How to prepare for your first cross country solo

Chris Findley, a CFI and the founder of, has written a great post for the Let’s Go Flying blog containing several important tips to help you prepare for your first cross country solo. Chris began his post by noting that you will likely be going only 50 nautical miles, but nevertheless, a solo cross county will be a huge step in your flying.  Moreover, you’ll actually be using your plane to go somewhere.

Chris then proceeded to list down his tips for preparing for your first cross country solo:

  1. Take your time on your planning. Chris suggested that you begin planning several days out by reviewing your books and navigation notes. He further noted that while GPS and various online tools can be used to help plan the trip, he requires his students to do their first couple of XC plans without them.
  2. Be very diligent about examining the weather along your route. Chris stressed the fact that weather is a huge part of the learning process for XCs and he encourage pilots to use all available data for weather.
  3. Have a solid diversion plan. Chris mentioned the need to know all of the airports along your route and just what the best alternates are in case you need to make a diversion due to weather or mechanical problems. He also stressed the importance of  being proficient in the basic functions of the GPS but not overly dependent on it until you have mastered the basics of navigation.
  4. Know who you will be talking to and when. Chris noted that you should review all of your communication procedures and frequencies. In other words, know who you will talk to first, second and so on plus what to expect.
  5. Rehearse your arrival procedures . Chris pointed out that on the day of the flight, be sure to consider which runway will be in use. 
  6. Don’t forget the return leg! Chris also mentioned the time he had a student who made an awesome XC plan but he forgot to plan the return leg.  In other words, make sure that you examine the weather at the time of your return and make all the necessary calculations to get yourself home.

At the end of his post, Chris added that you should not forget to have fun as your first cross country should be exciting. He ended with the advice to “plan well, fly well and enjoy the day.”

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