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Difficult x-country in the USA???

Old 12th Jan 2013, 17:42
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Spain
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Difficult x-country in the USA???

Hi boys and girls,

By June 2013 I will have finished my ATPL theory, and I am considering spending July in the USA to do some hour-building (approx 50 hrs), preferably in a C172.

My plan was to fly from Southern California to Florida and back, most likely with some detours along the way. I have a PPL with approx 100 hrs, of which 40 or so are solo.

Question 1: Am I too inexperienced for crossing the USA? Initially I was pretty confident, but a couple of schools I have been in touch with seem to think 100 TT is not enough to undertake a long trip like that. So self doubt set in. I have had a look at some of the charts, and staying away from some of the very busy airspace (Houston, New Orleans) shouldn´t pose a problem. Any comments for those of you who have tried it would be appreciated.

Question 2: Of course, aircraft rental rates are a factor, but on the other hand, I don´t want to fly around in a rusty old bucket that might fold on me after a couple of hrs on the first leg. I have been considering spending 20 dollars more per hr and do my hour building in a C172 G1000 to acquaint myself with the G1000 system. Would you folks consider that a good idea or a waste of money?

Question 3: With question 2 in mind: do you have any recommendations as to specific flying clubs/flight schools where rent is not too steep but planes are not ancient and worn?

Any help with these questions will be highly appreciated.
jadalabada is offline  
Old 12th Jan 2013, 18:28
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Fort Pierce, FL/USA
Age: 45
Posts: 91
I have done that trip twice, though in a BE76 not a C172.
One thing to consider is the elevation. We had to be at 12000feet at some points.
Johnny Bekkestad is offline  
Old 12th Jan 2013, 20:04
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Europe
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Have you ever flown in mountains terrain? Desserts? Winter conditions?
Or let me ask you another question. Would you be able to plan and fly a normal x-country (to the place where you have never been before) - perfectly, 4-5 times in a row? If yes, then you should consider going like that. If not - then you are not experienced enough.
Most likely you will do fine, if you decide to go. But if something unexpected happens... Is "most likely" good enough for you, with your life at stake?
cefey is offline  
Old 13th Jan 2013, 02:31
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Los Angeles, USA
Age: 48
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You'll be fine. A long x-country over such varied terrain as you propose, is one of the most valuable trips one can take for learning purposes. Nothing beats real world decision making. I've done quite a few of similar length in my old twin VFR, and they've all been very educational.

Just make sure you have plenty of time, don't push your luck and know when to give up for the day or for a few hours. Also, crossing the Rockies (which you'll have to do) is a high altitude endeavour and should be respected. If you don't feel comfortable with 12000ft crossings or higher, then your only option is to do it very close to the Mexican border through Arizona and New Mexico. There you can squeeze by at around 9500ft if the weather cooperates. On the other hand, you're flying over very uninhabited states there, so you're on your own for long periods of time - no radar coverage and frequent lost com with controllers etc.

Here's one of my trips from last year where I encountered terrible weather and had to stop numerous times!

AdamFrisch is offline  
Old 13th Jan 2013, 05:38
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: UK
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I wouldn't be surprised if the schools are concerned that if the aircraft goes tech or you get held up by weather then they will have an aircraft stuck a zillion miles from base which they will have to recover somehow. Much easier to deal with if your cross-countries are only day trips!
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Old 13th Jan 2013, 08:05
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Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 10,823
The pilot factories arn't interested in that sort of thing.

But you will get someone that is willing to give you an aircraft for a dry rate and have a cunning plan to get the 50 hour done.

You just need to find the right person. You need to find an old proper aviator who will take great satisfaction from someone doing something a bit different.

They are out there in the USA.

Oh and the G1000 stuff waste of cash if your coming home to do your IR in a steam driven auld heap of a dutchess.

Oh and before you head out grab an auld boy that knows what they are doing and pay them some decent money and get them to go through density altitudes and performance. Personally I would head North though

Last edited by mad_jock; 13th Jan 2013 at 08:08.
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Old 16th Jan 2013, 18:33
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: UK
Posts: 413
Go to Chandler Air Service in Arizona

I did 3 weeks of hour building there when I had 70 hours or so total time back in 2007. Most of their aircraft have GPS and are very reasonably priced.
They do a very in depth "mountain check out" when you arrive (as well as a general rental checkout and Flight Review - which you will need), where you will fly a dual cross-country to Payson or a similar high altitude airport (4-5,000+ AMSL) and fly a reduced power takeoff (instructor controls throttle) to simulate the effect of departing from a high density altitude field. Most of the ground portion of this training will encompass the Flight Review ground (geared up to get your head in the game as a European, and is more of a tutorial and refresher of aircraft performance charts/theory as opposed to a knowledge test).

I'd say it took me about a week of venturing gradually further afield until I was more than comfortable with flying there, and I flew to Blythe in CA, Sedona, the Grand Canyon and a few places 100 or so miles to the West and Southwest of Phoenix. I was also perfectly happy transiting the Phoenix Class B after doing it once with an Instructor, as it opens up a nice route when going North of Phoenix that enables you to fly through Sky Harbor's overhead while airliners depart/arrive 2,000' below and get on with their business. Once you're into the swing of things, it's an absolute piss-ball operating there. I visited 2 places out in the sticks that didn't have a cafe on site, and was casually told to take one of the cars parked outside the FBO: "The keys are under the sun-shade" to drive to town.
PM me or more info should you require, so I don't bore everyone!
sapperkenno is offline  
Old 17th Jan 2013, 20:28
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
Posts: 2,446
Nothing beats real world decision making
Neither does an accident.

Jada, you are very fresh, no offense but you are at the embryonic stage of aviation here.
You don't have an Instrument rating which means you cannot save yourself if the weather deteriorates faster then you can divert.
So you need to be very conservative in your choices.

Sapperkenno is giving the right advise, plenty of additional training and venture out slowly as you skills increase.
Have you considered doing a FAA IR and CPL and then converting to JAA/EASA?
FAA IR is approximately 50 hrs, this puts you at 150.
CPL SE and ME training takes about 40 hrs so you have 60 hrs remaining to fly your trip in order to get to the required 250 for the FAA CPL.



Last edited by B2N2; 17th Jan 2013 at 20:29.
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Old 21st Jan 2013, 00:21
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: UK
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I would agree with b2n2. Most places will not entertain your request unless you hold an FAA IR because of your level of experience. I suspect most of your XC time will probably not count in the USA too (FAA: 50nm airport to airport).

This is a route I planned a while back for about 100hrs/28 days:
100hrs Hour Building - Google Maps

I ended up taking a truncated route which went via Salt Lake City and lasted just under 40hrs in a C150.

I was regularly up at 10,000ft+ AMSL and landing at DAs at 6,000ft.

If you end up taking a C150 into such conditions, then watch the loading!

I would encourage you to get the experience as I learnt a lot. I would however, not recommend the school I rented from.

Some teasers:

Death Valley
Yellowstone
LAX approach
LA Downtown

As for the G1000: You should get a minimum of a day's groundschool from a TAA approved establishment so you know how it works. The G1000 WILL make you lazy and nothing beats compass and timer on an 8-hour leg!

Last edited by BHenderson; 21st Jan 2013 at 00:27.
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Old 25th Jan 2013, 13:32
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
Posts: 2,446
Search and you shall find young Skywalker.
Not trying to be an azz but timebuilding in the USA has been covered 1000's of times before.
And be very carefull with your level of experience, listen to the Instructors and to what the school or FBO recommends.
Look up airports on SkyVector: Flight Planning / Aeronautical Charts and AirNav
You dont need a visa so you can go anywhere to rent.
Just make sure you get a good and thorough check out.
B2N2 is offline  
Old 25th Jan 2013, 16:51
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Los Angeles, USA
Age: 48
Posts: 1,631
California is a great place to fly. You can chose between heavy traffic get-your-fix-talking-on-the-radio around the LA/San Diego/San Francisco areas, or you can choose to go into the desert, or mountains and not speak to a soul. It's much more varied than Florida. And the weather is better.

Nevada and Arizona is even more barren and you can fly for hours without seeing a single soul.

I actually think 100hrs is the perfect time to do a long x-country. You know enough not to kill yourself by then, or at least you should. It's very easy to stay close to the familiar, going places where one went with the instructor and not have to make decisions by yourself - you build no new skill. As long as you're conservative, have your head screwed on right, then weather, unknown airfields and all the other stuff is great to experience.

Last edited by AdamFrisch; 25th Jan 2013 at 16:53.
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