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6 Summer Cross-Country Factors To Consider Before Your Next Flight

This story was made in partnership with AOPA Finance. Financing an aircraft? Talk to AOPA Finance today.

1) Emergency supplies

Are you prepared to make an off-field landing along your entire route of flight? If you're planning on flying over remote or mountainous terrain, even if you file a flight plan and have flight following it could be hours...or days for search and rescue services to find you.

You can add simple things like water bottles, compact nutrition bars, flashlights (with a strobe light mode that will make you more visible to search and rescue), and heat foil blankets that can be used as sunshades in the summer or heat blankets in the winter.

If you're flying with passengers, make sure you brief them on where to find these supplies and how to use them.


2) Engine temperatures

Climbing out on your departure, you'll want to keep eye on your engine gauges. Oil temperature and cylinder head temperature (CHT) readings are good things to keep a close eye on.

If you start to notice a rise in temps, reduce your rate of climb by lowering the nose. This will allow more air to flow through the cowling the help keep those temperatures low. You can also try enriching the mixture as necessary.


3) Daylight hours

Warm summer evenings make for great flying, but you need to be prepared as you transition to night flight.

You'll need to have your position lights, and anti-collision light on (if equipped) from sunset to sunrise.

So what about logging time?

You can log night flight-time in a night-equipped aircraft from the end of evening civil twilight to the beginning of morning civil twilight.

Generally civil twilight is 20-35 minutes after sunset, but you can get the exact times with the Navy's Sunrise / Sunset / Twilight Calculator.

And finally, you'll need to know when your landings count for night currency. According to FAR 61.57(b), to carry passengers you must make at least 3 takeoffs and 3 landings to a full stop during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise within the proceeding 90 days.


4) When to leave

If you look at a weather radar as the day goes by, you'll probably notice that thunderstorms tend to pop up in the afternoon.

This is because thunderstorm development relies on atmospheric instability. As the earth is heated throughout the morning and afternoon, the temperature gradient between the surface and aloft widens, creating storms.

Want to learn more about how thunderstorms form? We have an article for that.


5) Heat stroke

The FAA says that pilot dehydration increases your risk for incidents and accidents, so you'll want to be able to recognize the signs of dehydration and heat distress.

"Some common signs of dehydration are headache, fatigue, cramps, sleepiness, and dizziness."


6) Density altitude

Warmer temperatures mean your density altitude will be higher, making your takeoff roll longer, your rate of climb lower, and making your engine produce less power.

Keep an eye on the temperature along your route of flight, and consider setting a personal limit for the amount of heat you are comfortable operating in.


Financing an aircraft? Talk to AOPA Finance today.

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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