My second solo cross-country flight followed the same route as my first. Out over Honolulu, east toward the south shore of Moloka`i, between the islands of Moloka`i and Lana`i and through the channel of Moloka`i and Mau`i to land with much less drama in Kahalui. My departure out of Kahalui was also textbook, with the right radio calls made and the right altitude achieved and maintained.
After being released from Kahului departure frequency, I climbed to 2000 feet in mid-channel of Mau`i and Moloka`i and called Honolulu Radio to open my flight plan. Suddenly the clouds began to drop and rain drops began to hit my windscreen. I immediately descended to 1000 feet, so it felt almost as if I was skimming the ocean. The waves were a very, VERY deep slate blue since the sun couldn’t penetrate the clouds above me. It was actually a very pretty sight. I saw seabirds diving into the water fishing for their meals, and my stomach growled. Once I was leveled off at 1000 feet, I called Honolulu Radio to give a Pilot Report (PIREP). I told them that I had to descend because of clouds at 2000, and that I was still on course. They modified my flight plan, and let me know that the last PIREP reported clear weather on the south of Moloka`i but moderate to heavy turbulence. I groaned, because that meant a slower airspeed.
As I rounded the south-east corner of Moloka`i, the sky cleared up again with a haze in the distance. I climbed to 2000 and radioed Moloka`i tower as I came abeam of Kaunakakai. They cleared me to transition through their airspace, and told me of glider traffic in my area at 3000. I kept an eye out for it, and also enjoyed the view. The boat harbor that extends out from Kaunakakai is unmistakable and always seems to have a lot of sea life around it. Birds and shadows under the water. The turbulence was exciting. I’d be flying along smoothly, and all of a sudden, I’d feel the plane shoot up and then drop almost as quickly. Every now and again, the plane would veer suddenly to the right as a gust hit me just right. The turbulence stayed strong until I was finally into the channel between O`ahu and Moloka`i.
As I entered the channel, I stayed at 2000 feet and watched O`ahu grow clearer and clearer through the haze that hovered over the islands. There was a caravan of barges slowly poking through the waves below carrying their Matson cargo eastward. The far western shore of Moloka`i slowly grew smoother and smoother as I flew further out into the channel. The shape of Kokohead became more defined, and eventually I could easily see Rabbit Island growing out of the water to North side of O`ahu. I switched frequencies to the Honolulu ATIS and got the winds, air pressure and runway information. Only three of the runways were open. At about ten miles out I contacted Honolulu Approach and let them know I was inbound. They cleared me into the airspace and called out glider traffic to the south of me at the same altitude. I continued to watch for traffic, and also watched as the Makapu`u lighthouse grew into view, and the waves at Sandy’s rammed the shore. Hanauma bay was flat and glassy and reflected the sun like a mirror.
I continued to fly over the island, crossing directly over the VOR and passing through the navigational zone known as the Zone of Confusion. My needles went crazy, but I wasn’t concerned. I am a VFR pilot and could clearly see the airport. As I flew over the University of Hawai`i, I saw a large plume of smoke from a Hulihuli chicken grill. My stomach growled again. Flying past Honolulu, I looked down into Punchbowl and could easily see the rows of gravestones, and the cars heading up the road to the top. It looked like there was a funeral in progress as a group of people were gathered near an American flag.
Honolulu Approach passed me to the Tower, and the tower told me to maintain 2000 feet and let them know when I entered the downwind for runway 4 Left. I continued on to the airport while looking for traffic and enjoying the view of Pearl Harbor. I could see the ferry heading from the visitor center to the Arizona Memorial, and there was an aircraft carrier in port with jets on its top deck. As I entered the downwind, I contacted the tower, and was told to begin my descent and they’d call my base turn. I began my descent to traffic pattern altitude and came abeam my landing spot at about 1000 feet. As I continued on, I noticed some activity at the end of one of the “Heavy” runways, but it was of little concern to me, I was landing and focus was paramount. The tower told me to begin my base turn and I was cleared to land on runway 4 Left.
I entered my base turn at about 800 feet, and put in flaps to slow the plane to 80 knots. I checked my position to the runway and slowed the plane to 75 putting in more flaps. As I turned onto final I changed my pitch put in the rest of the flaps and slowed to 65 knots. I pointed the nose at the numbers and crossed the threshold of the runway. As I crossed, I began my flare and brought the nose of the plane up to slow it even further and settled nicely to the ground. I was down and again before the first taxiway. Tower informed me to turn right at taxiway foxtrot, cross runway 4 right, and contact ground. I quickly cleaned up the plane, crossed the runway, and contacted ground. Ground cleared me to taxi to the hangar and I began to taxi. While I taxied I called Honolulu Radio and closed my flight plan. I watched as another plane came in for a landing, just as it touched the ground my eyes were drawn to the end of the “Heavy” runway that had caught my eye from the air. There was a FedEx 767 plane lying on it’s belly at the end of the runway. It had come in with no landing gear, crashing smoothly on the runway. Emergency vehicles were swarming all around it. From my vantage point, I saw nothing that looked like fire, smoke or even burned wreckage. In fact, it looked as if it was an excellent landing considering the lack of landing gear.
I returned to the hangar and pulled up to the tanks to refuel the plane. I performed my final shutdown checklist, and turned the plane off. I had completed my second solo cross-country flight. I was ecstatic. I jumped out of the plane and did a spin. The only thing left for me now was to get ready for the check ride.
Now, I’m studying like a nut to get to the checkride. I have to know so many regulations and concepts. I feel I don’t know enough. I’m working on it, and I’m hoping to be able to take the test in the next few weeks. 🙂 I will definitely let everyone know when I’m ready to fly you around the islands.