On May 26th, I finished up my longest day of flying to date. I flew from Eden Prairie, MN (KFCM) to Jamestown, ND (KJMS) to Fargo, ND (KFAR) and back. All said and done, it was 5.5 hours of cross country flying. Summer thunderstorms caused me to reschedule a few times, as I didn't want to spend lots of time diverting around them -- especially because I did the trip under VFR.

Flight Routing
The route of flight shown on a VFR Sectional Chart

The airplane for the flight was N8116Q, a 1979 Piper Arrow IV. It's a nice airplane -- certainly not without its quirks, though!

Piper Arrow IV
The airplane for the flight (photo taken after I returned)

The day of the flight was unseasonably warm -- mid 90s by the time I got out to the airport in the early afternoon. I was nervous about getting the airplane started on such a hot day. The Arrow is powered by a Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 which is fuel injected & notoriously difficult to start when hot. Somebody was flying the airplane right before me and it was parked in direct sunlight: a perfect recipe for a tricky start.

The flight school uses iPads for checklists, maps, and other important in-flight information. Overall, they have been pretty slick and easy to work with. However, as I finished up my preflight inspection and was making my way through the "STARTING ENGINE WHEN HOT" checklist, the iPad crapped out in the heat. It briefly showed a screen saying that it had overheated, and then went completely dark. I grumbled some obscenities as I started reversing what I had already done in the start checklist. Piper, in their infinite wisdom, only put one door on the Arrow and it is across from the pilots seat. I awkwardly leaned out the door and waved the iPad around outside in an effort to cool it down. It ended up working, but only after a solid 5 minutes where I looked like I was trying to row the airplane forward with the iPad as my oar.

Despite all that drama, the hot start was a non-event. Once the engine was running, cool air rushed into the cabin and I breathed a sigh of relief. I got all of my navigation equipment set up, double checked my paper navigation log and chart, and taxied out for my northwest departure.

Once in the air, it was immediately clear that I was in for a bumpy ride. It got a bit smoother as I climbed to 4,500', but it remained continuously choppy for the entire way out to Jamestown. I reported continuous light to moderate turbulence to Flight Service over Glenwood. It was neat to see my own PIREP show up on the iPad a few minutes later via ADS-B.

View before descent into Jamestown
The view outside before the descent into Jamestown, ND

After a nice landing on runway 31 in Jamestown, I pulled off and taxied back for an eastbound departure to Fargo. I didn't get out of the airplane in Jamestown but it seemed like the airport had pretty nice amenities. I was grateful that the airport had an RCO -- it made closing my flight plan with Flight Service a snap.

The wind was at my back on the way to Fargo which was a nice change of pace (I had been fighting a headwind the entire way up to Jamestown). Once I reached my cruising altitude, I settled in for what was the shortest of the 3 legs of the trip. It was still a bit bumpy, but much better than the first leg.

View enroute to Fargo
Valley City, ND off the nose enroute to Fargo

As I got close to the Fargo TRSA, I contacted Fargo approach for VFR flight following into Fargo. They were very helpful and courteous, helping me stay clear of traffic along my route. As I approached the airport, the tower controller offered a runway change that would significantly reduce my taxi time. I graciously accepted and landed on runway 27. It was a short taxi to the Fargo Jet Center which is one of the nicest FBOs I've been to. Look for the red carpet in the photo!

Parked in Fargo
Parked and getting fueled up in Fargo, ND

The highlight of the trip was getting to see my great uncle Wes. After a quick phone call to pick a meeting spot, I grabbed a courtesy car from the airport and drove to McDonald's in town. It was great to see Wes, we chatted for around half an hour. I can probably count the number of times that we've talked just the two of us on one hand, so I really cherished getting to see him. I talked his ear off about my training and was surprised by the number of aviation stories that he had! It was neat to think that the route I was flying home was similar to flights he had taken in the past.

After making it back to the airport & fueling up, I did my second uneventful hot start of the day. I was grateful to have the engine running because it kept the cabin decently cool. Before I taxied out, I had to troubleshoot a few avionics problems with the Aspen Evolution display. It showed a warning message saying "CHECK PITOT HEAT" and failed every indication on the screen. Given that I was on the ground, I was nervous that a bug had made its way into the inlet on the pitot-static mast after I started the engine. Thankfully, cycling the power to the unit and simply waiting it out resolved the issue. After takeoff, Fargo approach vectored me around a bit to accommodate some airline traffic. Eventually, I was cleared on course. I climbed up to 5,500' -- this time, it was pretty smooth.

Flight Deck enroute to Flying Cloud
Some of the instrument panel while enroute to Flying Cloud

It was a beautiful sunset flight back to Flying Cloud. I picked up VFR flight following from Minneapolis Center over Alexandria. As I approached the airport, I descended beneath the Minneapolis Class B and flew a right downwind for runway 10R.

Getting out of the airplane after I parked it back at Flying Cloud was an awesome feeling. I entered the 5.5 hours of cross country time in my logbook with a huge smile on my face. I slept very well that night!

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