first solo cross country flight-got lost

planesiscool

New Member
So I went on my first solo cross country flight and I got almost to the airport and couldn't find it. I flew around for 20 minutes and finally found it but my instructor was freaked out and the fss apparently sent a plane looking for me. I felt pretty bad and I was pretty freaked out myself but I made it back to my home airport in the exact amount of time I was supposed to. I was pretty shaken up until yesterday but I am pretty much over it. This happen to anybody?
 

Barty

Well-Known Member
So I went on my first solo cross country flight and I got almost to the airport and couldn't find it. I flew around for 20 minutes and finally found it but my instructor was freaked out and the fss apparently sent a plane looking for me. I felt pretty bad and I was pretty freaked out myself but I made it back to my home airport in the exact amount of time I was supposed to. I was pretty shaken up until yesterday but I am pretty much over it. This happen to anybody?
I chose what turned out to be a poor landmark to navigate by and almost got myself lost on mine. Fortunately the airport I was flying to had an approach control and I just asked for flight following and had them give me my current location. Turns out I had a bit more headwind than what I had planned for and calculated from my previous waypoint and was about a mile away from where I thought I was supposed to be. I knew I was on course because I had been tracking the VOR at the field I was flying to.

It happens to everyone at some point in their training I suppose. Next time I might suggest picking an airport that you're familiar with. On a hazy day, it can be a challenge picking out an airport from 4-5 miles away if there are a lot of trees or other clutter surrounding the airport.

Keep in mind there's nothing that prohibits you from using radio navaids or GPS on these flights either. I wouldn't completely rely on them in this stage of your training, as you will be expected to navigate by dead-reckoning on your checkride, but if you're lost or flying a longer leg, there's nothing wrong with flying to a VOR or using a GPS to find out where you are.
 

JLF

Well-Known Member
I had to ID a water tower to fix myself on my long x/c solo trip for the PPL. No biggie. The time came, and went, and there was no airport in front me.... I was SO relieved when I figured out where I was...

I think that is the last trip that I only used time, speed, distance, and pilotage to fly a x/country. After that I figured out how to use the LORAN...
 

pwttogfk

Well-Known Member
Something that helped me when I was doing my solo cross-countries was to use Google Earth to follow my route and see how easily identifiable my checkpoints were and what the airport looked like. It really made it easier, I already had a pretty good idea of what things would look like before I took off.
 

dc3flyer

Well-Known Member
Dude, this is part of training. DON'T listen to all this GPS and LORAN garbage. Learn how to pilot and dead reckon. I also disagree with the familiar airport idea, are you only going to fly to airports you are familiar with once you get your cert????

It sounds like you did a good job, you found the airport. You may have had to practice your lost procedures, but you found it. Did you forget to cancel your flight plan or something? Why would they send out a search plane after only 20 minutes? That is not normal. I would imagine you made it home alright because you spent a lot more time looking at the chart and out the window at landmarks... am I right?
 

esa17

Well-Known Member
This has happened to many, many people over the course of their flight training. Making mistakes is the only way we learn, think about what happened and how you would go about making sure it doesn't happen again. Move on and move up!
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
Happened to me on my first solo XC. And my second. And it has happened to me a couple times since. It's the way we get better.

The first time, I was way south of my intended position, realized it, and just looked at the sectional for a while to figure out where I was. Fortunately, there was a lake below, which was easy to spot on the sectional, and I found my way from there.

I own a GPS now, but I've been leaving it behind the last few flights because my pilotage skills have suffered since buying it. I'm a wet-ink PPL myself, and I can tell you that sharpening those pilotage skills makes a difference. I didn't spend enough time on that and now I'm training myself remedially.
 

JLF

Well-Known Member
I own a GPS now, but I've been leaving it behind the last few flights because my pilotage skills have suffered since buying it.
I do the same about half the time for IFR training. It's in the panel so I just don't turn it on. It takes quite a bit more attention to keep good SA while being vectored around, but I figure the busier I am, the better the training.

Maybe you do too, but I think those flights are more fun, and give more of a sense of accomplishment.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
I do the same about half the time for IFR training. It's in the panel so I just don't turn it on. It takes quite a bit more attention to keep good SA while being vectored around, but I figure the busier I am, the better the training.

Maybe you do too, but I think those flights are more fun, and give more of a sense of accomplishment.
I just found myself getting lazy. When I first decided to do it, I took the GPS with me (AnywhereMap) and left it in the bag, went on an XC flight.

I was mad. I couldn't get my time checks right, wasn't tracking the VORs right, and basically would have been screwed. I ended up going ground landmark to landmark to get where I was going, and pulled out the GPS for the return home.

It's been getting better. Only two of the planes I fly have a GPS and I typically don't use them, but I've been getting familiar with the area and can pretty accurately determine my position in the AUS area just by looking around. I need to do some other XC flights to places I haven't been, sans GPS, and get my pilotage skills sorted out.
 

DPApilot

GUYSH! GUYSH! GUYSH!
So I went on my first solo cross country flight and I got almost to the airport and couldn't find it. I flew around for 20 minutes and finally found it but my instructor was freaked out and the fss apparently sent a plane looking for me. I felt pretty bad and I was pretty freaked out myself but I made it back to my home airport in the exact amount of time I was supposed to. I was pretty shaken up until yesterday but I am pretty much over it. This happen to anybody?
almost happened to me on my first solo XC. Nav radios failed, and I was trying to find a small airport to meet up with. Luckily I was under RFD's TRSA so they direected me to 44c.

My advice? Don't stop at a small airport surrounded by trees in the middle of bumphuk Illinois haha
 

Number1atNumber2

Tries to keep it fun.
These things happan man, all that matters is: what did you learn from it? That feeling you get when you realize you're lost or just made a rather big mistake is one of the worst things you can feel. Sometimes landmarks on the map that seem like a good idea can be terrible ones once you actually try to use them.

Like others said: keep up your skills with VORs, dead reckoning, and pilotage. GPS and other navaids can fail.

Don't sweat it, you'll make dumber mistakes as your careers progresses, just like the rest of us. :)
 

jtrain609

Anarcho-Bidenist
Check it holmes,


On my first solo cross country I got lost. Not kinda lost, like REALLY lost. Like I tossed my entire flight plan in the back of the plane, got the secional out, tuned in some VOR's and figured out where in the heck I was lost. If I had managed to screw that one up, I was about to call approach up so I could a vector.

But that's not the best.

On my next solo cross country, I found my way there, but almost died on my first crosswind landing there. Awesome.

But it gets even BETTER!

On the way TO MY PRIVATE PILOT CHECK RIDE I GOT LOST. I mean I couldn't figure out where I was to save my life. Called up approach, and I was 20 miles east of the field.

The WORST part? I thought I had seen the airport and called entering the downwind. The examiner heard me say that on the radio, so when I finally landed 30 minutes later he asked what happened. I told him I got lost and how I got to the airport. He didn't make me do any procedures to figure out where I am if I'm lost on the checkride.

10 years later I'm still finding ways to screw things up. Don't worry about it, just learn from it and move on.
 

SFCC/UND

Well-Known Member
It happens to instructors too. Five instructors were doing cross countries with 5 time builders and we decided to stop and eat at a BBQ restaurant. Let say that 10 people forgot to close their flight plans. Even though our boss wasn't happy, the food was totally worth it. And nobody lost their job.
 

Barty

Well-Known Member
Dude, this is part of training. DON'T listen to all this GPS and LORAN garbage. Learn how to pilot and dead reckon. I also disagree with the familiar airport idea, are you only going to fly to airports you are familiar with once you get your cert????
Nope, but while you're still pretty green, you don't need to be freaking out because you can't find the airport either. The idea is to build to a skill level where you are comfortable with your pilotage skill before embarking on some 400nm x/c flight. Hence why your CFI has to approve the route of your x/c flight. You don't want to be flying into unfamiliar territory while you're still trying to learn the basics.

As far as using GPS, LORAN, VOR, etc., you'll probably be asked to demonstrate the use of each (maybe not LORAN) on your checkride, even if it is for no other reason than to determine your current location. I'd be familiar with the use of each to be able to find your current location on a whim if asked. There is also a very strong possibility that you will be asked to navigate using VOR and GPS if your airplane has a panel mount for a short distance. In short, you need to know how it works and how to use it.
 

TGatch

Well-Known Member
Yes I too got lost on the way to my checkride :banghead:. I only had half tanks to begin with ( in a 150) because of weight and balance. I ended up farther north than where I started and almost busted some Class D airspace. I went past the airport for my checkride (I69 or sporty's) couldn't find it went east and somehow ventured back north past where I started. It was a hazy day and I was freaking out because I had half tanks. I finally remembered to use both my VOR's to pinpoint where I was instead of just one :banghead: and made my way to my checkride...Be it I was an hour late, but no questions were asked haha. It happens to everyone but the important thing is you learn from it and move on.
 

PGT

Well-Known Member
I got lost, I thought I set the DG but apparently it was way off. I just powered up the GPS and found myself. Was it cheating? maybe but almost every airplane I have flown now has some kind of GPS plus I knew how to figure out my position using VORs.

Since my private checkride I just use VOR's or GPS to navigate, none of that flying by land marks stuff. I still do have a sectional out and follow along.
 

WacoFan

Bigly
Got lost on my X-country. Couldn't find myself for the life of me. Saw a water-tower and it saved the day. Couldn't use the VOR or GPS because GPS wasn't invented yet and the airplane had no electrical system or radios. Fortunately an Aeronca Chief is slow enough that you don't exactly whiz by the water tower :)
 

PGT

Well-Known Member
Got lost on my X-country. Couldn't find myself for the life of me. Saw a water-tower and it saved the day. Couldn't use the VOR or GPS because GPS wasn't invented yet and the airplane had no electrical system or radios. Fortunately an Aeronca Chief is slow enough that you don't exactly whiz by the water tower :)
Back when airplane rental was $5/hour? :)
 

mhcasey

Well-Known Member
So I went on my first solo cross country flight and I got almost to the airport and couldn't find it. I flew around for 20 minutes and finally found it but my instructor was freaked out and the fss apparently sent a plane looking for me. I felt pretty bad and I was pretty freaked out myself but I made it back to my home airport in the exact amount of time I was supposed to. I was pretty shaken up until yesterday but I am pretty much over it. This happen to anybody?
20 minutes late and a search party was underway? Something doesn't add up...

Anyway, I too got lost on my initial solo XC. Rivers are great to follow until you follow the wrong fork. After that day I never again used Robert-Frost-Navigation skills (worst joke of the year candidate?).

Take extra fuel on all of your solo XC's and forget about the last one. It happens to a lot of people.
 

SpiraMirabilis

Possible Subversive
This sounds a little bad but if it can be done in a safe way, making sure student knows how to use the VOR to get back to home base, knows to contact approah if that doesn't work, etc I used to almost want a student to get a little bit lost. It tended to help. I don't know how it happens though because the last dual x-country I would basically say and do nothing and I won't sign them off until they can find all the checkpoints then, but it is very common to get a little stressed out on a solo and get lost.

I got freaked out the first time it happened but then I realized -- hey, I trained these students. They know what to do if they get lost, they aren't cabbage heads -- they'll do OK.
 
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