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Which Stop Counts as Cross-Country?

Q.A new private pilot, I recently made a round-robin Sunday joyride from my home base at Mead Flying Service (70S) just north of Spokane, Washington. My first stop was at Chewelah/Sand Canyon (1S9), where I landed and walked around for a bit. Then I flew to Colville (63S), Ione (S23), and Priest River, Idaho (1S6), and then back to Mead.

logged each leg of the flight on a separate line, and then I faced a quandary - What, if any, of this time can I log as cross country for the purposes of qualifying for any future ratings? The only airport that is more than 50 nautical miles from my home base at Mead is Ione (S23).

There is an additional situation that I see coming up. In the near future I'll be flying from Mead to Wenatchee (EAT), which is well over 50 nm away. I'll probably fly there on a Friday evening. On Saturday, and probably Sunday, I will be giving rides to family members in Wenatchee. I'll return to Mead on Sunday or Monday. Would the rides I give in Wenatchee count as cross-country even if all I did was a quick run over their house, which is less than 10 nm from EAT? Or, because it's a new day and a new "mission" (joyride vs. traveling to Wenatchee), would I need a landing more than 50 nm from EAT to log the time as cross-country ?

Shawn M. Nolph
Cheney, Washington

A.Federal Aviation Regulation 61.1(3)(ii) defines a cross-country for the purpose of "meeting aeronautical experience requirements" for a private, instrument, or commercial ticket as a flight "that includes a point of landing that was at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the point of departure."

The key phrase here is "includes a point of landing," which means just one airport has to meet the distance requirement to qualify the flight as a cross-country. You can log all the legs of your Sunday joyride as cross-country time because "one point" has a straight-line distance from your point of departure of more than 50 miles.

How many stops you make to reach that point doesn't matter, and neither does how you log them. Whether you log each leg on a separate line, or log the flight on one leg and list the stops you made, the flight still counts as a cross-country because one point you landed at was more than 50 miles away from your home base.

Without a doubt you can log the time of your future flight from Mead to Wenatchee and back to Mead because these flights meet the cross-country distance requirement. The time you fly giving rides in Wenatchee poses a problem, and I could find no FAA chief counsel opinion that addressed it. On the one hand, these flights take place more than 50 miles from your original point of departure, but if you start and end the rides at Wenatchee, they run afoul of FAR 61.3(i)(c), which says a cross-country flight "includes a landing at a point other than the point of departure."

To meet the spirit of the regulations about logging time for aeronautical experience, I wouldn't log the rides as cross-country time. This also negates the possibility of an examiner or FAA inspector questioning the time during a checkride.

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