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5 Tips To Prepare For Your First Solo Cross-Country

This story was made in partnership with LIFT Academy. Check out the full series here. Want to be a pilot? Get started with LIFT Academy here.

Here are 5 simple tips to make sure your first solo cross-country is a success.

1) The legal stuff

Before you step into your plane you'll need some signatures and some personal documents to be legal to fly. FAR 61.93 part c outlines exactly what you will need. The shortlist is:

  • Student pilot certificate
  • Medical certificate
  • Government-issued photo ID
  • Signature from your flight instructor in the endorsements section of your logbook for your 90-day solo, as well as an individual signature for your XC flight.

2) Flight info

Make sure you have a copy of your weather briefing (and any notes), NOTAMs, airport diagrams, and performance calculations for quick reference during an instructor briefing, and for making your 'go, no-go' decision.

Don't be afraid to 'no-go'. Not every day is right to take a cross-country trip. As a student, the last thing you want to worry about is deteriorating weather conditions that force you to divert.


3) Brief your instructor

Your instructor will be looking for three main things:

1) They want to make sure that your cross-country planning is accurate. 2) That you have a thorough understanding of the current and future weather conditions. 3) They want to make sure that you are proficient and ready in the aircraft and route you plan to fly.

Your CFI will likely have their own additions to the standard items, such as airspace you plan to transition, risk management profiles to complete, etc.

Nicolas Shelton

4) Cockpit resource management

Flying a solo cross country is different from any flight you have done so far in your training. Workload increases without the safety net of an instructor to catch your mistakes.

Try to reduce your workload in busy times by getting ahead of the plane. This can be as simple as making sure your EFB is loaded with your flight plan, folding your sectional to the correct panel before you depart (if you carry paper charts), or putting your next frequency in the standby radio.

Nicolas Shelton

5) Enroute

Challenge yourself to hit your planned XC checkpoints as close as possible to your calculated flight. If the winds are different than forecast in flight, update your times to match the actual winds.

Also, don't overlook your alternate airport. It's easy to just say that an airport is your alternate but not give it much thought in the planning process. In the real world, there are airport closures, weather, and mechanical problems that could force you to divert, so make your alternate plan is realistic

Nicolas Shelton

Want to be a pilot? Get started with Lift Academy, and find out what it takes to start your aviation career here.

Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a flight instructor from Southern California. He is currently studying aviation at Purdue University. He's worked on projects surrounding aviation safety and marketing. You can reach him at

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