Friday, October 10, 2014

The first solo cross-country flight

By Hobo Hudson

The aspiring flier fidgeted as she stood in line waiting for her instructor to review her flight plan. This doesn’t look too bad, she thought, watching her instructor cursorily scan the flight plans and make a notation on the bottom before entering permission for the flight in the student’s logbook and sending the student on his way.

When it was her turn, her instructor carefully went over every detail on the flight plan and even asked her to justify her compass heading. Pulling out her “spin wheel” and her notes from her flight service weather briefing, she explained the true course would be 055 but a wind from 190 made her adjust her course slightly and, after adjusting for compass deviation, how she had come up with the course she noted.

Finally, her instructor nodded and wrote LD07 on the bottom and explained that Lima Delta Zero Seven would be her call sign to contact Tampa Approach if she got lost and needed radar assistance.

She smiled in satisfaction as she noted her instructor’s permission for her first cross-country flight while walking to the flight line. This day had been a long time coming but she felt confident and fully prepared.

After watching her lift off, the instructor tuned his radio to the destination airport’s frequency to monitor his other students’ progress since the first of the flights should be about ready to land. To his surprise, he heard nothing but silence. He shook his head and tuned to Tampa Approach’s frequency and heard a babble of voices….LD03 turning to 268, descending to 45 feet. Will dive after passing over roof top for final to 180, etc.

Shaking his head, he called to the other instructors to take off and help Tampa sort out the developing feather ball. After takeoff, he heard a clear confident feminine voice: LD07 is a black bellied whistling duck-student flier. Currently 12 wing flaps west of Cafeteria-level at 100 feet-plan to enter a left cross wind for Cafeteria and make a wide left down wind for landing on runway 18.

LD07-Tampa Approach. Whistle 1207 and whistle if you need radar assistance. Roger that. LD07 whistling 1207.

The grizzled old instructor rushed to take off and hurried to Cafeteria to find out what had gone wrong. As he approached, he saw a slight fog had developed and, although he had excellent vertical and horizontal visibility, he could not see the runway ahead of him. However, he knew the surroundings intimately and upon landing, saw a sole student on the ground.

“How did you manage to find the airport when none of the other students could find it?” he asked.

“Hobo told me his dad used to fly and I’ve been picking up tips from him,” she replied. “He told me that sometimes a slight fog will develop and you can see ahead and down but can’t see at an angle. He called it ‘slant visibility.’ He also told me that if it happened to me to try to find a very visible landmark a little to one side or the other of the airport and aim for it while looking straight down so I flew a little left of my true heading until I could look down and see the east/west highway and flew on top of it until I crossed 14th Street. From that point, it was a piece of cake.”

The old instructor was silent for a few moments as he digested her explanation. It was an approach he had never heard about. He then asked for her log book and, after scanning it, he pronounced that she was nine minutes short on blinder time and short two cross-country flights. 

Making a snap decision, he told her to eat breakfast and then put on her blinders and he’d fly with her a few minutes east, do a few maneuvers and then fly towards home until the nine minutes were up. If that worked out all right, he would send her on a cross-country flight the following morning to Wimauma and then a cross-country flight to Manatee the next morning, and if she felt up to it on her return, he would give her flight test upon her return and she could be a fully licensed private flier in two days.

He then congratulated her and told her that she would be the fastest student he had ever had to earn her wings.

The little duck smiled and thanked him before walking away to eat and didn’t tell him that Hobo’s dad had rented an ultra-light plane and flown along-side her several times to help her practice her maneuvers but couldn’t log them because he didn’t have an instructor’s license. She’d just let him think that females are naturally better fliers than males.



About Hobo

This was Hobo Hudson, my doggy brother, a little terrier mix with black fur. He became famous after his first attempt at writing stories, which was an article published in the newsletter of our local animal shelter, the same shelter in which I ended up years later before Hobo and his parents adopted me. Hobo’s fame quickly spread as he made a name for himself as a business dog and an adventurer. To keep his memory alive, my doggy sister, my three kitty siblings and I, Wylie Hudson, are continuing his blog. Our mom is the blog’s editor.

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