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.
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.
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