2.5hrs of XC Fun, 2Min’s of Terror by Tom Wiseman

My CFI and I wanted to get the remaining 2.2hrs of hood time I had left out of the way before really getting into in the Cross Country part of my training. So we planned a Cross Country trip that would take us very close to that 2.2hrs.

We planned a trip from O85 in Calif., direct RBL, and then over to WLW. We took off from Benton (my home field) and climbed to 5500′. Once I had leveled off he directed me to put the hood on. From which point I tuned into the RBL VOR, turned my OBS and tracked the inbound radial. After RBL he had me do some climbs, turns, etc. After approx. 15 or 20 min’s of this, he directed me to intercept the outbound RBL radial we had discussed in preflight that would take us to WLW (Willows).

Having removed my foggles approximately 5nm away from Willows, he instructed me to make right downwind for 16. I failed to flare enough and landed fairly flat, but not real hard. We taxied in, tied the plane down, and went in to get some lunch. After we ate, we did a walk around, taxied, and took off.

We had pretty much the same routine coming home. Hood was on fairly quickly, and he had me do turns, climbs, descents, etc. We landed at Benton uneventfully. I asked my CFI if we could do a couple more T&L’s for practice and he kindly agreed.

So, we taxied back around to 15, Benton. Made my radio call, “Benton Traffic, Cessna 84DL departing rwy 15, staying in the pattern, Benton.” Looked for traffic before taxiing into position, listened for traffic.. nothing. Taxied unto the runway, held brakes, full power, brakes off, rolling… 60kts, pull back, liftoff, climb out at 75kts, heading 151.

No problem so far and it had been a great day. I was having the time of my life. At 1300′ (600′ AGL), I started my turn to crosswind and made my call. Before I rolled out on 240 I spotted another plane slightly above us (not by much though) and could not determine whether he was coming at us or heading away. Everyone who flies knows in this scenario there’s no time to wait, so I made a judgment call and turned left trying to steer away. About this time the other plane made his radio call for entering the 45 for right downwind for rwy 15. I was still turning the plane and had it in a 45-degree bank when my instructor grabbed the control column and called his aircraft.

I got that sinking feeling in my stomach knowing I had just done something wrong, but not sure at the time what it was. After an uneventful landing my instructor told me that he wasn’t sure how much further I was going to roll the aircraft, and when he saw I was at 45 degrees he called his aircraft. He explained to me that if I had rolled it anymore, we could have easily lost all lift and had a very nasty wing tip landing. Hmmm, not good. I of course had been briefed several times prior to this day about steep banks with low speed or low altitude or both.

In my mind at the time I knew what I was doing, but in retrospect, I’m not sure I was aware of my steep bank angle, doing 75-80kts, at only 600′ AGL. SO… I’m glad my CFI was onboard, and watching things. My CFI told me that he completely agreed with my decision to turn, and delighted at my quick reaction, but that a 45-degree bank was not a good thing. I agreed.

So, for a pretty uneventful day, and after enjoying a 2.5hr cross-country flight, I managed to give us 2min’s of terror at the end. Of course the other pilot was not completely faultless. Had he been monitoring his radio, he would have known that I had just taken off and was staying in the pattern. But then you can look at it the other way and say he’s not required to have a radio at all or listen to it even if he has one in the case of Benton (uncontrolled).

Morale of the story… Pay attention. As the saying goes, Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate, in that order.

Tom Wiseman