I completed one more solo cross country flight. This was the 'big one' that all pilots remember years after earning their license. You take off from your home airport (in my case Manassas), land at another airport, take off again, land at yet another airport, take off again, and land back at your home airport. The total travel distance needs to be greater than 150 nautical miles (>278 km). With endorsement from the instructor, I flew to the two destinations I had previously visited in the earlier cross country flights: Charlottesville and Hanover (see previous blog). Although I was familiar with how to travel to/from each of those airports, I had not flown a line directly from one to the other. That stretch was nothing but boring farmland which is nice from a perspective of locating potential emergency landing fields, but not so nice from a perspective of identifying landmarks to ensure you are on course. In summary, I flew to Charlottesville, immediately took off, flew to Hanover, stopped to fuel the plane and take a bathroom break, then flew back to Manassas.
I did a few more flights working with the instructor on various skills that will be tested during the checkride. This past Sunday evening, my instructor and I took off from Manassas after dark, flew direct to Richmond International Airport, landed, and returned. This meets the FAA requirement for me to do one night cross country flight with the instructor of total distance greater than 100 nautical miles. Flying into a major airport in a big city is quite an experience! I learned something most non-pilots don't realize: When you are trying to locate an airport at night in the middle of a well-lit city, look for the large dark spot in the shape of the airport. Airports actually look dark compared to any half-way decent city. I totally couldn't see the airport until my instructor pointed it out to me -_-. It was by far the biggest airport I had ever landed at, and the only class C airport I will likely fly into for a while.
A few weeks ago I took the knowledge exam. It is 60 multiple choice questions on a variety of topics related to being a licensed pilot. It was pretty easy due to a fair amount of preparation on my part. I only have two more requirements to meet before the checkride: Another hour or so of simulated instrument time (blocking your view out the windshield so you rely on instruments instead) and 3 hours of dedicated preparation with an instructor for the checkride.
The checkride involves planning a cross country flight, reviewing it with the examiner, answering their many other questions as part of an oral board, and then demonstrating various skills in the plane such as stalls, radio communication, and navigation. I still don't feel quite ready to schedule the checkride but I'm very close. Hopefully my next blog will be describing how the checkride went and posting a picture of my shiny new license.
Also, I want to build this: https://www.vansaircraft.com/public/rv9.htm