Lesson 16 – Solo


During lesson 16, I took my first solo flight.  It was a gorgeous day for flying, with temperatures at 20 degrees, calm winds, and sunny skies.  You really can’t ask for better.  My good friend CP was excited to hear that I might solo and wanted to bask in the excitement and ambiance of the airport in January, so he came along to hang out.  When we got onto the airport, it was apparent that several others wanted to play in the sun too.  Among others, we shared the perfect weather with a gyrocopter, a Cessna 182, a Citabria, and flight of two consisting of an Ercoupe and a Cessna 120.  Those aren’t all aircraft you see every day.

We started with three dual takeoffs and landings.  During the first one, the Citabria received taxi clearance right after we did and taxied out behind us.  The three practice takeoffs and landings were satisfactory.  There were a couple of small adjustments T asked for like moving the downwind leg a quarter of a mile closer to the runway and increasing precision on the level-off.  For the third landing, we requested a full stop and taxied back to the hangar.  There, T made an endorsement on my student pilot certificate and in my logbook, gave some last minute instructions, called the tower to alert them of the first time solo pilot, and then exited the airplane.  The right seat was empty for the first time.

As I taxied out for my first takeoff, I noticed a few butterflies, but they were the good kind.  They indicated the kind of tension that one needs in order to do the best job he can.  During the run-up,  I heard an airplane (I think it was the Citabria) calling out his position two miles out.  The tower cleared him to land, so I called to announce that I was ready for takeoff knowing that I would be instructed to hold short.  The tower told me to hold short and I acknowledged it, but then he unexpectedly gave me clearance to takeoff.  I looked to my left and the Citabria was just about to turn final.  I knew that I had enough time to takeoff so I redeemed time and rolled out to the runway.  The Citabria asked whether this was o.k. and whether he should turn 180.  The tower assured him that I would be out of his way.  I applied full power and, less 200 pounds in the winter air, I was off the ground in a hurry.

The first pattern went well and my altitude precision was improved compared to the three dual patterns.  My first landing was nice and soft and I had 3500 feet of runway left, so I brought the flaps up, removed the carburetor heat and applied full throttle again.

During the second pattern, another aircraft reported 2 miles out and he was instructed to wait for me and then given clearance to land second in line.  During this process, the tower gave me clearance to land, so I didn’t have to ask for it.  For the first time, I forgot to apply carb. heat, but I caught it just before I had to reduce the throttle.  The second landing was also nice and soft and I had 3500 feet of runway left, so I prepared the airplane for takeoff again and pushed the throttle in for a third time.

The third rectangular traffic pattern went by pretty quickly as they usually do, and before I knew it I was turning final again.  This time, I could tell that I was not thinking before adjusting the aircrafts controls.  I was unconciously adjusting power and pitch to hit the target landing point, just like a defensive end might do chasing down a halfback.  While I was on final, another Cessna finished his runup and notified the tower that he was ready for takeoff.  Of course I was keen to hear the tower instruct him to hold short and then hear him acknowledge and follow that instruction.  I flared the ship at just the right time and stopped her decent about 6 inches above the ground while continuing to add back pressure on the rudders.  She stalled and then gently settled down onto the runway.  I would rate the landing nine out of ten.  In order to make it a ten, I will need to show better directional control after landing.

Now that’s what I call a good day!

Keep the dirty side down.

Keep the dirty side down.

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