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I planned a recent 18.5-km out-and-back flight up a valley to a geographical feature (Twin Bridges) that I had wanted to see for a long time.
I started off with a full tank (4.5 liters). I know that I can cruise for up to 2 hours (at 6,900 rpm) on one tank. To give myself a safety margin, I assume a maximum powered flight time of 1.5 hours.
Google Earth showed that Twin Bridges was about 19 km from the airfield (Kaikohe Airfield, built by the Americans in the 1940s). The wind was forecast to be flowing up the valley, so I expected a tailwind out and a headwind back. My rule of safety is to be able to fly at a ground speed of more than 20 km/h into a headwind.
I figure that if I have to grind along at 20 km/h to get back, and I have 1.5 hours of fuel, I had better not let myself get more than 20 km downwind from my base airfield if I want to get back. To accurately read my distance, I always program my point of origin coordinates into my vario. At any time, I can tell how far I have to fly. I can also avoid over-reaching myself.
Here's the video.

I had a ground speed of around 62 km/k going out, and around 28-30 km/h coming back. Twin Bridges was exactly 18.5 km from the airfield, so I knew I could fly back.
If any of you have similar tricks and approaches to managing your cross-country flights, feel free to share them.

I'm flying a powered trike (when I'm flying with power) and I have a range of about four hours at cruise. If I'm going on a long trip, I'll try to plan it to take advantage of the varying winds at different altitudes. Around here in Oregon, for example, we have north winds which increase during the day in summer, and a strong westerly flow off the ocean in the afternoon as the inland thermal low draws marine air across the coastal mountains.

So if I'm flying to the beach, it's important to get an early start and be over there by noon-ish, before the wind picks up too much on the surface. Last time I made the trip, it was later in the day and landing was....exciting....to say the least. A real rodeo ride for the last hundred feet, and fairly exciting on departure as well. Smooth above, howling from the north near the surface. Later in the day that westerly flow kicks in, so you want to be ready to make the return trip to the east with the benefit of the tailwind, rather than trying to fly into the teeth of it.

In general when I'm flying around sightseeing, I'll make my initial course upwind to be sure that I'll have plenty of fuel for the return trip. Since I'm flying solo and I have a second seat, I might also strap a spare can of gas on, pre-mixed with oil and ready to go, just in case I get below half a tank along the way. I can stop, refill, and maybe even refill the spare can. I also carry pre-measured oil, ready to match 5 gallons of fuel.

The longest trip I've made so far is about 200 miles, which is plenty long enough in a 40mph airplane. That was a long day, with a fill-up midway and some fairly stiff headwind for part of it, and I think it took around six hours.

http://www.airport-data.com/aircraft/ph ... 0963L.html
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