Lesson 47
13 April
1.9 hours

Cross country to Hampton Roads (PVG).

This was another difficult problem in pilotage--mostly over woods and farmland that doesn't have a lot of easily-recognized features.  There are a few country roads and some power lines, but none that really stood out today.

When I planned the flight, I found that there are five 1000-foot towers just west of the Hampton Roads airport, directly on the course, and I worried a lot about how to avoid them.   But as it turned out, they were no problem at all--wouldn't have been even if I'd been on course when approaching the airport, because we would have been well above them.  They look very large on the sectional chart, I suppose so you'll be sure to notice them, but in real life they weren't much to worry about.

That's the screwy thing about the charts and pilotage:  There's a big difference between how things look on the chart and how they REALLY look.  I know that, of course, but I've been FEELing as if the chart was a photograph, instead of a highly filtered approximation.

Furthermore, even though the charts are updated twice a year (I think), they don't seem very accurate.  For example, today we saw a big powerline cutting across the country side.  It was very easy to see from the air and clearly wasn't new construction--yet it didn't appear on the chart at all.  Also, we saw many more roads than the map showed, and of the roads ON the map, some were no more prominent than those NOT on the map.  Only the expressways were identifiable.

Also, the zigs and zags that looked so sharp and clear on the chart didn't match the actual roads.  I noticed this on the flight to Roanoke Rapids, too, but this time it seemed more pronounced--maybe because there were so many more uncharted roads today.

Another thing that fooled me was that I could see a lot farther off to the side than I'd thought possible.  At one time, for instance, Adam pointed out that the Wakefield airport was just to the right.  Well, I knew it was because I'd seen it on the chart; but I hadn't expected that I'd be able to SEE it from our course.

We were pretty much right on course for most of the flight to Hampton Roads, but toward the end I got about a mile or so south of the direct route--and south of those towers.  Adam hadn't been there before, either, and I think he was almost as unsure of our location as I was.  He seemed to think we were far  south of the course, but we weren't.

However, I got really confused about which runway was which as we approached the field.  There are only two, and I'd drawn them correctly on my nav log, but in the air I got them switched in my head because I hadn't realized that we were approaching from the west instead of the northwest.  Nothing looked quite as I had it in my mind.  Adam seemed a little confused at first, too, but he caught on before I did and tried to correct me.  I was loooking for the numbers and spotted one just as he was trying to tell me.  Eventually I got it straight, but I think his attempts to help me just confused me all the more.

The runways are shorter and narrower than at FCI, so I got another lesson in judging distance and altitude, but managed to get down pretty well.  Then we had some trouble figuring out the taxiways and where the terminal was.  There are no taxiway markings--we didn't see any--and it wasn't even clear where to park.

There are lots of hangars--but nothing seemed to be going on.  There was no traffic, and we saw only two employees--a secretary and a man who identified himself as "the fuel guy" and who muttered a lot to himself.

Right after we took off, I got another lesson--when I discovered that the course I had figured the wind into was off by 100 degrees.  I knew right away what I'd done wrong.  Instead of laying the protractor on the course, I calculated the reciprocal of the course TO Hampton Roads.  Or I thought I was doing that.  I wrote down 234 instead of 334.  Dumb.  And I should have realized that a course of 234 is NOT going to take us northwest.  Dumb!

To make it all the worse, Adam was tired and hadn't caught my mistake before we left FCI.  So much for trust.  By the time we realilzed my course was wrong, we were well south of where we should have been.  Then we flew to the north until were about in the right place.  But we just had to guess at the right heading, and had a terrible time figuring out whether we were heading right.

Actually, it was a really good lesson for me, as I learned, through Adam's suggestion, that by paralleling the river, which we could see easily to the north (today) we'd be going in a direction close enough to get us to Richmond even without a compass.

Anyway, when we discovered the mistake, I got a bit rattled, mainly from embarrassment, so I didn't do the one thing I've learned several times over before--take charge.  I let Adam determine what out heading ought to be.  But I knew there wasn't much wind and should have just figured the correct reciprocal of our "to" course and flown it.

SO:  1.  Take charge.  2. Check my work.  3. Learn to subtract 180 fast in my head--on the fly, so to speak.

I like Adam a lot, but sometimes I wish he were a little more experienced as an instructor and that I were better able to understand his remarks.  He tends to put me into a situation without first explaining what it's going to require.  Or else he explains too much too fast--and only orally--and I don't get it all.  So I've been learning mostly by error--and that's sometimes a trial.

Postscript:  16 April--today Adam referred to "when we were lost on Monday."  So I guess he really was lost after we left Hampton Roads.  I don't know whether that makes me happy, or not.

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