Cross Country (Long Distance) Flying Prep & Gear

Published by: Rizwan Bukhari on 6th Feb 2017 | View all blogs by Rizwan Bukhari

Hi all,

I wanted to start a blog about cross country flying. For new pilots who are exploring long cross country flying, what considerations should they take?

Jeff trike made an awesome recommendation "Delorme Inreach" a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) GPS tracker that allows two way text messaging.

How about a tent, tie downs, thermal blanket, knife etc?


How do you prepare for a cross country trip? What would you take to your cross country trip? Any brand recommendations that have worked well for you?











  • Larry Perkin
    by Larry Perkin 1 year ago
    Good timing for this blog, I am planning my 1st cross country in a trike this year! I am interested in the logistics, i.e. flying vs trailering and I too have many questions. While my trike has the "legs" to go practically anywhere, I know it is more than just taking off for parts unknown. Careful planning is always needed so looking forward to any ideas/comments. Thanks.

    - I assume I just cannot show up at an airport. What type of information do they need? Insurance? If I trailer, can I bring it onto the field for overnight storage?

    - are hangers readily available on a daily basis? I would not like to leave my trike out in the sun or in the elements after flying and not have to break it down and stuff in a trailer each time.

    - is mogas readily available at airports? My initial research indicates "not very".

    - If trailering, how best to secure it while stopping overnight enroute to a destination or at an airport?

    - Also if trailering, besides secure storage of the trike, what other items would be useful to take? Gas cans, tools, ratchet straps, etc. What else?
  • Tom Currier
    by Tom Currier 1 year ago
    I've done a fair amount of trailering. Inspect your trailer like you do your trike. Your life probably won't depend on it but your wallet will (try having a shop along a highway do your wheel bearings then gasp at the cost). Here's a few trailering pointers:

    Everything that can come off, take off and store in the car including seats
    Tie down twice, check twice
    Stop often to make sure everything is holding together. Check the trailer and trike (cap dance). I stop every two hours.
    Do not cover your trike; flapping canvas will do much more damage than bugs, rain, or road dirt.
    Do cover your wing and throw a few extra wraps of line around it to make sure it's snug.
    Make sure to put a towel or thick pad over and around your hang block to prevent sail chafe.
    Do not drive through New York City or any other place that's has a reputation for bad roads. Take a longer route if need be. You'll be happy you did.
    Make sure to take a jack for the trailer, a spare tire, and tools to change it.

    A simple trailer lock is all I use for securing it but while trailering, I'm never far away. Towing at night is a good way to avoid road traffic and really slow down for road hazards.
  • Henry Trikelife
    by Henry Trikelife 1 year ago
    Rizzy, if you are talking about relatively long cross country flights, the first and the most important thing is developing a skill to land in a bad weather. The weather on the destination airport could be bad in spite of your pre-flight weather checking. Also you are getting in unknown airports with unique local weather pattens unknown to foreign pilots. The landing can be in mid afternoon, often with truculence from thermals, crosswinds and rotors from structures nearby. I used to fly many long cross country flights. I encountered many bad weather on the destinations sometime without an alternative airport nearby.
  • jeff trike
    by jeff trike 1 year ago
    Let me second Henry's comments.

    Before attempting XC trips, you need expand your comfort zone so the flying part of the XC trip is nothing new. People get into trouble because because they are doing things for the first time and are trying to figure it out in the air instead of on the ground. Gradually work up to long day trips, 3 hours out, refuel, and three hours back.

    Can you change your radio frequency in the air? I flew with a guy who had no idea how to do that at a remote airport because he never left the pattern. The radio was permanently stuck on 122.9. Similarly, he wouldn't set a waypoint on his GPS while flying. It was permanently set on the home airport.

    Gradually working up to long 6 hour day trips will sort all that out, in a less stressful way. You'll have to figure out how to pee in flight. This is serious business. Pilots have crashed cause they landed on a crappy dirt road because they had to pee. This would have been avoided if they could empty their bladder in flight.

    Working up to 6 hour flights will get you out of the ideal sunrise/sunset flying conditions. You will have to adapt to changing weather conditions and change your plans in flight. You need to be comfortable to flying in strong thermals and turbulence and landing in these conditions.

    Trailering allows pilots to bypass this maturation of flying skills needed for XC flight. They get focused on the logistical details of trailering instead of flying. Logistic skills are fine, but XC flying skills will save your life.

    Once you have done that, here are a few pointers for extended XC trips.

    1) Figure out how to tie down in strong winds. Tied down ropes should be preinstalled, inside the wing, ready to. Stakes and a hammer in the trike.

    2) Pack light, like you are on a backpacking trip. Put your stuff in a gear bag and lash it to the back seat.

    3) Get a 5 or 6 gal racing fuel jug. They have o-rings and seal up nicely. You can put then on their side, stick them in the back seat and put your gear bag on top of that and lash it all down. You will need this to either carry extra fuel, or refuel with MoGas at a remote field. Not every airstrip has 100 LL (which should be avoided anyway).

    4) Cash is king. Bring a couple hundred dollars and credit cards to cover the unexpected. Hopefully you won't have to spend it.

    5) Stick to airports. Dirt roads and fields are hazardous unless you know for sure they are landable.

    6) Fly with a wingman. It's 1000 times safer.
  • Bryan Tuffnell
    by Bryan Tuffnell 1 year ago
    I completely agree with Henry, Jeff and Tom; there's really excellent advice there. XC flying is first and foremost about the ability of the pilot, and I agree with Henry that the primary skill is being able to land safely more or less anywhere in any conditions. A good XC pilot has an ability to assess weather in the air, knows how to avoid the worst turbulence, is comfortable in the turbulence they're dealt, has an excellent ability to assess off field landings, knows where to fly in relation to terrain and sun and wind, can fly to a safe and convenient destination without being dependent on electronic aids, has sharp engine failure skills etc etc.

    Jeff's suggestion of building experience by gradually pushing your boundaries means that you'll know when you're ready for a big trip. And at the end of the day, a trailer can overcome a host of issues. I think these guys know their stuff.
  • Gregg Ludwig
    by Gregg Ludwig 1 year ago
    Our XC flight from Florida to Texas last September was a blast. You must have a GPS that also has the airport data base. One day we changed the route and refueling point in flight as we went south of an area of weather. I like to depart at sunrise or earlier for long distances. Small airports are fun to stop at but for overnight stays you must realize that small FBO's lock up at 5pm and some places 4pm. Get to your overnight airport early for service and hangar space. For best service have your wife or GF with you to arrange for hangar space. As mentioned before I use with an Android device that allows others to see live tracking.
  • Gregg Ludwig
    by Gregg Ludwig 1 year ago
    For long XC flights on unfamiliar routes are you able to find a suitable airport if your primary GPS fails? Have a back up method of navigation or as most do use more than a single method of navigation.
  • jeff trike
    by jeff trike 1 year ago
    In the US, every state I have visited so far publishes an aviation sectional type map. You can usually pick them up for free at FBOs large and small across the state. The map scale is better, so you can fold it and put in on a knee board and have about 200 miles of map on your knee. Pick up a new one every year, and use it instead of a sectional which I usually fly off the edge in less than an hour. They have everything an FAA sectional has, but are more usable in flight.
  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 1 year ago
    Great tips from all.
    Some additional tips I use when flying cross country.

    Typically I fly cross country trips at full throttle. It appears the best altitude for best gas miliage/speed is around 8,000 MSL. If you are trying to make a longer fuel stop, slow up to your best glide/climb speed, typically about 1.3 times your stall speed. Additionally, climbing and descending to find the best air at the different levels is helpful, smooth tailwind optimum. It is amazing how different the air is at different levels. Looking at winds aloft gives you an initial target altitude.

    More reciently, Foreflight has been incredably helpful. You can select fuel prices to see what airports have Avgas, surface winds to see what the winds are blowing at the different airports, and miles visibility to see what the visibility at the airports is. This has beeen incredably helpful at planning and during flight at determining fuel stops. and the best winds for landing.

    The other additional safety tip is use Flight Following. You need a transponder for this. Talking with air traffic control is incredably safe in two ways. They follow you and have eyes on your exact position. Any problem or complication they are on it. Additionally, they tell you of other aircraft to look for. Before flight following I remenber seeing other aircraft pop up closer that you want. This is an incredable safety feature for cross country.
  • Bryan Tuffnell
    by Bryan Tuffnell 1 year ago
    I'm a big fan of charts in a kneeboard instead of a GPS. As well as offering total reliability, they encourage an outward looking perspective and observation.

    Careful observation is a key contributor to comfort and safety. Apart from spotting traffic, you can take cloud types, cloud shadow movement, sun position, ground cover, wind lines on water, haze, smoke drift, bird activity and all the et cetera and make a mental picture of what's happening in the air. This can inform your route decisions and update your weather expectations.

    Personally, developing and using skills interests me far more than blindly following technology.
  • Craig Dingwall
    by Craig Dingwall 1 year ago
    LOL, I cant help but develop a mental picture everytime I think of longer XC flights in a Trike :-) I see myself back in an enclosed cockpit with my map on my knees, my scale rule in one hand and Jeppesen whizzy wheel in the other whilst flying the a/c.

    Then my mind wanders to now being in my 582 holding onto the bar with said rule and nav comp in a tight grip and one of my charts pinned to my face in the 60kt breeze :-), just wish I was a cartoonist............

    More seriously, I tend to have OzRunways on my Ipad that sits in my Kneepad that also holds lots of useful information reminders such as Radio Freqs, Checklists, a/c operational temperatures & pressures, speeds for best climb, glide etc etc and then also whatever relevant map such as WAC, VTC, VNC or whatever. So whilst I tend to use OzRunways I also have my map to refer to when I want.
  • Neil Scoble
    by Neil Scoble 1 year ago
    Craig, I'm with you. I like to use air nav pro on the ipad mounted on a ram mount attached to the dash in conjunction with a map on a kneeboard, technology is great but it can fail, we should always maintain situational awareness should the GPS bite the dust!! I also have a small spread sheet printed out with all the relevant data, speeds to fly, altitude, frequencies, wind correction, groundspeed etc. etc.
  • tom speirs
    by tom speirs 1 year ago
    Alls great as long as you don't getthereitis ....ive flown from Pheonix to San Paula to visit with Henry Iand from Glenwood Springs to Burningman 900 mls took 2 days as i had to land on a country road as air was rough,also flew from Burningman to Trukke Ca
    Agree with Henry you need to be able to land in any condition.Iuse a paragliding bag to hold my camping gear but most airports have pilot lounges or cars for use
    Just needs planning and a sense of adventure without the pressure of getting there by a certain time ,if its the case go commercial
    happy flying
  • Rizwan Bukhari
    by Rizwan Bukhari 1 year ago
    I want to thank all of you for your valuable input. This definitely helps.
  • Jozinko Sajan
    by Jozinko Sajan 1 year ago
    Hi I can tell you about my experiences:
    At first I check maps: air maps - TSA, TRA, CTR, TMA and their activation.... next I check terrain maps. I do not have a BRS then i plan my routes over places where I can to land if something happened.
    A weather forecast is next.
    Good compass is necessary but I use a GPS too and a ICAO map (or printed helpful part of it). A great app for mobil i use is Fly is Fun. there are air maps with all areas, all airports, all terrain obstacles etc etc. I saved a necessary frequencies to my radio and printed it too with phone contacts to nearest airports or people.
    Spare clothes and shoes, good knife, two lighters, 2L of water, some bisquits or not quickly perishable food. A payment card and some cash. Tent (small 2 pers), inflatable mattress, sleeping bag. One liter of engine oil, spare spark plugs, drilling pins and ropes for wing, cover for trike, basic power tools.
    If I fly alone my trike looks like this:
    With my father as navigator we flew with:
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 1 year ago
    ... and make sue to check on TFRs (FAA web) ... programs like Foreflight will display TFR's in its map, but best to do a quick check directly with FAA site.
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