Chucks cross country.


Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I felt Chuck was ready to learn about cross country planning as it is a required skill for a Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane pilot.

I failed my first private pilot practical test by getting lost on my cross country. I feel this may have distorted the importance I place on flight planning and yet I have never regretted a minute spent flight planning and there have been several times when I found great benefit from my flight planning.

I love to actually go somewhere in a gyroplane despite how much fun just flying around is. I feel good flight planning is a sort of aviation foreplay. If I am going to a new to me airport it is not unusual for me to spend three times as much time planning the flight as it takes to fly the flight.

We had some weather down time Friday so we spent some time going over the process and planning a flight to Santa Ynez. We had touched on a lot of it on our flight to Lompoc but demonstrating is not the same as having Chuck plan a flight and execute the plan.

I was surprised at Chuck’s enthusiasm as I showed him the role that the various sources played in the process. We used AirNav, Sky Vector, Weathermeister, Google Earth and Flight Service. We had waypoints no more than seven miles apart with an estimated time of arrival for each. We identified or critical point. We had back stops for every change in course. We considered pattern entry for runway 8 or 26; whichever was in use. We mapped out our radio calls and anticipated the traffic flow.

As I lay down that night I thought of the things I had missed.

Chuck was very excited about his 26 nautical mile flight. As we had planned it is was a 34 nautical mile flight and should take 44 minutes burning 9.4 gallons of gas including taxi and warm up.

Santa Ynez Airport Day was from ten to four Saturday and strong winds were predicted for the afternoon so our optimism about the weather we decided to meet at 8:00 and were greeted by 500 foot ceilings that soon became 300 foot ceilings.

SMX did not go to visual flight rules till 11:25 so we had some time to cover the things I might have missed. I checked the Automated Weather Observation System at IZA and the conditions were better than at Santa Maria. Chuck filed his flight plan and we were soon on our way.

Early on Chuck headed for Vandenberg’s restricted airspace and imagined he was seeing Harris Grade still eight miles ahead and a 90 degrees to our direction of flight. He soon settled down and followed the plan well. We were a couple of minutes behind and made them up by cutting a corner.

The flight took 46 minutes and we burned 8.6 gallons of gas.

We reversed the plan for the flight home and Chuck only was lost very briefly once and quickly recovered.

Our landing was going to be the last one for this trip so the pressure was on. We were looking great till the round out and then off to the right we went. Touch down was as nice as could be; just not on the centerline.

I wish I could find the words to describe Chuck’s infectious enthusiasm. He was having trouble keeping both feet on the ground as I saw him to the exit and when I talked to him the next day he was still bubbling.

I love sharing the joy I find in the sky. I feel like I am sharing a gift that will last a lifetime.


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