May 10, 2008

Confidence Sky-High After Successful Cross-Country Flight

kcmi.jpgPilot and author Rod Machado published a great article, "Keeping your head in the game" in the May issue of AOPAPilot. In it he writes, "Currency is what the regulations require to remain legal to fly; proficiency is what pilots require to remain confident." I read the article a week or two ago and it really resonated with me. In the article he explains that pilots can take a year or more away from flying and not see a large degradation of their core piloting skills. The biggest loss is to their confidence. He states that if a pilot has not flown enough to be confident they start asking themselves questions like "Will I be able to keep up with the ATC? Can I handle any crosswinds during landing? What if I have an emergency?"

I think this is exactly where I found myself going into 2008. I had not flown in several months; throughout most of the winter. Although I felt like my flying skills were still well intact, I saw my confidence diminish. So I set out a plan for myself to take several flights this spring with a CFI to bring back currency, proficiency and most importantly, confidence. The goal was to work towards a biennial flight review. I completed the biennial flight review just a few weeks ago and was thrilled to feel after that flight like my confidence was as high as it was when I was flying three days a week when I was earning my license.

The only aspect of flight I still had a little apprehension around was flying a cross-country from Chicago Executive that would require me to fly around the busy airspace of Chicago. It had been a long while since I had planned a cross-county flight, filed a flight plan and flown a cross-country flight. So I scheduled one more flight with my CFI. I decided to fly from Chicago Executive south of the busy Chicago airspace to Champaign's University of Illinois-Willard Airport.

After departing Chicago Executive Airport I called up the Flight Service Station to open my flightplan then switched over to Chicago Approach and requested and received VFR Flight Following. Whenever I fly along the lakeshore I find it very valuable to use the flight following services if they have capacity to support it, which provides just another level of safety in avoiding air traffic.

After flying by a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline I headed towards Lansing airport before turning southwest and heading away from Chicago. About fifteen minutes after passing Lansing I had the skies to myself. I don't think I saw another plane until I was within 20 miles of our destination. The arrival into Champaign was uneventful, I was proud that after pulling off the taxiway and logging my arrival time that I flew the flight within five minutes of my calculations for my flightplan.

My CFI graduated from the University of Illinois just last year. He was kind enough to give me a brief tour while we were there. We borrowed a courtesy car from the FBO and journeyed into town. We enjoyed a $100 hamburger at Murphy's in the heart of the U of I campus. After lunch, on the way back to the airport, I called up the Flight Service Station to get an updated weather report so I could finalize the return flight navigation log. Champaign's main runway, 14L/32R, is a massive runway that is over 8,100 feet in length. With little traffic at the airport the tower was kind enough to save us time burning expensive fuel taxing to the end of the runway. Instead I turned the plane onto the runway at the midway point and still had 4,000 feet of runway ahead of me.

The flight back was uneventful right up until we arrived back at Chicago Executive. As we approached the airport I found where all the airplanes in Illinois were hiding. The controller was masterfully directing at least six or seven planes that were within a few miles of the airport and also managing the five airplanes waiting to depart. I had to slow my downwind leg then fly a 360 degree turn to allow for additional spacing between planes before landing.

Since moving to Chicago a few years back I am at the height of my flying confidence, proficiency and currency. I am looking forward to flying some fun cross-country flights this summer and building up my cross-country time and possibly pursuing an instrument rating in the near future.

Posted by at May 10, 2008 6:45 PM

This cross-country sounds like it was a total success! I can't wait until your next one ... perhaps it'll be a solo cross-country??

Posted by: CJ at May 21, 2008 11:20 PM | Reply

admirable that you set up a plan to come back to your flying skills. there are to many pilots who do not so and then cause accidents. i´d prefer to fly with someone like you!

Posted by: Flug Goa at May 23, 2008 9:35 AM | Reply

i've been reading your blog for a while now. who's your CFI? i'm an instructor in Phoenix, and I graduated from U of I last May. I miss Willard, and Murphy's is the greatest bar in east central Illinois.

Posted by: james at December 29, 2008 3:32 AM | Reply

i've been reading your blog for a while now. who's your CFI? i'm an instructor in Phoenix, and I graduated from U of I last May. i'm sure i must know him/her (its a small program). i miss Willard, and Murphy's is the greatest bar in east central Illinois.

Posted by: james at December 29, 2008 3:34 AM | Reply

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