As a Three-Day Eventer, I competed in three disciplines combined together.

Dressage:Hurricane Eventing 008

Cross-country:hurricane eventing 002b

Stadium jumping:

Hurricane Eventing 003

Most everyone’s favorite is Cross country or XC. And why not? It is the most thrilling part of the sport. Jumping over truck beds, leaping into water obstacles and galloping over beautiful fields. Some days I miss the adrenaline rush of clearing over a 4’9″ solid wood fence. But other days, I remember meeting a fence or two that I didn’t make it over.

I have all but hung up my spurs from riding (to be returned to at a future point in time!) and I am excited to say that I still get to do cross country! Just, well, it’s a bit different in a plane…

My first cross country 

Last week, I flew my first ‘cross country’. I was beaming and thrilled to tell anyone I met in the following days, of  my accomplishment. The thing is, they didn’t know what a cross country flight was. And most were all to caught up in the contagious excitement they didn’t ask. Someone kindly suggested I explain what exactly it is and why it’s so darn cool.

A cross country flight, when writing about it, is pretty simple and boring. People fly cross country all the time. For example, on a Boeing 737 with Southwest Airlines. However, when you are in charge of getting the plane from point A to point B (and in the future, points C and D…) take offs, landings, traffic, instruments, fuel, etc.– it is a being freaking deal!

You might well think there is some technology to help you navigate from here to there. And you’d be correct. Some of the technology exist from the 1930’s and we still use it today. If I’m lucky, I get to fly a plane with GPS situational awareness. And there is a super cool app for iPads called Foreflight, but the cost is a bit prohibitive at this time in my schooling. The technology from the 1930’s are called VORs, and I can find my position and stay on course by tuning to short-wave radio frequencies (click link for more info). If I continue my flight eduction to do instrument flying, I’ll be using VORs more. Most of the Cessna’s I get to fly also have GPS technology, but it varies as to how sophisticated.

My first cross country took me from my homebase of KAPA, Centennial Airport to KFTG Front Range Airport. This flight took place directly after my exciting morning doing formation flying and working with a very busy tower. My instructor Brian, asked if I still was ready to fly solo cross country, that I could wait until a calmer day. But the truth is, I do well under the duress, and it didn’t phase me.  So after dropping said instructor off at the hangar, I went back to the run-up area and prepared for flying by myself to another airport.

I’ll let you in on a funny thing. My headset wasn’t working very well in the pilots seat, so we thought it’d be a good idea to plug my headset in to the co-pilots phone jack when I flew solo. Um, it took me several minutes to figure out why, when I pressed my mic button, no one could hear me. I would have had to press the c0-pilots mic button! Now that was too much for me on my first flight. So I just moved my headset jacks to my side and dealt with the crappy reception.

After take-off, I headed east, following landmarks like Aurora Reservoir, Arapahoe Road, and creek beds I could identify from the air. I talk to myself. A bunch. Mostly to run through the constant check list of things to monitor and do. But also to calm any nerves that might like to make an appearance. Thankfully my destination airport was completely quiet. No one was coming or going and there was a nice ATC guy in the tower that helped me set boundaries for Class Bravo airspace. Class B airspace is for the big boys, specifically at that time for DIA. I don’t want to get in Class B, as that’s a mega no-no. Although it is really neat to be flying and see Frontier, Delta and United planes just above and/or to the side of me.

I performed three touch n’ goes (land and then add full power and take off again) and headed back to Centennial. I set KAPA as my GPS destination to help me navigate home. But the real way is to follow dead reckoning. That is, look out the window! It’s cool that I know this area pretty well, having grown up around here. Although it is a bit different seeing it from the sky.

And that’s it! I’ve flown by myself to another destination and now I will just extend the trips further and further. Plus, night flying!