Monday, 17 November 2008

2008/01 Cross Country solo Mark

click on the title link to see the video on DailyMotion

One of the last hurdles to get the PPL license is a cross country solo flight over more than 200 Nm with at least 3 full stops. At first I thought I would prefer a triangle completely over land. The thought of having to cross water for a distance far beyond the gliding range of the plane did not appeal to me at all.

On the other hand I already had the experience of the trial cross country flight in the Dwarf. There we planned Hilversum - Hoogeveen - Teuge - Hilversum. Hilversum - Hoogeveen is a piece of cake. You just follow the border of the Flevopolder, double check the tower next to the A28 and than head straight for the crossing of the highways at Hoogeveen where you can see the airfield from miles away. All based on estimated course and time, but with plenty of visual references.

On the second leg from Hoogeveen to Teuge I found out that, even in perfect weather, visual navigation is really difficult. The wind is of course never equal to the forecasted wind, every village looks the same from the air, and once you have lost certain visual references it is not impossible to get completely lost. Especially with the added pressure of flying solo. Another flight trainee from Dwarf missed Hoogeveen on his cross country flight, ended up in Germany before he was sure that he was lost and managed to return to the field on only fumes of fuel.

I certainly did not want that to happen to me. Again another good reason to use the DA40 for the cross country flight. Long range tanks (38 USG) provide fuel (Jet A1) for 7 to 8 hours (depending on the throttle settings, but 5 USG an hour is a good indication for the fuel flow at cruise speed). The DA40 features 2 GPS systems with a TV like MFD with a clear picture of where you are precisely, 2 COM/NAV systems an additional ADF/DME and of course the conventional instruments. Never mind the autopilot and the FMS. It is not possible to get lost. Period.

So my cross country flight plan became Lelystad - Texel - Teuge - Lelystad. Once you get the hang of it, even I enjoyed the cross country solo. Learning how to use the G1000 and the autopilot is intuitive. If you are able to control a PC and you have grasped the basic essence of navigation, anybody can use it.

That's the reason why I still had enough time and courage during the flight to be able to film some parts of the flight. In order to prevent the absence of a heroic feeling afterwards the weather gods spiced it up a little bit. Where Marijke had to wait 3 months for a chance at a CAVOK cross country flight in the Dwarf; the DA40 allows you to accept a lot less. Threatening clouds and poor vision in the neighbourhood of a very wet Texel and even hail on the way back from Teuge to Lelystad could not stop me. As Bert Huizinga, chief of Wings over Holland says: in a glass cockpit DA40 its always nice weather.

No matter how I love the DA40 and its possibilities, at that time I was more than excited having completed it. Now I was ready to take the PPL exam.

Pancake Airlines Crew is trained by Dwarf Powered Gliders ( and Wings over Holland ( Information on the PH-PCA Diamond DA40 can be found on You can click on the title link to see the video on DailyMotion.

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