Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Dual Night Cross-Country Flight

Flight Plan: Austin --> Temple --> Georgetown --> Austin
I completed my dual night cross-country at about 1:45 am Saturday morning August 11th. It was hot and I should have been tired but flying is pretty exhilarating! I was sweating as usual in the typical Texas summer heat. Flying at 5500 feet was cool but take-offs and landings are WARM! I started at Austin Bergstrom airport after filing a VFR flight plan and requesting flight following from Clearance Delivery. Not much traffic by the time I got off the runway around 10pm. ATC vectored me to the northeast initially and then allowed me to resume on course to Temple, Texas. Here's a GPS track log of my arrival and departure at Bergstrom. Coming back on the 3rd leg of the trip I tracked the ILS localizer so I'm flying straight as an arrow for runway 17L. Click on the image for a larger view.

Flying to Temple from Austin it's hard to get lost. While my cockpit duties required me to keep and maintain a navigation log there's really no way you can get lost on this one. You just follow the ever-busy Interstate 35. My landing at Temple was the first night landing I'd done in months and of course I'd never flown to Temple in the daytime either. Here's a GPS track log of my approach, landing, taxi, and takeoff to/from Temple. Click on the image to the right for a larger view. -->

Next stop after Temple was Georgetown, TX. Never been there either. Same deal. New airport in darkness. As I approached I could see the Georgetown beacon but the runway was dim. I clicked the aircraft radio mic 7 times and the runway lit up like the Christmas tree lighting on the White House lawn! Cool...now I could see where I was landing with no problem. I made my usual downwind, base, and final approach as normal. We stopped and re-fueled at the self-serve pump. Got back in N4951A and proceeded to take off again for three more landings with full-stop for my night proficiency requirement. First landing was easy and the wind was calm. I made a good landing...actually one of my best to date. We back-taxi'd on the runway since there was no other aircraft activity at 1 o'clock in the morning. This time my flight instructor said "Uh oh...electrical failure!" no flaps, no landing lights, no cockpit lights! I flipped on my back-up flashlight which was attached to my forehead like a miner's lamp. Now I could at least see the airspeed indicator. It was a little unnerving on final phase of landing because all I could see instead of a runway was pitch black nothing. The side lights of the runway guided me towards touchdown and I was super-careful not to bang the main landing gear. Amazingly I made another very nice landing! One more time around the field for the same simulated electrical failure and we were on our way back to Austin Bergstrom. Shown here a GPS track of my arrival, landings, and departure from Georgetown (GTU). Click on the image for a larger view.

Got back and landed safely and dumped my GPS log to make the images you see above. Garmin also allows you to click on a point in the track and display altitude, airspeed, time, and heading. Using the Mapsource tool I was able to re-create my navigation log and at least verify that my log was somewhat close to correct. Garmin Mapsource is a very useful tool for your cross-countrys. Email me if you want to know more about it.