The first solo flight is a big deal for all pilots and is surely one that will never be forgotten so I’ve decided to share my story with you via an Article I wrote title “One Small Step” back in 2013 on my first blog. I hope you all enjoy and will share you own experiences in the comments.
This story first appeared at the URL below:
As I mentioned in the last post I had recently switchedinstructors and things began to build up to a pace that was a lot more to my liking. Thelessons clipped away and I was becoming a more confident, proficient and mostimportantly safe pilot. My first solo flight could happen almost any day now,but there were some requirements I had to take care of first. So when Davidasked me to come in on a day I wasn’t schedule to fly I thought to myself”exam time”. First of those aforementioned requirements, and the mosttime consuming by far, was the pre solo written exam. Normally this is a smoothpiece of cake test where you answer some questions that you should alreadyknow. When I opened the test and began to take it I quickly sensed this wouldbe no walk in the park.
|Piper Archer II
I fly the Piper Archer II or the PA-28-181 airplane which Iknow just as well as if not better than my truck. Problem is everyone else atthe school trains on the Cessna 152 during their private pilot’s course, butsince I’m 6’4 with very long legs I was granted permission to fly the Archer.Which is in my opinion a better airplane, but all of the schools test are setup for the C-152. Unlike the other students I didn’t own a 152 POH (pilotoperating handbook) because I don’t fly it and truly have no need for it. Forthe sake of testing however I quickly learned that I must be able to at leastmemorize the Cessna’s information as well. Frustrations aside I studied the 152manual with my instructor highlighting the key points and I went on to pass thewritten portion missing only one question which of course was related to the152. I only mention this because one I was assured the test would be alteredand two nothing ever goes as planned for me.
|Our Cessna 152s on the flight line
After the test was complete and my logbook was endorsed Ileft and went home for the day. The next day was 27 June 2013. I arrived at theairport shortly before 1700 (5:00PM) and proceeded out the door to the flightline andperformed my usual preflight inspection on N75193. My first indication ofsomething out of the ordinary was during the preflight briefing. It wasexplained to me that we would not be going to the practice area for maneuverstoday, but instead we would depart closed pattern and practice touch and go’s.Being green still my thoughts to myself were “I thought my landings hadsignificantly improved, I guess not”. So we taxied out for runway 19, took off, andperformed several touch and goes. Nine of them to be exact! As I prepared tolower the flaps and add full power I was instructed to make it a full stop andexit at the runway at taxiway Delta. I complied, finished the after landing checklist and headed towards thehangar thinking the lesson was over for the day. I’ll admit I felt a littlebummed by the thought because in my mind I knew that I was ready. “Silly me” I thought moments later becauseduring the taxi I was asked for a Photo I.D., medical certificate, and mylogbook. It was then, at that moment, I realized what was about to happen. I watchedDavid endorse my student pilot certificate and logbook compelting my requirments, and then heard him tell me toperform two touch and goes and one full stop landing. He hopped out and closed the door.
Standard Traffic Pattern
Here I was alone in the airplane for the first time headingto runway 19 for my very first solo flight in an airplane. During my scan fortraffic I saw an aircraft on entering the downwind leg, but base and final wereclear. I keyed the mic and said “Skylark traffic Archer 75193 back taxiingrunway 19 closed pattern departure”. The airplane hauled off down therunway and I quickly became airborne. Passing 1300′ I turned left for crosswindand continued my climb to TPA of 1650′ which is 800′ AGL at our airport, and afteranother left turn I was on downwind. Pre landing checklist complete, I had abrief moment to take in the fact that I was piloting an aircraft alone. Mythought of achievement was quickly interrupted when I saw that same aircraftwas still on downwind as I was abeam the threshold of the runway. With a senseof confusion and irritation I considered some options in my head whichincluded; cutting them off, making a 360 degree circle, or just following.Since they were at a lower altitude and would technically have the right ofway, I decided to just follow them. Eventually I turned base, bordering on theedge of Fort Hood’s restricted airspace I might add, and then to what had to beat least a two mile final. Nothing ever seems to go according to plan when itcomes to me and luck. Even though we were separated by a safe enough distancein the beginning the aircraft, which turns out was a C-162, was much slowerthan the archer so after the first landing I elected to pull off and taxi backto the runway and start again. Why on Earth a little Cessna was flying apattern that could’ve easily landed a Boeing 737 is beyond me. Our neighbors atthe airport have been known to do some fairly odd things but for the life of me I couldn’t understand. The remainder of theflight progressed normally, over way too soon though, and I was pleasantly surprised to see some fellowstudents who I’ve become good friends with had gathered at the hangar to watchmy solo flight.
Landing recorded by a fellow student
Those other students and myself share the same flightinstructor so I guess I was the only one not in on the fact that 27 June 2013was going to be my day. It may not sound like much but it meant a lot to me that they cared enough to come hang around and watch me fly! Pretty cool guys. We parked the airplane outside of the hangar for somepictures since it was my very first time flying solo. There was no cutting ofthe shirt tail but that did not stop them from dumping a bucket of cold wateron me as if I had just won the Super Bowl as a head coach. Honestly what I haddone hadn’t set in yet and wouldn’t fully until after I left the airport. Ijust smiled and kept saying wow and how cool it was. Nothing in the worldcould’ve dampened the joy I felt at that moment. Not even the mention of Mr.Rick Whitesell, our chief flight instructor, who would be the next person thatI have to fly on a check ride of sorts that we call stage checks. (More on what I refer to as the “RickEffect” later). Once the fanfarewas done, we put the plane in the hangar and went over to a friend’s house toreally “celebrate” our achievements. A good friend of mine by the name of BrianGlover passed his FAA CFI check ride earlier on that same day. Needless to say June 27th was agreat day for a few reasons. Youwould’ve thought I hit the lottery, but this was a moment I’d never forget. It was “One small step for man”, but one “Giantleap for my career”. Somehow I gathereda sense of truly belonging. Many peopledream of flying, and here I am fortunate enough to get out and live it!
Water on the way