As many of the midwesterners here know, the weather the last two days here in the midwest/Michigan has been incredible, especially after the less-than-stellar days we had leading up to it.
This past week my instructor and I have been trying to schedule a night x-country, but unfortunately every night had low ceilings and short visibility that kept us on the ground. Didn't the weather Gods know that I had my flight plan all laid out nicely and neatly, just waiting to plug in the wind data? ;-) The route of choice for the night x-country was KPTK-PSI-KLAN-KBTL-KJXN-KARB-SVM-KPTK, with 2 full-stop landings at each airport. The grand total for the distance was 190NM.
Well, after that "Blizzard of '03" passed off the coast and took the remaining snow in our area with it, we were good to go on Wednesday night. Much to my dismay, my instructor had to land in Columbus, OH the night before due to weather and was stuck there all Wednesday. We were in contact, but it looked like the night x-country was off for Wednesday night, despite beautiful conditions.
We were also waiting on good weather for my solo x-country, which, similar to the night x-country, was already planned out but just needed the wind data plugged in. I had a few solo routes chosen just in case of weather limits--although my primary route was KPTK-FNT-MOP-KHTL (landing at Houghton Lake), then Houghton Lake to Traverse City, then backtrack along the same route.
In light of the PERFECT conditions with the high pressure system of OHIO, Michigan weather was fabulous yesterday, so I decided to take the day off from work and fly and fly and fly. :-) I know this description is a bit long ;-), but I'll shorten it up. :-)
After going over my fp and confirming my calculation, I filed my VFR fp and took off from KPTK. I turned on course northbound and requested flight following. The trip up to KHTL was uneventful, which was reassuring. ;-) Although the winds were a bit gusty, I landed and topped the tanks. After checking weather for Traverse City (which is on the west side of the state, just inland from Lake Michigan), I departed for TVC. However, when I was about 20 NM out and got ATIS, they were reporting gusting winds 60 degrees off runway heading and low level wind shear. I monitored tower and after hearing reports of 10 knot fluctuations on approach, I decided it wasn't safe to proceed--I did not want to deal with wind shear at this stage. :-)
I executed a 180 and set up the plane for the return trip. Since I did not land at TVC, I still needed one more landing at another airport to full-fill the solo x-country requirements. I ended up landing at KMOP. However, now I was going to a familiar uncontrolled airport (Bad Axe), called my instructor again to let him know what I was doing, and was off. With flight following most of the way, I finally returned to KPTK with the requisite landings at 3 airports (edit - KHTL, KMOP, KPTK), much more than 50 NM straight line distance, and 5.1 hours. Solo x-country complete. You may ask why I did it all at one time--well, this time of year it is difficult to get such greater weather that is not forecasted to turn crumby anytime soon, so it was the safest way to knock it out without waiting for a couple months.
Then last night, my instructor and I did the dual night x-country. That one was also uneventful except for the winds and pilot controlled lighting. ;-) He had me divert to two different airports, one of which I was setting up on short final and the runway lights turned off. We had just turned them up a couple minutes earlier, but we could not get them on again, so we executed a missed approach.
Anyway, with 10 full stop landings and 3.6 hours night, we were finally able to wrap up the night x-country also.
So, needless to say, with 8.7 hours in one day, the x-countries are done. :-)
Now, its just polishing the ol' maneuvers--especially steep turns. :-)
My house (somewhere) ;-), that's Pine Knob ski "hill"