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Consider a hypothetical flight plan from Redstone to Cullman to Gadsden and back to Redstone. This flight would have legs in order of 26, 42, and 52 nautical miles.

KHUA KCMD KGAD KHUA on SkyVector

14 CFR 61.1 provides

Cross-country time means—

(ii) For the purpose of meeting the aeronautical experience requirements (except for a rotorcraft category rating), for a private pilot certificate (except for a powered parachute category rating), a commercial pilot certificate, or an instrument rating, or for the purpose of exercising recreational pilot privileges (except in a rotorcraft) under §61.101(c), time acquired during a flight—

    (A) Conducted in an appropriate aircraft;

    (B) That includes a point of landing that was at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and

    (C) That involves the use of dead reckoning, pilotage, electronic navigation aids, radio aids, or other navigation systems to navigate to the landing point.

The original point of departure is Redstone Army Airfield, and Northeast Alabama Regional is farther than 50 nautical miles away. Would the entire flight count toward the cross-country experience requirements for a private pilot certificate, commercial pilot certificate, or instrument rating? Must the pilot fly the 50+ nm leg first?

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  • $\begingroup$ Great question! Will you be turning off the airplane and getting out at either of the stops? I've always thought that because of 14 CFR 61.1(ii)(B), if one of the points is more than 50 NM from the original departure point, and you did touch-n-goes or stop-n-goes at the other airports it would all count as one flight, with multiple stops but if you stop and get out before you've done a 50NM leg, it's two different flights. $\endgroup$ – Canuk Dec 7 '15 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ Wish I could find a direct reg or thing to substantiate the answer: I've always been told, as long as 1 leg(where you touch the ground at both ends) of the flight is 50nm, the whole flight can be counted as cross country. Doesn't matter the order. $\endgroup$ – slookabill Dec 7 '15 at 4:26
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    $\begingroup$ @slookabill No, the requirement is to land 50nm away, not to fly a leg of at least 50nm (see aeroalias's answer). The point is to 'force' pilots to navigate, otherwise you could fly a 50nm circle around your home airport and claim it was a cross-country, but you would never have had to navigate or make any real decisions in the air. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Dec 7 '15 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ Not to sound flippant, but if the CFR doesn't say you have to fly the long leg first, then you don't. If they don't say you can't shut down and get out, then it's OK. There are lots of pilots who read way more into the regs than what is actually there. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Aug 11 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Related: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/55825/… $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Aug 14 at 14:48
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From a 2008 FAA interpretation sent to E. Thomas Sisk:

… cross-country flight time is defined as time acquired during a flight that includes a point of landing that is at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 nm from the original point of departure, not the original point of any flight leg. There is no requirement that any specific leg must be 50 nm. Moreover, a cross-country flight may include several legs that are less than a straight-line distance of more than 50 nm from the original point of departure. Nevertheless, at least one leg of the cross-country flight, however long by itself, must include a point of landing that is at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 nm from the original point of departure (i.e. of the flight, not of that particular leg).

Given the above analysis, the answer is each cross-county flight used to meet the aeronautical experience requirements under 14 CFR §61.1 (b)(3) must include one leg that includes a landing that is at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 nm from the original point of departure.

From the above, it is pretty clear that the order of flying does not matter and you can log the whole flight. Also, see this AOPA response.

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Yes you may log the whole "flight" as a cross-country flight. And maybe some additional flights before and after the specified "flight", if you feel the urge to do so. It's pretty much entirely up to your personal discretion. For more see related question What defines the end of a "cross-country flight" for ppl aeronautical experience purposes and for general logbook purposes? .

As soon as you are reach the point in your training where you are capable of flying to a point 50 miles away, be sure to do so. (Need not be a non-stop flight.) All further hours accumulated after (or before) that point in time can be considered part of one long cross-country flight, lasting weeks, months, or years in duration.

If you decide to use this strategy, it might be wise to occasionally (say once a month or at least once per year) pass through a point that is at least 50 miles away from the point where the majority of your flights originate. Just so no one can say you are trying to stretch the spirit of the regulations.

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