Tuesday 8th March 2011

Today was to be my second cross country solo, and this time I was expected to land and take off again from the airport visited. Mike had set me the task of flying to Gainesville, via Palatka Airport. I had prepared the Nav Log the evening before, hoping to get away sharpish when I arrived at the Airport. The flight was scheduled for an early start, at 6.45, but when I arrived at the airport, the early morning mist meant that VFR (Visual Flying Rules) were not possible, IFR (Instrument Flying Rules were in force. I cannot fly in those conditions; an IFR Rating is required to do so. I started to pre-flight the aircraft, as it looked as though the early morning mist would burn off. It was frustrating to see one side of the Airport in clear conditions (around the buildings and hangers), but the runway side (surrounded by fields) still had a layer of mist hovering over it. At last it looked as though the mist had lifted sufficiently to get going, but when I started the aircraft, and contacted Ormond Ground for taxying permission, the Controller stated that IFR conditions were still in force, VFR was expected in about 10 minutes. As I had started the plane, I decided to leave the engine warming up whilst I twiddled my thumbs waiting.

The plane needed refueling (the last occupant from yesterday obviously had not done so, as he should have), so I knew I was going to have a further delay as I refueled the aircraft. As the fuel farm was clearly visible from the ramp, I requested permission from Ground Control to taxi across and fill up, but he informed me that general conditions had improved enough o declare VFR, and released me to taxi. I quickly refueled the aircraft, and I was set to go.

Fortunately, we had practiced this trip a day or so ago, so I had some VRF’s (Visual Reference Points) memorized. I kept below the Daytona Airspace (1200 feet), as I headed out to my ‘start’ position from the Nav Log. As soon as I was outside Daytona Airspace, I began a climb to 3500 feet. Once outside the confines of the airfield, airspace is uncontrolled, meaning that I could fly anywhere I wanted. With this freedom of movement comes the responsibility of avoiding other aircraft by visual means, and by letting other aircraft know where you are, and keeping a mental note of where they are. This is done by frequents announcements over the radio of who you are, where you are, and what your intentions are.  Only a few days ago I was still marveling at how Mike seemed to be able to understand the gobbledygook that came out of the radio at frequent intervals, but I am now becoming used to it myself, and even recognizing my call sign when contacted by the Tower. This last part has been the hardest to recognize, you expect a response when you call them, but if they call you unexpectedly, it is easy to miss that the message is for you, amongst all the other messages going on.

I flew up to the airfield at Palatka, by reference to the VFR’s I had marked on my Nav Log. Once there, I overflew the airfield, changed course, and headed to Gainesville. I missed one of my VFR’s on this leg; the airfield at Melrose that had stood out so clearly against the night sky the other evening was now no-where near as visible in the daylight. However, I maintained my heading, and soon the airfield at Gainesville came into view. This airfield has a nice long runway that helps it to get recognized from the air. About 8 miles out from the Airfield, I contacted the Tower with a request for a full stop landing, and taxi back to depart from the same runway on my return journey. Once clearance was given, I joined the circuit, and landed. My first landing at another Airport! Once I had cleared the runway, I carried out my after landing checks, and started taxying back via the taxiways to the start of the runway. As I lined up at the runway threshold to begin my before departure checks, a twin engine jet aircraft lined up behind me (if it wasn’t a DC9, it certainly looked like one). He had to wait whilst I completed my checks, and then requested clearance for departure from the Tower. This given, I was soon back in the air. As I started my climb away from the airport, the Tower came on the air with a request that I divert 30 degrees to starboard, as the following jet wanted a straight out departure, as he was, of course, much faster than me. I did as requested, worrying slightly that this might mess up my planned flight plan back to Ormond. I watched in awe as the jet took off from the runway behind me, soon caught up and passed me on my port side. Once past by a sufficient distance, Tower told me I could resume my original heading. Doing a swift mental calculation, and by reference to the VFR’s I had noticed on the way in, I was soon back on my original track to Ormond.

Landing back at Ormond, I had now done the second of the three cross country flights I need to complete. This was my flying done for the day, the rest of the day was spent in revision for the exams I will be undertaking in the next few days, and preparing  my Nave Log for the ‘big one’ ; the cross country still to be down, visiting at least two airports, and flying over 150 miles. The plan is I do this one on Wednesday.

As I left the Airport, I noticed a rather nice speedboat outside the Paint Shop. It appears that painting aircraft is not their only talent, they do boats as well.