You have to take 3 steps
”.. and leap with your hands out in front of you. “
Today was my “cross country” solo. 260 miles round trip, no instructor. Just me, the plane, and every other plane out there. Even the birds stayed out of the way!
The day started off a bit early; I didn’t hav the plane until 9a. However, my instructor could not sign me off for the solo until I had all the details planned out and the weather was known to cooperate - and I’d not be able to get that until this morning. He had an 8a flight with another student, so that meant getting up early enough to get weather, update all the routing info to compensate for expected winds, get to the airport, and meet up with him.
My first leg of the trip was Sacramento to Chico. I asked the local tower for a north departure - denied. They don’t have the authority or something to send people into Class Charlie airspace (the Sacramento International airport, SMF, happens to be nearby). They sent me off way out of the way so that I’d end up east of the airport.
Once I was up in the air, I called Norcal Approach, which handles much of the traffic between airports. I received permission from them to go back to my originally intentioned heading, was was nearly due north. I’d enter SMF’s airspace, but well clear of traffic.
First checkpoint was Rio Linda. Yes, they actually have an airport. No, I’m not making it up. Alas, I never SAW the airport. Best I can tell it was underneath me (after seeing the satellite imagery). I ended up using the entire city as a waypoint instead of the more precise marker of the airport.
The rest of the trip to Chico was fairly uneventful. Sky was “clear”, and by clear, they really meant hazy as heck. Thank goodness for air traffic controllers. I was told to turn 20 degrees to the right, as the aircraft that was coming my general direction could not see me - and I could not see it - so we could not maintain visual seperation. We didn’t see each other until we were within a mile of each other. The diversion from my planned route was fairly minimal, and I had enough checkpoints to get back to my planned route fairly easily.
I stopped long enough to send a cell phone message to my instructor, and to actually call in to flight service to close my flight plan, and to file the Chico to Redding plan.
Chico to Redding: uneventful.
The Redding controllers were helpful and friendly. The folks with the plane sittting at the single self-serve fuel pump, were slow as heck. It took them a good 5 minutes (from when I arrived) to move the heck out of the way (they were done fueling before I got there). C’est la vie. More artificial logbook time. Gas was cheaper there than Sacramento - 4.45 vs 5.05 a gallon.
After that I asked Redding ground where I could get a drink and use the facilities and stuff. They directed me to park close to the terminal. It turns out, Redding has a full terminal, and gets regular passenger traffic there. An airline called Horizon services them; big twin-prop planes are used. I used the phone there to close my flight plan, and to file the next leg.
Leaving Redding was a bit tough - I used the radio to call the flight service station and try and open my flight plan. I never heard them respond. Ultimately, I asked Oakland Center (like Norcal Approach.. but.. different) if they’d relay a message for me. It turns out they did hear me, but it was one-way.
Approaching Woodland, Oakland Center handed me off to Travis Approach (military air base and an ‘alert’ area). Normally I’d get handed to Norcal instead. After they duked it out, I settled with Norcal, flew over Woodland and Davis, then turned to Executive Airport.
Turbulance was minimal, and only low to the ground. The long flights, the air was very smooth, and allowed me to set the trim on the plane, and let it fly itself. Air temperature was around 70F at altitude, so while I was UP there.. it was very comfortable.
Air traffic was fairly light all in all today - very minor diversions for similiar craft; and no diversions for large craft. The trip was mild enough to allow me some time to actually _enjoy_ the scenery, instead of being kept busy with the flight controls and the radio.