I spent a large chunk of Sunday using a variety of tools to research and plan as cross country light airplane flight. On Friday (in 3 days), my instructor and I will head to San Jose Airport to catch an early (6:30am) flight to Houston, Texas.

Citabria N5156X
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

There we'll meet one of the current owners of N5156X, the 1969 Citabria 7KCAB and head up to the Cleveland Airport to get the keys. I'm buying half the plane, along with another friend of mine who is also a glider pilot taking single engine plane lessons in Citabrias.

Once we've got the plane, log books, and other stuff, we'll head out on what should be roughly a 3 day trip back to San Jose. Our plane will ultimately live at Reid-Hillview Airport.

The tools used to research and plan our route (assuming reasonable weather) are a real mix of high-tech and low-tech. Let's have a look.

On the low-tech side:

  • aviation section charts (road maps for pilots)
  • world aeronautical charts (WACs) which are just like sectionals but they cover twice the scale
  • an aviation plotter, which is basically just a clear ruler with markings on it to measure mileage on sectional charts and WACs

Basically I use a pencil, special ruler, and some funny maps.

And on the high-tech side:

  • AOPA's on-line flight planning tool (built by Jeppesen). I use this to measure direct distances between two airports or navigation aids.
  • Microsoft Streets and Trips 2005. It's the most responsive desktop mapping tool. It's useful to flip on the terrain view and look at where the major roads go. We plan to follow I-10 quite a bit.
  • Google Earth. I finally got it to install (had this bug) and I'm in heaven. This is the single coolest piece of software I've used in years. I will write lots more about it.

Of course, having a 24" monitor sure helps a lot too. :-)

The Route

All of this is subject to change depending on weather and winds, but here's a really rough idea of the plan.

We'll start from Cleveland, Texas on Friday afternoon and fly as far west as is reasonable. At a minimum, I'd like to make Fredricksburg. Apparently Gillespie Co. Airport has a great place to stay: the Hangar Hotel. That would rock.

If we're really making good time and not burning a lot of fuel, I'd love to make it as far as Midland and/or Odessa in West Texas. But that's pretty optimistic.

On Saturday, we'll head toward El Paso and then follow I-10 north to Las Cruces, New Mexico. From there we'll continue to follow I-10 westward into Arizona to Tucson. Then we'll mostly track I-8 to Yuma, being careful to doge a bunch of restricted areas near the border with Mexico.

I'm not sure if we'll stop in Yuma for the night or maybe earlier, depending how the day progresses.

From Yuma, we'll cross into California, diverge from I-8 and head toward the Salton Sea and aiming for Coachella in the vicinity of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. Then we'll go north a bit, staying east of Big Bear Lake and the high terrain there before turning west to Apple Valley.

Once reaching Apple Valley, we'll aim for Lancaster (which is on the western edge of the Mojave Desert just north of Palmdale, home of Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works and just south of Edwards Air Force Base).

After Lancaster we cross one last set of mountains on our way to Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. We'll either go via Mojave and Tehachapi (following highway 58) or cross via I-5.

Once we hit Bakersfield and I-5, it's an easy ride up the valley to the San Luis Reservoir where highway 152 cuts through the Pacheco Pass to Gilroy and South County Airport. Then it's a easy 22 mile flight to Reid-Hillview.

Got all that?

Don't worry, I'll post a visual version of the route we actually end up flying. :-)

All told, it's roughly 1,700 miles to cover in the course of 3 days in a plane that'll likely be flying between 100 and 120 miles per hour, depending on the winds. If the timing works out, we'll meet Lance (my partner in the plane) somewhere in southern California near Bakersfield so that he can fly it the rest of the way and I'll ride home in a car. The goal is for each of us to get some of our dual cross-country time logged as part of getting the plane home.

Anyway, I'm pretty psyched about this. It should be fun trip!

Posted by jzawodn at April 11, 2006 08:14 AM

Reader Comments
# The Doc said:

Late breaking news .- Today at 8:57 a.m. (EST) a 1969 Citabria 7KCAB plane crashed somewhere in the vecinity of New Mexico. According to witnesses close to the event, there were seen 2 parachutes jumping off the plane close to colission. Details of the incident are still sketchy, but it seems that half it's owner, one Jeremy Zawodny a former employee of Yahoo Inc, had not calculated the interference caused by running a 24" monitor onboard to use a complex rival's software named Google Earth, in order to get a clue where he was in the air. Apparently, a software glitch, or perhaps a wrong clic, made him believe he was somewhere else... More details will be forthcoming as investigators examine the black box recordings. So far, they've been unsuccesful to determine anything beyond 2 people screaming back at each other "I told you so!". Who the second person onboard that flight is still a mistery. Stay tuned!

on April 11, 2006 09:27 AM
# Tyler said:

Stop in Fredericksburg if you can, even just for lunch and some gas. I had the blue plate special on a trip up there two weeks ago. Chicken fried chicken on Sundays I think. They've done a great job taking the place back to the '40s and '50s. They've also got some freebie advertisement posters in the Hotel that'll look good hanging in your hanger once you get the bird home. Beyond that, the flying over the Texas Hill Country is very scenic. You'll have a great trip!

on April 11, 2006 09:53 AM
# Dan Isaacs said:

I know Doc was joking, because I know this plane doesn't come with a Flight Data and Voice Recorder.

Z, I do like a lot of things about streets and Trips, but it annoys the HELL out of me that you can't set a real speed int he preferneces, just a continuum from "slower" to "faster". I'll go with Garmin, in the unlikely event I was ever making a choice with my wallet. ;)

on April 11, 2006 10:32 AM
# Darren said:

I don't know how you feel about the Barenaked Ladies, but they've got a pretty entertaining little podcast: http://www.bnlblog.com/rss/podcasts.xml.

I mention this because band member Ed Robertson (who does the podcast) is an aspiring pilot, talks about flying fairly regularly, and recent discussed a cross-country flight.

on April 11, 2006 12:29 PM
# James said:

Hmmm ... "partner" and "tail-wheel airplane" in the same sentence ... I hope you have a good hull insurance policy. Care to fill us in?

on April 11, 2006 12:34 PM
# Darryl Ramm said:

When is the tow hook and vario getting installed? You might be able to hang a TE probe for the vario off the strut. I don't want to hear anymore about this plane until it (and you) are ready to tow.... :-)

on April 11, 2006 02:56 PM
# Steve Foster said:

No E6B under low-tech side? Going to use a GPS tracker?

on April 11, 2006 03:17 PM
# ch said:

Yikes! Would you still want a plane if energy costs tripple in the next 2 years?

on April 11, 2006 03:48 PM
# Keith said:

I'm flying from Houston to PAO Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in my Grumman. Maybe we will cross paths.

on April 11, 2006 05:49 PM
# Stephan said:

That's a lot of flying!

I would make the drive down to Midland/Odessa (they're so close we just bunch them together) but I will be flying the opposite direction.

I will say that the weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday is a little sketchy with winds coming out of the WSW around 20-30mph with gusts up in the 50s. Depending on when you leave from Midland you could hit a window of no major winds, but you have to watch for the blowing dust out here. Just thought I'd give you a heads up about what us West Texas boys are seeing.

on April 11, 2006 10:03 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Yeah, the 5 day forecast is looking a little windy. Clouds don't seem to be an issue yet, but wind could really slow us down. Perhaps we'll have to stay low...

on April 11, 2006 10:09 PM
# Andrew said:

Hey, we attended pubcon the last two days and would like to send you a shirt with your Citabria and N5156X tail number embroidered on it. email me your address and we'll send it out in a couple days.

on April 20, 2006 07:36 AM
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