Flying Citabria N5156X on my First Solo Cross Country Flight This past weekend I flew both Saturday and Sunday to fulfill the FAA solo cross-country requirements for a private pilot certificate. The requirements state that I need to fly a minimum of 5 hours solo cross-country. At least one flight must over 150 nautical miles total, including landings at 3 separate airports, and at least one leg over 50 nautical miles (straight distance).

Having already flown our plane most of the way back from Texas and a bit of cross-country flying in my glider (in California, Nevada, and even Utah), it wasn't as intimidating as it is for someone who's never flown very far before.

Here's how it all went down on Saturday--with pictures! (I'll try to write up Sunday tomorrow.)

Saturday: King City, Salinas, and Air to Air Photography

This route is fairly typical for students at Amelia-Reid Aviation. I originally wanted to shoot for Paso Robles but decided to just do the normal routine for my first flight.

I had the flight all planned a few days in advance and reviewed it with my instructor. I had been watching the National Weather Service updates out of the Monterey office, so I knew it was going to work out quite well. On Saturday morning, I called the Oakland Flight Service Station (FSS) to get a weather briefing and file my VFR flight plan.

The briefer confirmed what I expected--good weather and light winds. No costal fog to worry about. So I headed to the airport to track down my instructor and get a verbal go-ahead.

I launched at roughly 10:30AM on a straight out departure from runway 13 Left at Reid-Hillview. As I climbed thru a few thousand feed, I called up Oakland on the radio to open my flight plan.

I then leveled off and shot a few pictures of the area south of San Jose, including the Anderson Lake.

Over South County airport I shot a few more and then continued on to Hollister.

Passing to the west of Hollister, I shot a view of the coastline between Monterey and Santa Cruz.

Then, before I knew it, I was coming up on the higher terrain east of the Salinas Valley. The hills between me and King City weren't terribly intimidating, but it still makes you think about where you'd land if the engine quit.

Maybe 15 minutes later I was descending in the vicinity of King City (aka, Mesa Del Ray airport). There was one other airplane inbound, so I announced my intentions about 10 miles out and then again at 6 miles. Neither of us knew which way the winds were blowing, so we both planned to fly over the airport to get a look at the windsock before entering the pattern.

As we got closer, a third plane radioed to us that he was on a 5 mile final for runway 29 with possible engine trouble. I told him that I'd slow down to make room, but that turned out to be unnecessary. He was coming in fast.

Just as he was landing I got a look at the windsock and determined that the wind was coming mostly down runway 29. I did a quick turn and entered the pattern to land.

I taxied off the runway to transient parking near the Sean Tucker School of Aerobatic Flight so that I could hit the restroom. But it was closed.


It was then that I met the pilot of the plane that had engine trouble (which turned out to be a clog in one of his fuel lines). He borrowed my cell phone (his was dead) to cancel his flight plan and let his wife know he stopped for fuel. He and his daughter then posed for a picture.

I shot a few more for good measure. You know, just to prove I made it there. :-)

After eating a Clif Bar and a bit of walking around, I hopped back into the Citabria to finish off the flight. I did one less than ideal touch-and-go on runway 29 and then headed up toward Salians.

Navigation was no-brainer. You just follow the highway and eventually end up practically lined up for a straight in approach to runway 31. Listening to the AWOS and tower, I learned that they were, in fact, using runway 31. Sweet.

I called up the tower about 10 miles out to let him know that I'd like to land. They asked me to fly a straight in for runway 31 and contact them at the 4 miles out. I did so and was promptly cleared to land.

Once on the ground, I exited the runway and was told to "go to ground on point seven." It was at that moment I realized that I hadn't looked up the ground frequency in advance and written it down on my kneeboard. Whoops!

On a whim, I tried 122.7 and got no response. Then I tried 119.7 and also heard no response. Then I realized that I was being stupid and simply asked the tower for the full ground frequency: 121.7

Lesson learned.

I taxied back to the end of runway 31 for pattern work. I really wanted to do at least one touch-and-go there but wasn't sure how many. I was cleared for take off, did so, and then asked for permission to depart the area toward the north.

After leaving Salinas airspace, I headed toward Fremont Peak. Looking at my watch, I realized that my flight was going faster than planned. I wanted to stretch it to at least 2.5 hours, so I took a bit of detour to Hollister to see what was going on. I figured I'd over fly the airport and then head back to Reid.

Moments after announcing myself on the radio, a voice came on and said "is that Jeremy?" "It sure is" I responded.

Turns out that it was Steve Brockman flying Pawnee 92Z, one of the tow planes.

He said something like "if you can wait a few minutes, I'll take a few pictures of your plane after I drop this glider off."

Cool! Steve has been flying with his camera for a while now and taking some nice pictures. Since I didn't have any good pictures of our Citabria in flight yet, I was game to try.

They came out much better than I expected!

Flying Citabria N5156X on my First Solo Cross Country Flight Flying Citabria N5156X on my First Solo Cross Country Flight Flying Citabria N5156X on my First Solo Cross Country Flight

Once that was over, I headed back up the valley, flew over Frazier Lake airport and landed back at Reid-Hillview.

I gassed up the plane, wiped off the bugs, and updated some paperwork. It turned out that I had been up 2.5 hours.

All in all, not a bad day. It was a little warm, but I managed to stay comfortable thanks to the good vents on the plane.

Posted by jzawodn at June 20, 2006 07:49 PM

Reader Comments
# rabble said:

I've been reading your posts for a while about learning to fly. I was wondering how much such a thing cost, the lessons... Looking at the it looks like it costs between $5000 and $10,000 all in all? Is that the right ball park or am i missing something all together?

on June 20, 2006 08:33 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Yeah, that's probably a reasonable estimate.

I haven't kept close track. But I didn't go the typical route either. I already had flying experience and I'm doing much of the training in a plane I own (half of).

Elsewhere in the country it may cost less. Rental rates and fuel prices vary by area.

on June 20, 2006 08:38 PM
# Oli Young said:

What are the chances you can post a track, or GPS co-ordinates of your flight for those of us playing along at home 8,000 miles away?

on June 20, 2006 08:52 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I really should do that.

I need to either bring along my little Garmin GPS or get a data cable for the Lowrance we use in the ship.

on June 20, 2006 09:01 PM
# John Walker said:


This looks awesome. Your plane is really good looking. Must have been a kick to meet up with a friend in mid-air. Anyway, this is really interesting stuff to me. The photos make the post.

on June 20, 2006 10:01 PM
# Shrikant joshi said:


You have just given a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Boys' Toys" And those pics of your Citabria are simply fantastic! Lovely plane, my compliments.


on June 21, 2006 01:42 AM
# Jeffrey Friedl said:

Do you live in Luxemburg or something? Since when does a 150-mile flight count as "cross country"? You'll have to complete Hawaii to Maine or FLA to Alaska if you want our cross-country respect.


on June 21, 2006 08:12 AM
# Steve Bukosky said:

Nicely done. I did my cross country in my Dad's Aeronca 7AC. No radio, just dead reckoning. Later on did it in a Cessna 150 and had VOR. Wow, I was in heaven!

In the Aeronca, one of the stops turned out to be unattended. I had to prop the engine myself and the plane started wandering away on me. Fun, fun fun. Who needs electric starters???

on June 21, 2006 12:32 PM
# phpfreak said:

Jeremy -- I wonder if we can put MySQL or even Linux to use in my sim :)

-- phpfreak

on June 21, 2006 10:37 PM
# Rae said:

Seems you and the boyfriend have a lot in common: - I went up with him in the Cessna once. Now I fly a LOT and it doesn't phase me. But the Cessna I group with a tin can. It rattled, shook and was down right scary as SHIT. I made him land early and I never plan to go up in it again. Something about a Boeing being a solid chunk of metal just makes me feel better about flying in it. The good news is, since being in the Cessna, props don't make me anywhere NEAR as nervous now. ;-)

on July 6, 2006 06:41 PM
# Iain said:


Loved the air to air shots of your Citabria. It's a beautiful aircraft, but then I'm biased. I'm planning to fly my first area solo in one this coming weekend.



on September 12, 2006 05:46 AM
# Jonathan Boes said:

Hows it going. My name is Jonathan and I was just reading your solo story. Thats pretty cool. I'm going up on my first solo in general in 2 days. I'm really nervous but I am pretty sure I'm ready. After looking at your site it makes me feel a little better to see that others are in the same position as me. Thanks a lot.

on October 10, 2006 10:30 AM
# Wally said:

wow really great! Good photos.

on November 5, 2006 04:37 PM
# Bruce said:

Hey great job! I'm a 60 hour student pilot I just took a year off and I'm going to be doing my solo x country in the coming next few weeks,waiting on weather,I just stumbled across your site,and it reminded me to bring a camera,why not,hey thanks.
Bruce in south east ohio

on November 16, 2006 07:02 AM
# Michael said:

Just came across this page in a search. Have to say the pics are great! I have just completed my first solo cross-country. I am at 48 hours now, and will be completing my next solo cross-country in two weeks. As for the question on cost, I am in the Atlanta, GA area. The flight school I am training at is Part 61 (not as structured/formal as classroom learning goes). I am renting a C172S at $119/hr, adn instructor time is $42/hr. I started in June of 2006 and, thanks to Georgia weather, fulltime job, scheduling conflicts, and one instructor being hired by an airline the same day as my first solo, I am just now closing on the certificate. In total, to date, I think I have spent about $6,500. I have another $1,500 on account, and should be able to finish up on that.

Again, great blog and great pics!

on February 12, 2007 11:08 AM
# Joe Rhodes said:


I am just now beginning my flight training and did a Google search to get a little encouragement (feeling a bit overwhelmed right now). Seeing your photos really got my blood pumping. Thanks!

Also, to answer the cost question, my school has told me to plan on $6,000 to $7,000 for my private, depending on how quickly I progress.

on September 12, 2007 02:33 PM
# Monica said:

Hi Jeremy~
I have just completed my first solo and I am also a student pilot who studied in Aviation School nearby "RHV" airport.Could you give me some advise about the route for cross country flight..And what's the main point that I need to focus? Thanks for your comment..
Sincerely Monica

on September 29, 2008 11:11 PM
# Monica said:

I have asked you a question about "how to plan a cross country from RHV" . Thanks a lot

on September 30, 2008 08:19 AM
# Alan said:

Whats the latest on your flying? I just started and I am excited as heck to get going! Pick up some Jeppesen books & DVDs on Ebay for next to nothing!

on October 5, 2009 11:32 AM
# Christopher Stinson said:

How much was your plane when you bought it? I'm looking to co-own a plane so I can get lots of hours. What do you think I should expect to pay? I'm sure it would vary by region, but I'm hoping you can throw a number out there.
Thanks man! And I loved reading your stories because it shows that everyone makes mistakes with the small things and it doesn't make me feel unworthy to be a pilot if I make the same ones. Thanks again dude!

on November 8, 2009 02:37 PM
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