go around. One more normal landing that was also not smooth and it was time to head back.

After all of the stress of the day, I decided to just enjoy the short trip back and not try to practice anything other than straight and level flight. That proved a little difficult. I hit a pocket of nothing and the plane dropped I don’t know how many feet, but enough to lift me into my seat belt for a second. It’s actually pretty fun once it’s over, but it’s something that would make a passenger really nervous.

Approach to Sanford was uneventful. I made a sloppy normal landing (the wind was getting even more unpredictable, it seemed) and a touch and go. My final landing was pretty close to a three point touchdown. The nose gear came down much too quickly (though not hard) after the mains. That was enough for the day. It turned out to be a 1.6 hour flight, a lot more than I thought.

When I went back into the club, I noticed that 40B had red Xs all over it on the schedule (DO NOT FLY) and the next 3 weeks had been blocked off for it to be repaired. The engine will have to be removed and the mount will need to be sent off and repaired by an FAA certified shop; not pretty. In the mean time, my favorite 152 will be out of service and I might just have to take my test in something else.

I’m now at 62.4 total and ready to get my certificate already.