Monday, September 12, 2011

My First Cross Country Flight

September 12, 2011, Monday, 6:40 am, I take-off on my first cross country flight to the nearby airstrip of the Angeles Flying Club (AFC)--just shy of 55 kilometers south of Nampicuan as the crow flies.  I have flown farther than that in the past (e.g., Nampicuan to Fort Magsaysay, which is nearly 70 kilometers) but I never actually landed at my destination.  I would simply meander in the air at my destination for a few minutes and then return to my home airstrip in Nampicuan.  This time is different.  I am landing at the AFC and I will fly back to Rancho Caridad the following day--so I thought.

As it happens, I set my alarm clock incorrectly and instead of waking-up at 5 a.m., I open my eyes to see the light of day at about 6:20 am.  So, I rush to the airstrip, where my trusted crew is wondering why I am unusually late, fill-up the tank with gasoline, conduct my pre-flight checks and off I go--immediately banking to the left for a 180 degree turn to the south for Magalang, Pampanga.  There are plenty of low altitude clouds, which can be a bit threatening when it's the first time you are visiting a place and you are entirely dependent on a pocket-size GPS to reach your destination.  I thought about changing the batteries of my GPS for this cross country flight but I didn't.  Murphy's Law got the better of me when the GPS flashed a "low battery" reading about half of the way to AFC.  Turned off the GPS and turned it back on about 5 minutes to my destination.  It should have at least that much juice left for a safe landing.  Distance to destination on the GPS read 755 meters yet I did not have a visual of the AFC airstrip.  For a second, I thought I might have inputted the wrong coordinates in my GPS until I looked straight down and realized I was right on top of my destination.  Whew!  Touched down at about 7:20 am and the staff of the AFC was just about trickling-in for the opening at 8 am.

My friend, Albert Mendoza (who was also my microlight instructor), invited me to come over because GMA (the TV station) was going to feature microlights this morning.  Gordon, a seasoned microlight et al instructor from the United Kingdom with over 2,000 flying hours on a microlight, agreed to perform some microlight competition-type maneuvers, among other things, for the TV crew.  And so, he did and Albert took my trike together with the camera man to take aerial shots of the action.  The TV host was an enthusiastic and brave young lady who came along with Gordon for some of the maneuvers.  "Aha!"  That's the name of the TV show at GMA and it’s suppose to air in a week or so.  We will see.

We all hand lunch at a local carinderia (eatery), which served an exceptional sizzling sisig and pinapaitang kambing.  We filled-up and parted ways.  Albert and Gordon checked-out my wing and concluded that my wing had too much "reflex," proceeded to make some adjustments, which slightly improved its handling.  I will need to secure a copy of the shape of the battens of my wing from the original manufacturer, as these may need to be flattened to correct the performance of my wing.  That's homework for me.

Just after lunch was a downpour of rain.  It lasted for 2 maybe 3 hours and the skies cleared-up with a bit of haze.  With the ground cooled by the seasonal rainfall, I was assured that there would hardly be any thermals for the rest of the afternoon.  It was also evident that the rest of the afternoon would experience relatively calm wind conditions.  And so, I decided to return to Rancho Caridad in the afternoon.  Took off at at around 3:45 pm and arrived in Nampicuan at around 4:45 pm.  The trip was about 1 hour and unusually long for the distance.  This was due to a nearly frontal headwind, though consistent, allowed me to cruise at speeds below 40 kph.  Hence, the long ride back, which is still faster than going by car with all the traffic.  Oh . . . I did remember to change the batteries of my GPS before returning home.  So goes my first cross country flight on September 12, 2011.

There will be more cross-country flights to come as soon as I purchase my airband transceiver--that is a fancy name for a walkie-talkie for aviation purposes--my headset and the push-to-talk switch that goes along with this communication system.

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