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Posted by bluewhale 
January 22, 2012 10:49AM
*Originally written in June of 2011, but the forums broke*

This trip report is long overdue since I did this flight almost a month ago. The object of this flight was to log 4 solid hours of cross country flying solo. This is the longest flight out of the whole private rating course and is also in preparation for the final checkride. My flight instructor had first offered me the option of either flying to Moses Lake and Pasco, Moses Lake and Pullman, or The Dalles and Pendleton in Oregon. I didn’t really like any of the options, so I decided to get creative and play around with the times and mileage. The requirements were that one segment of this trip had to be at least 100 miles. So I finally decided on flying to Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, and then down south to Pendleton, Oregon, because I wanted to fly out of, and land in a different state! I have already flown other cross countries, both solos and duals to Moses Lake and Pasco, but I wanted to write about this one since this one is the most fun and I have the most media coverage of it!

So on May 19th, I got to the airport at 8:45 to get the plane preflighted. Today, I was in the Cessna 152 numbered N5499Q, which was also the plane that I had flown in the other trip report that I wrote. As I preflighted the plane, checked the fuel, and checked the oil, my flight instructor went over my flight plan and determined that everything looked fine. She signed me off and then off I went! I taxied to the hold line for runway 29 and after I did my run up, I took off and started flying to Moses Lake. Today’s routing took me to the east at an altitude of 5,500. After leaning the fuel to air mixture, opening my flight plan with Seattle Radio, and establishing flight following with Grant County approach, it was time for some sightseeing!

Looking south down the Columbia River – it separates Kittitas County where Ellensburg is, and Grant County which is where Moses Lake is. Further south, the Columbia separates Washington and Oregon.

More of the Columbia

A settlement by the Columbia

Looking north – the city that you see here is Quincy, WA and the town of Wenatchee is off the screen to the left. The funny thing about Wenatchee airport is that their radio frequency is the same as ours (we are an uncontrolled airport and so are they) yet Wenatchee gets regularly scheduled service from QX to SEA and I frequently hear the pilot say something along the lines of “Wenatchee traffic, Horizon 2158 Q400 is 20 miles to the west, planning a straight in approach for runway 12, Wenatchee.”

The town of Quincy off into the distance


The town of George… yes that is correct, there is indeed a town called George, Washington.

At this point, I was getting pretty close to MWH and Grant County Approach handed me off to Grant County tower. I also called Seattle Radio to close my flight plan because I had the airport in sight. Approach had told me to expect runway 36, and tower confirmed me for runway 36 and I was cleared to land. I began my descent down to traffic pattern altitude, and I was already on base. Tower told me to keep west of runway 32R at all times because of heavy traffic taking off on that runway, so I made sure to mind that. About 5 minutes after starting my descent, I was on final and I did my touch and go and I got back in the air and banked left to head south towards Oregon!

Departing Grant County International’s traffic pattern on the downwind leg of runway 36 – runway 36 is actually the narrow paved way that looks like a taxiway because it is also used as a taxiway and the actual runway is runway 32R. This airport has a few of these runways that basically double as a taxiway for the larger runways because the Air Force and Boeing have a lot of heavies coming in and out in addition to all of the Cessnas and Pipers that always do touch and goes.

Part of the city of Moses Lake – right now I was struggling to get contact with Seattle Radio to reopen my flight plan to Pendleton. Seattle Radio is notorious for not responding back to calls, so sometimes I wonder if they are sleeping! eye rolling smiley But after I finally opened my flight plan about 5 minutes later, I contacted the approach frequency for flight following.

Part of the city of Moses Lake – I was now at a south heading and I would keep the same heading for the majority of this flight. Cruising altitude is 5,500.

Potholes Reservoir south of MWH

Flying over Potholes Reservoir – luckily I don’t need ETOPS for this! grinning smiley

Warden, WA

Meeting up with the Columbia River – basically following this all the way to Oregon. Also, Mt. Stuart is on the right and Mt. Rainier is on the left into the distance.

My instrument panel! Notice anything wrong? (Hint: I was in straight and level flight at the time)

Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco – Like I’ve said, I’ve flown into this airport several times already and they have airline service from Allegiant, United Express, Delta Connection, and Horizon.

This one’s better

The Tri-Cities area features the city of Pasco, and then the cities of Richland and Kennewick on the other side of the river.



Tri Cities Area

About 5 minutes later, I reached the Washington-Oregon border! The left side of the river is Washington and the right side is Oregon.

Looking back at the Tri-Cities area

Town of Kennewick, WA

Looking down at the border

I have reached Oregon!

Mosaic Scenery

Washington on the right and Oregon on the left

Farmland off in Washington

More mosaic scenery – at this point, the approach frequency handed me off to Pendleton’s tower, after reading me the weather report.

Here’s the town of Pendleton, OR and the airport. Tower told me to fly a left downwind to land on runway 29.

A bigger view of PDT.

The intersection of runway 7/25 and 11/29 as I’m on left downwind for runway 29. To the right of this picture, I found out that PDT sits on a cliff above the town and the threshold for runway 29 was right by the edge of said cliff. It was beautiful.

Slowing down on runway 29

As I was slowing down, tower told me to exit off runway 29 at the intersection with runway 7 and to contact ground, who was actually the same guy, which I thought, was funny. I don’t know why Pendleton has a tower and Ellensburg doesn’t because Pendleton is a very quiet airport and only one other plane landed during the 30 or so minutes I was on the ground. In Ellensburg, you’d see at least 3 different planes (all flight students incidentally) doing touch and goes in the same time frame and the pattern can get very chaotic and get thrown off if one or two additional planes enters the pattern, which happens frequently!

Off the runway and taxiing to the fuel stands

Once I got to the fuel stands, I shut off the plane and then I got out and stretched. I took a short break just looking around at stuff, and then I began to refuel the plane.

The FBO in Pendleton – it really isn’t much!

The ironic thing about fueling in PDT is that it is self-serve, while pumping your own gas for your car in Oregon is illegal and you have to wait for the foreman to do it for you. In contrast, most aviation fuel stands are not self-serve, so of all the places in the world for there to be self-serve aviation fuel, an airport in the state of Oregon, where you don’t normally pump gas, is the one to have it!

The fuel pump

Fueling the airplane is quite different than a car. I first had to clamp the plane to a clip tied down to the ground to secure it and help prevent static. Then the fuel machine told me to swipe the Air BP credit card that the FBO in ELN gave me, and then it told me to turn on the valve and begin fueling. Since the Cessna is a high wing aircraft, I got up on a ladder and I started to fill the tank on the left side. It seemed to be going pretty slow, but that’s alright because I wanted to be cautious. I filled the left side to the brim, and then I moved on to the right side. Here, I squeezed the handle harder to make things a little quicker. Originally, I thought that the pump was just slow since I was being cautious, but then I figured out that this thing actually goes quite fast. To experiment, I squeezed the handle all the way, and fuel came shooting out so fast that the tank filled up so quickly that it overflowed and a bunch of fuel spilled and ran down the back of the wing and down the flaps! Oops, at least I’m not paying for that, oh well! grinning smiley I quickly made sure nobody was looking, and then I resumed filling up that side more cautiously. Five minutes later, I was finished and I got the receipt and the bill was over $80 for 10.6 gallons. Fortunately, the fuel bill was on the flight school, but still, I pay $100 an hour on the Hobbs meter inside the plane to rent this thing!

After I was done fueling, I went inside the FBO to use the bathroom and wash up for my 2 hour trip back home. The inside was definitely showing its age and the fact that it was a really quiet airport, since there was only one guy working in here and half the time he was inside doing something, and the other half he was outside hosing down his truck. There was a small display case and a cash register if you wanted to buy a map or an airport directory, a couch and some easy chairs, and a small old TV that he was watching whenever he was inside. The bathroom was small and what you would see at a small old house, not a business. So after seeing the state of the place, I figured it was time to go, so I went outside to do an abbreviated preflight inspection.

My C-152 for the day – N5499Q with the flaps drawn and doors open while I was checking the lights, fuel, and oil. And the fuel pump says Self-Serve!

After preflighting, I found nothing wrong and I got in and got myself set up with my map, flight plan, and everything as I started up the plane. I dialed in the ground frequency, saying that I was at the fuel pumps, ready to taxi to the active. Ground control gave me instructions, saying to taxi on taxiway alpha all the way to the end and hold short of runway 29. Once I got to the hold short line, he told me to do my run up, so I checked my magentos and did the before takeoff checklist. When I was done, I told him that I am ready to takeoff, so he cleared me and off I went. I even have a video!

I started off going on a heading of 290, and then the tower cleared me for my right turn to a northerly heading back to the Tri-Cities area. This time, my cruising altitude was 6,500.

Approaching the Columbia River and Washington from the south

A small mountain too

Columbia River

Right now I’m over the water almost into Washington

Back in Washington

Interstate 82

Kennewick, WA

More of the Tri-Cities area

Highland, WA

Interstate 82

Kennewick, WA and Vista Field Airport on the left

Some newer developments off the left side


Richland Airport – Each one of the Tri-Cities has an airport for some reason, but only Pasco has airline service. Richland is a general aviation airport and Vista Field is a private airport.

The way this trip was scheduled, was that when I got back into Ellensburg, I would have about 40 minutes of extra time to use to practice maneuvers and do touch and goes. After departing the Tri-Cities area, I decided to pull back on the power and fly slower though, since I knew Ellensburg would be really windy, bumpy, and unstable once I got back. Here, the air was really smooth and flying conditions were very favorable and I wanted to fly in this air for as much of the two hours as I could. So instead of flying at about 95 knots, I was now going 75 knots to burn up some time.

Some high cirrus clouds with the effects of the propeller spinning at 2200 RPM.

One of the many military tankers that are based out of MWH

The bridge by Vantage, WA that separates Grant County from Kittitas County – It was funny now because I actually heard one of my friends talking to the same approach frequency I was on and she was also flying back to ELN from MWH, doing the 2 hour solo that I had completed prior to this trip.

More of the bridge

Cumulus clouds and precipitation while arriving back into the Kittitas Valley – indicative of unstable air

More of these scattered rain showers over the hills – like I expected, it was beginning to get bumpy. I have gotten a whole new perspective of turbulence from flying these Cessnas, and I have learned that it can be difficult to control the plane sometimes, and a downdraft may even force your plane into a bank and you have to fight with the controls for a second or two if it’s bad. But that’s just the Cessna 152; it’s a light piece of metal that can even blow away in the wind while it’s parked if you aren’t being careful. grinning smiley

Once I got back into Ellensburg, I radioed in that I was arriving and I got set up to join the pattern for the active runway at the time, which was 29. It was pretty windy, so my landings were not great, and I kept getting bounced around a lot since the plane was lighter than what I’m used to without my instructor with me. So after doing 3 touch and goes, the pattern was beginning to get crowded and the air was bad so I decided to stop. After I passed the hold line for runway 29, I took a video of the same friend flying a solo from MWH doing a soft field takeoff:

I took my time taxiing to the fuel pumps here in Ellensburg, which took about 5 minutes. I had to make sure that I logged 4 hours on the Hobbs meter so that I could get this lesson done. Once I had reached the fuel pumps, I began to shut off the plane and when I was done, the Hobbs turned and I was good to go. I shut off the plane, and I went into the office and returned the credit cards, gave them my fuel receipt, and I went off to fill out my log book and other paper work. I had gone to Oregon and back, all in time to go to my classes!

This trip was probably the most fun out of them all, since this trip required me to land at 2 other airports besides ELN, and do a full stop at one of them to refuel. This lesson is probably one of the biggest highlights of my private year, besides my first solo, my first cross-country, and most of all, passing my checkride with flying colors! (no pun intended) I am now a registered private pilot, and I have learned a lot over this pass year. Getting a private pilot license and going through all of the training and courses will definitely take an aviation enthusiast to a whole new dimension! Feel free to ask questions!

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