Once your instructor thinks you're ready to leave town safely, you'll get a logbook endorsement for a cross-country solo trip. That's a planned excursion of 150 or more nautical miles with at least three landings, including one leg of at least 50 nautical miles.
What's involved in a cross-country solo? Logically, you must choose the destination (typically, the instructor will help you do this), chart a course, check the weather, and file a flight plan so folks know where you're going (in case they have to come looking for you).
There are four ways of figuring out where you are in the sky. You will learn all four methods, although you may rely primarily on one or two depending on how your plane is equipped.
- Pilotage: looking out the window for landmarks that appear on your sectional chart (map)
- Dead reckoning: calculating and flying from point A to point B, then turning to a new heading and flying to point C
- Radio navigation: following various radio signals using instruments in your aircraft
- Global positioning satellite (GPS): using satellite signals to help you determine where you are, where your destination airport is, and how to get there.
Don't let the term cross-country worry you. You do not have to fly from Los Angeles to New York. The FAA says that if you are logging cross-country flying for the purpose of obtaining a pilot certificate, the flight must be at least 150 nautical miles.