A cross country flight involves flying to an airport more than 50 nautical miles away. Today's (May 2nd, 1996) trip was from Ithaca to Dansville to Elmira and then back to Ithaca. A big triangle. Dansville is to the west, Elmira is to the south west (both relative to Ithaca).
After going over the navigational log with Stick, he points out an error in my course heading. I must have misread something initially. Everything else was in order, so he signed me off.
After all the initial checks have been made, I taxi out. I wait at the end of the taxiway by the runway for an incoming DC-9 to land. Kind of impressive, especially when you're in a little Cessna 152. I take off and get on course. Once I've cleared Ithaca's class D airspace, I call up the Buffalo FSS (Flight Service Station). I was a bit dumb, as I was listening on the VOR frequency, but I had the volume turned down. After a couple of tries, I switch to a different frequency (transmitting and receiving on the same frequency) and contact them (around the same time I realize what I had been doing wrong). The clouds are around 3000', so I'm at 2500. I open the flight plan and ask for weather at Dansville. He checks with the AWOS that they're testing at Dansville and tells me it's reporting clear below 12,000 feet. That's encouraging. And about halfway between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, the cloud ceiling increases to 4000' and is improving.
Dansville is a relatively small airport, but I was using the VOR for navigation, and doing a better job than in the past about keeping on the heading. Finding the airport isn't difficult. The active runway is 32 and I was approaching from the east. So I divert to the south, so I can loop around and enter on a left downwind. I probably should have overflown the field, as it would have been easier, more direct and is a fairly safe, standard thing to do. I self-announced my positions as I'm in the traffic pattern (forgetting the final approach, sigh, though I did remember to make sure the mixture was full rich) and landed. Not a wonderful landing. I believe I bounced (not hard) but did balloon a little. I was not sure where to park the plane either. I tried to be somewhat out of the way.
I had my logbook signed in Dansville, closed my flight plan, opened a the next leg, did a ramp-check (a shortened pre-flight inspection) and taxied to the runway and took off. It was pretty straightforward and I-390 goes right by there, so that provides a nice landmark.
I contacted the FSS and activated the flight plan and proceeded towards Elmira. I had to use pilotage and dead reconing since there is no VOR to use. Once I got within Elmira's radar coverage, I called them up.
At this point, I should mention that I was using the club headset, which is complete shit. Whenever I would press the talk switch, I'd get a blair of white-noise in my ears, which effectively made it much more difficult to hear the response. I was constantly using the phrase "Say Again" sometimes having people repeat things 3 times. The fact that at the time Elmira was busier than Ithaca normally is didn't make matters easier. Not the fact thaat I'm not used to the different things an Approach Controller will say. I managed, but it was definitely less than familiar territory. I had also forgot to turn the transponder on when leaving Dansville. This became apparent when I was given a new transponder code to "squawk." But they established radar contact. I had the field in sight. And then they began to vector me. Essentially, around the area and then lined me up for a straight in approach. Another thing I'm weak on. But I landed (again, less than elegant), taxied in. Had my logbook signed, cancelled the flight plan, and filed another.
Taxiing out, I followed the signs, which led me to the runway, but not the beginning. I asked ground control for 'progressive taxi' instructions, and they basically told me I was at the runway. I called up the tower and they cleared me for takeoff. There was probably around 3000' of runway left, and having computed the takeoff distance earlier, I knew there was enough. I also performed a "short field" takeoff (use some flaps, climb quicker), so that was not a problem. But I should have requested the 'progressive taxi' instructions from the beginning from ground control. They also gave me the Departure Control frequency, transponder squawk code, runway (which was different than the ATIS recording) and various other information that served to confuse me a little (and I had to have them repeat it, I believe).
But anyway, the climb was uneventful and not much for Departure to do (they wanted to know when I reached 3500'). I used the 'airway' which links VORs, and navigation was pretty easy. By the time Departure released me ("radar service terminated, squawk VFR, contact Ithaca tower on 119.60, frequency change approved, good day") I had the field in sight. I called FSS to cancel the flight plan, as there was no sense in opening it.
I got Ithaca's ATIS (and realized I didn't have much space left to write the information), and contacted them (after using Elmira's Departure Control frequency by accident first). Came in and landed. Again not elegant. Close to a 3 point landing (3 tires at once) which is not good if you are trying to have the 2 main wheels touch before the nose wheel. But ok.
That was mostly it. My skills need some practice, as several times I would deviate 300-400 feet in altitude before noticing. The headset gave me trouble, but on the ground my instructor told me he was getting rid of one of his and would sell it to me. I've used it before, it's nicer, so hopefully that won't be much of an issue. I guess it's mostly a matter of being able to do several things at once. There's enough time when you're flying, but when I try to jot down times and clearances, I have trouble maintaining altitude and attitute. Things to work on. Anyway, that's that flight. The next is the "long" cross- country.