Map Reading Solo - Tuesday March 14 2006 1pm

Today was just like yesterday, totally gorgeous. I had gone over my miscalculations last night and they weren't mistakes. I couldn't quite work out where I had gone wrong. What was funny was that I used a different ruler to measure the legs than the one I used yesterday and by some magic the journey was suddenly 4 nautical miles shorter than the day before! I dutifully worked out the wind drift, and groundspeed for each leg and came up with an estimated elapsed time for each leg.

What got me concerned was that the wind direction forecast by the metservice web site was different to the one quoted by ATIS by a factor of about 30 degrees. Well, at the very least I had a map with a line on it to follow so follow it I did. Well, mostly that is.

I preflighted and noted with some small part of thankfulness that WAM had 140 useable litres of fuel onboard, which gave us 4 hours endurance. Plenty for a 1 hour flight. I started up, noted the time (1:15pm local) and got taxi clearance. During the runups the left mag was a little rough, so I did what I had been shown to do, which is lean the mixture out a bit till the engine clears and it did. After a cautious recheck of both magnetos I did the pre-takeoff checks and announced ready to depart. I was nicely slotted into a gap before some light commercial traffic and off I went.

I pulled pilots perrogative and detoured slightly to overfly Susans work building which was pretty much enroute to the first waypoint at Taupiri anways so no real harm. I was cleared overhead Hamilton at 1200 feet but shortly after overflying Susans building I was recleared to 2500 feet so I started to climb. Whats good about doing PPL flight navigation is that you are not required to calculate ETA's based on climbouts so generally its accepted that you will be slightly late to your first leg if your navigation calculations are correct. Well mine mustn't have been because I was 1 minute early. Hmmm...

Started on the next leg which seemed a bit wrong somehow, so I checked the line on the map I was supposed to be following and found it did not correspond to the heading I had worked out. Oh well, out with the plan and follow the map. I arrived at the next waypoint, Ngatea, 2 minutes late. I attribute this to the wind changes and my slight off track heading.

Then it was a swing south for the longest leg to Piarere. This went very well, I managed to keep pretty much on track except for the last part of the leg where I had trouble spotting some landmarks I had pinpointed to look for. Something Greg said yesterday popped into my head and I used what he coined the "outside in" approach. Basically you pick a larger landmark (like a hill, lake or town) and get a rough idea where you are. Then you figure out on the map where another large landmark should be and look for it. If its there you then start looking for less easily recognisable landmarks (like the small country hall I was looking for) until you work out where you need to be. Funnily enough I was almost ontop of the Piarere Hall before I saw it. Hmm 4 minutes late. Oh well. Then a swing west and head back towards Hamilton.

I was overhead the Karapiro dam when I got the ATIS and called up Hamilton Tower. I had been monitoring the Hamilton frequency the whole flight and I knew the circuit would be busy so I called up early. Never the less I had to orbit overhead Cambridge while I waited for clearance into Hamilton airspace. So much for getting back on time. Eventually I was cleared for a south arrival and then was cleared to land off a right base. I got down as fast as I dared and made a decent landing, the best in a while which I was most pleased of.

I taxied back to the Aero Club and after shutting down the engine I went to finish up the flight log and realised I had dropped my pencil. Another important lesson there. Carry more than one pencil!!

My flight was the only one scheduled so I wound myself down by tying down WAM and putting its cover on. A good flight and one I learnt lots from. More importantly 1.1 hours solo cross country time in the logbook towards the 5 hours solo I require.

Tomorrow is a big day indeed. My first real cross country flight, and I get to fly with the head instructor Roger (haven't done that for some time). I hope I can dazzle him with my awesome flying ability so I can regale you with my tale tomorrow. :)

Will post then. Take care all you lurkers!!

PS. Cross country flying is fun, but its one million percent better when you have someone to share the experience with.