Making Really Long Trips

Longer trips are no more difficult to plan and fly than shorter hops.

Tip Long Trip

Tip Long Trip

Many new pilots are apprehensive about very long trips — those of much farther distances than the run-of-the-mill two- to three-hour cross-countries. But really, these longer trips are no more difficult to plan and fly than shorter hops, and the time goes by more quickly than you might think.

When planning your route, it's a good idea to pick fuel stops in interesting places or, alternatively, with cheap gas. On long trips, fuel cost considerations are usually at the top of my list except when I get the chance to fly into a really cool airport. When you stop, make sure to get out and stretch your legs for at least 15 minutes, and always try to meet someone new on the ground.

Use the autopilot if you have one to keep your fatigue level low. My last flight home from Oshkosh was in a non-autopilot Skyhawk that flew slightly crooked and it was draining. Also be sure to bring along snacks and cold drinks, but beware of the potential need for bathroom stops for you and your passengers.

An iPad or Android tablet linked to ADS-B weather, or in-cockpit SiriusXM weather if you have it, is a great extra to have along on long cross-country flights since weather conditions can change without warning as you move from one region to the next.

If you're flying VFR, use flight following to help you spot traffic and prepare for changes in your route of flight if necessary. And be sure to bring along a credit card and reserve cash for unexpected stops or stayovers if the weather suddenly turns worse or you encounter mechanical problems.

With a little extra planning a 900-mile journey really isn't that much different than three 300-mile flights. But the satisfaction of completing such an epic journey, and the fun you'll have along the way, is well worth making the trip.

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