Well, there I was. February 16, 2003, Sunday morning at 6:00 am. I showed my student pilot’s license to the gate security so I could get into the AOA (Airport Operations Area). When he cleared me in, I entered the locked gate and walked in the dark to the hangar. It was a beautiful morning. The temperature was a crisp 68 degrees, the sky clear with stars, and the full moon was an hour above the horizon and sinking quickly. After unlocking the door to the hangar, I saw my instructor shivering in the cold, coming towards me. I was excited. That morning I would fly my first solo cross-country flight. My flight would take me from Honolulu, out across the water, along the south shore of Moloka`i, 25 miles away, and through the channel between Moloka`i and Mau`i to land at Kahului Airport. A total of 96 miles one way!!! Very exciting.
My instructor reviewed my flight plan and made no corrections. He gave me the briefing of what to do should I get lost, disoriented, or feel that I could not continue the flight. I smiled because I knew that neither of those things would happen to me. Then he made sure I understood the emergency procedures again should I experience any problems in flight. I listened and made sure I understood it all, and informed him that my goal would be to land on land or as close to it as possible in the even of any emergencies. Then he gave me a hug, told me to call him when I reached my destination and to fly safe. I grinned from ear to ear and began my preflight procedures.
I contacted Honolulu Flight Services and filed my flight plan to Mau`i and the return flight as well. After talking to them, I collected my flares, life vest, life raft and the plane’s log book. I also grabbed a cushion because my legs never seem to reach comfortably without one.:o) I walked around the plane smiling and talking to her. She seemed eager to fly as well. Her flaps, ailerons, rudder, and propeller looked clean. Her static system was open and the overflows were clear. She had full oil, two full tanks of fuel, her wheels were sturdy, and her shimmy damper had a spring to it. Perfect. I untied her from the ground and climbed in. I checked her circuit breakers and logged her time. She was ready to start. I checked the area around me, and as the sun rose I put my feet firmly on the brakes and started the propeller. She woke with an eagerness.
I completed my preflight check of her systems, and she passed with flying colors. I contacted Honolulu Ground for clearance to begin my journey.
Me: “Honolulu Ground. Cessna five-two-zero-seven-Delta, request taxi for takeoff.”
Ground: “Good morning Cessna 5207-Delta, taxi to runway four right at foxtrot.”
Me: “07-Delta, taxiing to four right at foxtrot.”
I began to slowly taxi forward and made the turn to the runway.
Ground: “Cessna 5207-Delta switch to tower.”
Me: “07-Delta switching to tower. G’day”
Tower: “Good Morning Cessna 5207-Delta, cleared for take-off runway four right.”
Me: “Cessna 07-Delta, cleared for takeoff, runway four right. Thank you.”
I smiled eagerly as I taxied into position on the centerline of the runway. I ran through my checklist one more time, turned on the Landing light, switched my transponder to ALT, and enriched the mixture. Then I grinned and began to sing, “Off I go… into the wild blue yonder…” I pushed the throttle to full and sped straight down the runway. As I reached 55 knots, I pulled back gently on the yoke and broke away from the bonds of the earth… “Climbing high into the sun…”
Tower: “Cessna 5207-Delta switch to departure, have a good flight.”
Me: “Cessna 07-Delta switching to departure, g’day.”
Me: “Honolulu Departure, Cessna 5207-Delta is with you at 800 for one thousand five hundred.”
Departure: “Good Morning, Cessna 5207-Delta, radar contact.”
I made my turn towards the Koko Head VOR, and flew towards it amazed at the beauty of what I was doing. I was flying over Downtown Honolulu along the freeway, and watching the world wake up for a beautiful Sunday morning. No other planes shared the air with me. It was only me and the birds. As I approached Koko Head, Honolulu Departure released me from their control and I was now on my own navigation. I contacted Honolulu Radio to open my flight plan and let them know I got off the ground at zero-seven-four-five (7:45 am). They wished me a good flight and asked if I could give a Pilot report at mid-channel. Then It was truly just me, the plane and sky.
As I flew out over Koko Head I made my course change to take me to the La`au point on the south side of Moloka`i. As I stayed at 1500 feet because there were clouds at 2500 and flying through clouds does not appeal to me. Besides not being legally able to fly through clouds, I would have missed the beauty of the morning. The water was rough out in the channel. The waves were high and white-capped all the way as far as I could see. A haze hovered in the air, diffusing the sunlight but adding a mystical quality to the island far in the distance. The further I got away from O`ahu the more relaxed I began to feel. I was truly going somewhere. I was on a trip and it was going to be an adventure. I reached the south shore of Moloka`i and made another course correction to take me to the south-east side of the island along the shore line. I could no longer see O`ahu behind me, there was only what was in front. I could barely make out the island of Mau`i through the haze, but it felt like a journey one might experience while searching for Avalon.
On one side of me was a flat green island with ocean waves pounding its beaches. On the other side of me, was a rising island mountain covered in green. Ahead of me was the blue water, hazy blue sky and the outline of a promised island. The sun continued to slip in and out of the clouds, every now and again shining brightly on the plane and the water, casting my shadow far below. I still didn’t see a single plane as I traveled the channel between Moloka`i and Lana`i. I saw fishing boats with their outriggers out trolling through the water. I saw a few smaller fishing boats and even some dark shadows under the water that may or may not have been whales! It was so peaceful and exciting. I couldn’t believe I was doing it.
As I came abeam of Kaunakakai I noticed a growing cloud bank stretching out from the island of Mau`i. It was at an altitude that looked about 4000 feet with some scattered below. Not a problem for me. At 1500 the weather was fine. I skirted the coast of Moloka`i looking down at the fisheries, and the small beaches. The wrap around waves were messy for surfing, but still very impressive to see from the air. As I began to pull away from the island of Moloka`i, I made the course change that would bring me to the northwest side of Mau`i. The channel was turbulent in the center, but the flying was easy. I modified my power setting to handle the increased turbulence, and the plane settled into a groove. As I neared the coast, I contacted Kahalui approach and let them know I was approximately five miles southwest of Nakalele point and I was inbound. They cleared me into their space and asked me to contact them when I was abeam of Kahakuloa, since they could not yet see me on radar.
Although the sun was hidden behind a thick blanket of clouds, it was glorious. Mau`i was beautiful to come into. The rock formations in the deep blue water looked like large elephants bathing. The coast was green with life and black with old lava flows. The slope of Haleakala rose grandly before me in greens and red, and the summit was lost in the cloud bank that surrounded the island. It looked like a fairy tale. Kahului cleared me to land on Runway Two. So I began my descent to 800 feet for the runway. Then they switched me to runway five because of a helicopter on runway two, so extended by base. Then they switched me back to runway two because of a large Hawaiian Air 777 coming into to runway two. Then they switched me back to runway five because I had already passed runway two when they made the switch. So much activity at the end of my flight. I made for runway five and greased my landing beautifully. As I was slowing the plane down, the tower informed me to make haste in getting off the runway so they could land the Hawaiian jet. Goodness. Luckily I was slow enough that I could safely take the next taxiway. As I was taxing to parking, I saw the Hawaiian Air Jet land on the runway and go all the way to the end. A very large plane. The first I had seen all day.
Once the plane was parked, I contacted Honolulu radio to close my flight plan at zero-eight-five-five (8:55 am), and then I shut her down, stepped out to terra firma and jumped for joy! I flew to Mau`i all by myself and greased in a perfect landing! It was so exciting. I whipped out my cell phone and started calling people. I called my husband first, my mother, my sister, and then finally the school to let them know I was safely in Mau`i and I would soon be returning.
My return flight was just as beautiful. I was again the only plane in the sky. No one on the radio, nothing in site. The sky around Mau`i was overcast, but as I ascended to 2000 feet and flew out towards the south shore of Moloka`i it began to brighten. The sun began peaking through the clouds as I rounded Kaunakakai. I did a beautifully soft stop and go landing, on Moloka`i and turned back to the south, and the sun came out in earnest. As I rounded the southeastern tip of Moloka`i, I could not see across the channel to O`ahu. I relied on my VOR tracking and navigation skills and five miles off the shore of Moloka`i, O`ahu came into view. It was a beautiful vision as the island materialized out of the mist. I was on course and doing well.
About ten miles out from Koko Head, I contacted Honolulu Approach and received clearance into Honolulu Airspace. Then I met traffic again. I saw a plane crossing in front of me approximately 8 miles away heading to the north. I saw another jetliner coming in off the shore for a landing. I was sequenced into the pattern and entered my downwind for runway four left at 2000 feet. Finally the tower cleared me to land on runway four right and pointed out another plane I had seen on a final for runway four left.
I made a quick descent to traffic pattern altitude as I turned onto my base leg, and made my left turn onto final at 600 feet. As I came in for a landing, I checked all my gauges one more time, and confirmed my speed at 65 knots. The ground came up gradually, and the next thing I know, I’m greasing in another landing! I didn’t even know I had touched down it was so soft. I pulled back on the yoke and pressed down on the brakes bringing the plane to a very slow roll, and I did it all before the first taxiway. I rolled on to taxiway Foxtrot, brought my flaps up, turned off the landing light, and switched my transponder back to standby. After I received clearance from Ground to taxi to parking I made my way slowly back to the hangar, grinning from ear to ear. I closed my flight plan and finally felt like a real pilot.
I had a beautiful flight. I could honestly say that I had done more before 10 am than most people would do all day. My plane treated me with comfort as I treated her with respect. I can’t wait to do another flight. I hope my next cross-country flight will allow me to bring someone with me to enjoy the journey as well. It is a journey that is hard to describe but should be experienced by everyone. There are few words to describe the feeling of being free from the ground and soaring high above the world. Being able to soar high and go somewhere different from where I took off is an amazing and gratifying experience. I look forward to sharing it with everyone. 🙂
Makemake au i ka lele luna lilo!!