Rich's Quest For Flight

My father was a pilot. He died doing what he loved to do. It has been a goal of my life to become a pilot. Now I have chance to do so. Follow me as I pursue my dream.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Got Lost

KRYV 111539Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 02/M03 A3046 RMK AO2

Today was an exercise in cross country navigation. Not counting the checkride, the last cross country I flew was back in October. So I dusted off the chart (yes, a current chart), got out the plotter, and set myself a course to Poplar Grove (C77), just south of the border in Illinois. It was perfect for a short cross country, 51 nm south of Watertown. The weather was ideal, save for some fog that I needed to make sure was burned off before I departed.

I departed in the C152 that I had flown the previous time, and set south for Fort Atkinson, with a slight turn to the left, almost due south to Poplar Grove. There were still some low cloud remnants with some haze, but conditions improved as I continued. Things went perfectly fine until about 10 miles out when I crossed Interstate 43, just east of Beloit. I started having some trouble pinpointing my location visually. I was trying to judge my position by the curve of the interstate as it exited a town, but it would turn out the I was about 3 miles east of my plotted course. I called in range of Poplar Grove anyway, and started looking for the field. Since this was my first time there, I suppose it was wishful thinking.

I couldn't find the field. I knew Poplar Grove ringed a small lake, and I knew the field had a fly-in housing development, but I could find neither. So, in the tradition of pilotage, I flew to the nearest town with a water tower. I descended down to about 1500' AGL and tried to read the town name off the tower. There wasn't any, the tower was painted solid white. So I flew to the next town. The tower there said "Sharon". There was no town marked Sharon on my chart. Okay, so I am now a little lost. I could see Lake Geneva off in the distance, and I was sure I was too close to it. And then, it struck me like a V8 commercial. Use the dang navaid, stupid! I had plotted the radial from Rockford VOR before I left, so why not use it! I knew I was north of the radial, so I dialed it in and flew toward it. And sure enough, just as the needle started moving, there was the field. Poplar Grove has one paved runway and two turf, but there was still snow on the ground, so I entered the pattern and landed on the paved runway. No touch and go since this was a new field, I turned off the taxiway and taxied back to the top of the runway for departure.

The trip back was uneventful. What a beautiful day with great visibility. Beloit and Janesville to the left, Whitewater on the right, over the top of Fort Atkinson, Jefferson and Johnson Creek as I descended into Watertown for a spot on landing in near calm conditions. Good stuff indeed.


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