Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Planning A Long Cross-Country

As the old chestnut proclaims: prior planning prevents poor performance

If you plan to pass through multiple time zones, determining departure times for each flight plan can be problematic. Going east, you'll lose an hour crossing most time zones, while going west, you'll pick up an hour. Arizona chooses not to honor daylight-saving time, so that can be confusing. Using GMT for all flight plans should resolve most time-related issues.

Be Prepared
You need to be prepared for IFR conditions on any long flight. If you aren't an IFR-rated pilot, then you should constantly be prepared for a diversion. Ensure that you have the appropriate VFR charts. WACs will usually suffice, but you might want a sectional for your refueling stops and destination, and possibly a TAC if your destination is in or near Class B airspace. If you're IFR rated, carry electronic or paper instrument en route and approach charts, even if the weather is forecast to be VFR. It's smart to carry charts for a wider area than you intend to fly. You may find that the weather or even TFRs may force you into a routing that you didn't expect. It can be stressful to be en route to an alternate airport and realize that you don't have charts, especially if an instrument approach may be required. Don't count on finding the charts you need at an en route FBO, either. You should have everything you may need onboard before you start.

If you use a flight-planning app, make certain that you have current data for the entire flight loaded on your portable device by turning off Internet access and verifying the stored data. The typical mistake is to review the maps and approach charts when there's Internet access, only to find out the data isn't actually stored on the device once you're no longer on the Internet.

A strong case can be made that you should carry a survival kit for every flight, but for a long flight, especially across inhospitable terrain, it's really a must. It doesn't have to be expensive, and it doesn't have to be huge, but it should cover at least the basics, like water, first aid and environmental protection (e.g. blankets, suntan lotion, etc.). I carry much more than that on even local flights.

If you're planning a long day of flying, make sure you and your passengers are prepared. Carry sufficient liquids—water would be the preference—and encourage your passengers to drink fairly often to keep hydrated. Eat well before you depart and carry sandwiches or some other convenient healthy food (not sweets), as well. Your body will appreciate it, and you'll be much sharper at the end of the day. You should also carry whatever personal relief products you prefer.

If you're flying over mountainous terrain, you'll often need, or at least benefit from, oxygen, especially if you're planning to spend any time higher than 12,000 feet. Consider your passengers. Some people can get bad or even severe headaches, even at altitudes below 12,000 feet. Supplementary oxygen helps. Breathing oxygen periodically, and especially in preparation for the descent and approach, will make you sharper and less prone to making mistakes. Everyone can benefit from continuous or at least periodic use of oxygen on a long flight.


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