300 Nautical Mile Cross Country

– CLA Commercial Pilot Students, Aaron Knox, Reuben Vlieg, Sarah Stahlke

The 300 nautical mile cross country is an exciting exercise every Commercial Student Pilot looks forward too. It ties in everything you’ve learned and developed from the flight training to date and solo build up time you’ve successfully completed. Most students will tell you that the best part about the 300 nautical mile cross country is figuring out where exactly in this vast country of Canada I can go explore. Most pilots have great stories outlining the cool routings they took or the many exhilarating experiences they had on this journey. Usually a student pilot on this exercise will encounter at least one ‘first’, resulting in a great learning experience and memory. That’s why we decided to speak to a few Cooking Lake Aviation Commercial Student Pilots about their experience, and what they took away from the flight.

Aaron K. – CEZ3 – CEG4 – CZPC – KGTF

The day had come! After waiting for what seemed like forever, I about to embark on the longest flight of my flight training to date. Doing the 300 nautical mile cross country flight is part of the requirements to getting your commercial pilot’s license and what seemed like endless cancellations due to weather, scheduling problems and so on, the perfect day had come.

I was lucky enough to scoop up the first leg of the flight thanks to one of the pilots I was flying with and with that we started off on our adventure to Great Falls, Montana (KGTF). Myself and two other student pilots took off from Cooking Lake Airport (CEZ3) bright and early to start the first leg of the trip to Drumheller, Alberta (CEG4). Upon arriving, we were greeted with multiple hot-air balloons flying around the airfield, which made the circuit and approach not only a bit more difficult, but also amazing.

300 NM Cross Country Cooking Lake Aviation

It was only a short time that we stayed on the ground and admired the views and hot-air balloons before we were wheels up and on our next leg of the journey to Pincher Creek, Alberta (CZPC). It sure was something else to be able to fly so close to the mountains on the arrival into Pincher Creek. Although it had started warming up and we were hitting minor turbulence, we took in the views of the spectacular Rocky Mountains both in the air and on the ground.

Once again, it was time to pack up and get backup in the air for the final leg to Great Falls! A short two-hours later, we had arrived into Montana. This was the first time I was able to land into an international airport and I can say this was particularly cool because I was cleared to land right behind a Dash 8. After we had landed, we taxied off, cleared customs and parked the plane at a local FBO. Overall, it was a cool experience to be able to fly down to the U.S. and experience things from using their FBO’s, to understanding their airspace and operating within it. Lastly, the American FBO’s tend to lend you a courtesy car allowing us to explore the city and making the trip down that much more worth it. I would definitely encourage any pilot that hasn’t flown outside of Canada to get together with some fellow student pilots and head up for a trip to the U.S.!

Reuben V. – KGTF – CYLL – CEG4 – CEZ3

We have all looked into the sky and seen the cloud-like trails that seem to follow behind an airplane. As for the long cross country trip, the route home traced the foot prints or the contrails in the sky you left in the morning. Seeing how far you’ve came occurred once you landed at the 300NM aerodrome.

The realization of the  long trip goes through your mind about half way back to home. You point out landmarks you saw on the first leg which look familiar yet seem to have changed. Shadows and lighting reflect a new perspective of the land compared to when you first saw it. Although the trip back was difficult and tests a pilot’s mental toughness, the trip as a whole is an incredible flight exercise that became impossible not to remain engaged in. 300NM; a lot changes within the land but also within the Pilot. Landing back at home and seeing the ARCAL’s turn on for CEZ3, I realized that becoming a pilot is one of the greatest experience’s innovation has offered us because I now understood that only 3,000ft runway took us 300NM and then back.

We left as explorers and came back with an unforgettable trip that can be applied to our aviation training and shape our individuality as a pilot. Flying with other pilots along the trip allows you to converse, learn more about each other and about how the aviation community is a great thing to be proud of. In a 172, it takes about 5 hours one way to fly 300NM. My suggestion to anyone making a long trip is fly with some pilots who will help you, teach you, and laugh with you over those 5 hours it takes to fly 300NM.

On the way back home after a long day, the extra company will lend the supporting eyes and ears needed to make a safe trip. We left at 0700 Sunday morning and returned home with one great memory and lesson at 2200. The trip may have been over but it remains clear to me that it will never be forgotten by tracing my contrails.