Dual Cross Country

A cross country flight is defined as being one where at least one landing is done at an airport at least 50 nautical miles away from your starting point. In training, you're required to do two dual cross countries and two solo. My first dual cross country was from Rancho Murieta to Chico to Willows and back to Rancho Murieta.

Seemed like it took forever to get going on the cross countries. I was doing this in February or March, and the weather sucked. For flying, anyway, and when you're a student, it doesn't take much to ground you. It doesn't take much to ground me now, I don't like to fly in marginal weather.

So anyway, off we go from Rancho to Chico. I was doing the radio work, but was still fairly new at it, so Donn would coach me along. My first call to ATC was... well, not in English, pretty much. Or any other known language. Donn thought it was pretty funny. I would have, too, if it'd been someone else. ;-) But I called in again, got my code for the transponder, and flew on.

It was the first time I'd gone anywhere other than Franklin and the other local airports. Part of the point is to learn to recognize where you are on the map by finding roads, rivers, train tracks, etc. It's fun! And to get used to talking to Air Traffic Control for real.

We made it to Chico without any real incident, then flew on to Willows, which is a bit to the west. We had a good headwind when we landed, right down the runway. Donn had a GPS, an it had our groundspeed at 34 mph on the way in. Felt like we were crawling. :-) It's really easy to land nice and smooth when you're going that slow. There we ate at a place at the airport called Nancy's, which I think is one of the main reasons Donn uses that route for cross countries. Then on back to Rancho, and I had a few hours of cross country under my belt. The solo version of this trip was a little less smooth, but that's a different story.

My second dual cross country was from Rancho Murieta to Tracy to Modesto to Lodi to Sac Executive and back to Rancho Murieta. Again with Donn, and again it was a blast. And again, it took us several tries to go. The first few the weather was ok (read: legal) to fly in, but it was hazy, and like I said earlier, half the point is to get experience in figuring out where you are. Can't do that very well if you can't see the ground.

But eventually it happend. Tracy was cool, but about halfway down there the VOR (navigational tower) we were tracking just went off the air. Not a big problem, but it meant we had to go on without it. We got to the Tracy airport, and didn't hang around long. There's nothing there.

Then on to Modesto, a towered airport, and on back. Originally we were supposed to go back home, but Donn said "Hungry?" Yeah, usually. :-) We went to Lodi, to a restaurant there that Donn said makes the best double cheeseburger on the planet. Neither of us was hungry enough for a double cheeseburger, so someday I gotta go back and try one. Nothing real exciting after that, except that the runway had been refinished but not painted yet, so that was a little different. Then back on to Rancho and I had my dual cross countries done.

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