SOLO..... It Was A Sacred Word!
May 13, 2000
Sorry for the delay... but here we go:
My instructor had told me that solo time was just around the bend and finally it landed on my lap just last Thursday.
Since the weather was especially nice, I thought that today would be my solo, for sure. After the first two landings of the day, I wasn't sure until I made some more landings with my instructor and they looked much better.
I had just made another landing then my instructor keys the mike and tells the tower that I will be dropping him off at the instructor's bench and that I would be conducting my first solo. I taxied over the instructor's bench area and he asked me for my logbook and student pilot certificate which he appropriately endorsed. He asked me if I felt ready and I watched, in amazement, as my mouth pronounced the word "Yes". As he stepped out the door I told him that I knew I was ready yet I had about a thousand different things going on in my head at once, mainly apprehension about the right seat being empty. I went on to tell him that when I analyzed those concerns they all related to the sole novelty of going solo and not to any perceived lack of proficiency on my part. He told me that he felt just fine about me flying and knew that I would do well, but in the end it would be about what I thought. I told him I knew I was ready! Before he closed the door I sheepishly gave him my camera out of my flight bag and asked if he could take a few photos for me.
He gave me instructions to do three takeoffs and landings to a full stop and then taxi back to pick him up, afterwards. The door was closed and I called ground to head back for the taxiway and as I taxied out I looked behind me to watch my instructor as I drove away from him down the taxiway; he took a picture as I taxied off. Whew,,, what a feeling dropping off my instructor and heading off for my first solo flight,,,, the right seat was empty and it was all up to me, now!
At the hold-short line I called tower and requested clearance. I was told that I should taxi out to runway 31R and hold. Soon I received clearance to takeoff,,, here it goes, throttle to full..... I reached rotation speed and lifted off into the sky.
I know people often remark how quickly the plane takes-off without the weight of the instructor, however I was so focused that I couldn't tell you that I noticed. I flew the pattern as I had practiced it many times before and as I'm turning to begin my downwind and level-off at traffic pattern altitude it occurs to me again how I was the PIC and totally responsible for the entire flight. Just as I had leveled-off for TPA and throttled down to maintain altitude, I felt my right wing quickly rise up about 15 degrees or so,,,, I smoothly leveled my wings realizing that I had just passed over some thermal generator like a parking lot. Kind of funny, when I was starting out, the sudden raising of a wing would have given me quite a shock, but I handled it in stride and corrected for it. Tower called to clear me for the option and I replied, automatically.
Abeam of the numbers, carburetor heat on, throttle to 1500 and 10 degrees of flaps,,, always scanning for traffic. As I prepared to make my base leg, the thought that it was all up to me now. Suddenly felt a 'fondness' for the little 152 I was in; we were going to take care of each other throughout this solo adventure and be just fine. Turning into my base leg, another 10 degrees of flaps, checking for cross-traffic, noting a plane on final on the
parallel runways next to the one I was cleared for. I turned to final, sighting the VASI and noted that I would need to add the rest of the flaps to intercept the proper glide slope.
That's me on final to the right of the red arrow.
Red over white on the VASI. Passed over the threshold and cut throttle to idle. Now, over the runway I leveled out the plane and kicked in a little rudder to keep longitudinal alignment down the runway,, this was going to be a great landing. Rotating slightly for straight and level flight over the runway,,, settling,, flare,,, settling,, more flare,,, and touchdown!!! I slowed the plane and took the exit to the taxiway, I can see my instructor motioning a 'thumbs up' and snapping some more pictures. I was cleared by tower to return to the hold-short line for my second flight. Got cleared for 31R clear for takeoff, off I went again... I am just on my departure leg when the tower calls to ask if I can extend my departure leg to make room for a Mooney that will be entering the downwind leg from the northeast. I tell them I can comply, though I also tell them I was scanning for the traffic but didn't see it yet but I would continue until the Mooney was clear. I kept going for what seemed like a good while and get further and further away from the airport. So, I call the tower and they inform me that the Mooney traffic was clear and that I could begin my crosswind leg now.
(Special Note: my instructor was talking to some of the other people from the FBO who had come to watch my first solo and he didn't hear the instruction from the tower for me to extend my departure leg. He later told me that he kept watching me get further and further away and for a moment thought of an incident where a student pilot ((stupidly)) decided on his own that he would fly to another airport and have lunch for a couple of hours despite instructions to the contrary and for a brief moment was left wondering but assured himself that I would never do such a thing (which I wouldn’t ever do) and then heard me calling the tower (he had brought a transceiver with him in case he needed to talk to me) asking if I could make my crosswind leg, yet. )
Anyway, so I make my crosswind, still climbing to TPA and make my turn to downwind leg. This time I am anticipating the lift on my right wing (I flew an identical downwind leg to the first) from the thermal and smoothly correct for it. I do all the same things and then get to final and I pass over the threshold and cut power to idle. I make the conversion to straight and level flight over the runway and glance again at my airspeed and see that I have let myself get a bit slow. I figured that if I began any flare right now I might bleed-off the small margin of speed above stall speed that was keeping me from an ugly drop onto the runway. So, I pushed in a short small burst of throttle to bring up the airspeed to 60 KIAS (Knots Indicated Airspeed) and began the normal flaring procedure and I touched down beautifully (My instructor later told me that he was very impressed with the professional touch I had added to ensure that I had a smooth landing). I felt especially proud about the landing because I made good decisions in a relatively short amount of time. I turned around to get back on to the taxiway after being cleared to do so and saw my instructor at the bench with yet another enthusiastic thumbs up. Third takeoff was much the same as the first with a smooth-as-you-please touchdown - I actually think some of the best landings of my brief flying experience occurred during my solo,,, go figure! Well, the tower clears me to taxi to the runway again, but I tell them that I will be going to the instructor's bench to pick up my CFI and return to my FBO at the airport. The tower gave me a warm "Sir, congratulations, on your first solo flight!”
I thanked the tower profusely and I had to be positively beaming when I pulled over to pick up my instructor at the instructor's bench.
My instructor was all smiles and warmly congratulated me on a well-done first solo, telling me that I should be very proud. That characteristic 'grin' that all the other solo students have written about was now glued permanently on my face,,, felt like I was walking on air ten feet above the ground. My first solo, I "have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”
Wow,,,,, what an incredible feeling!!!! And this grand adventure continues.........
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