Life is about tests, tests that need a pencil, tests of character, tests from God, and of course tests from the FAA. I passed my first test (not counting my medical exam) that stands between me and my pilot certificate. My Pre-Solo knowledge quiz. I didn’t have to go anywhere special for this examination. My Certificated Flight Instructor administered the test, and I passed. Not a perfect score, but it really opened my eyes to the areas I need to concentrate on when studying for the Knowledge test later on.
On three separate days I thought I would solo, but my skills and concentration just weren’t good enough. What was really frustrating is that the lesson before I handed in my Pre-solo test, my flying was really good, I mean really really good. The Easter holiday came in after that and I postponed a lesson, those few extra days in between lessons was enough to allow a little rust to settle in. Instead of waiting a whole week after my April 14th lesson, My wife and I decided that I should take a lesson during the week to refresh myself of what I’m supposed to be doing in the pattern, and prepare to Solo that following Saturday, during my usual lesson time slot.
On the evening of April 19, 2012 I soloed a plane for the first time! For those that don’t know, Soloing is a HUGE milestone on the journey to becoming a Private Pilot, and from what other pilots have told me, “That night is a night I’ll never, ever forget.” And after reading this, hopefully you won’t either.
3 Touch and Goes with my CFI from Runway 23 at KFMY. We grade each landing together, for the first one I gave myself a 6.5. According to Skip, I’m too harsh on myself, he said that landing was a 9. The other two landings were very good as well. My approach did get a bit higher each time, but I adjusted and made it safely to ground.
I take him back to the hangars and as he starts to get out of the plane, a giant smile is glued on my face but just behind that smile is this fear, a small voice saying “DON’T LET SKIP LEAVE THE PLANE!” Of course he gets out, and I’m on my own. I taxi to runway 23 and before I know it I’m off. I push the throttle in and realize that I only have a few seconds to abort. 3521Q reaches 55 knots and I pull back on the stick and
we’re I’m airborne. In a split second it hits me that I am the Pilot in Command of this craft and it’s my responsibility to bring this plane (and myself) back to earth safely.
Flying the Pattern
My nervousness melted away at about 500 feet and it felt natural. I thought I would feel the big difference of not having another adult in the plane, but I didn’t, that is until I noticed I reached 1,000 feet much sooner than before. That actually helped, by getting to Traffic Pattern Altitude sooner I had more time to think about my pattern. I report midfield, turn base, turn crosswind, land, reset, take off again. I did a total of 4 landings by myself and all of my landings were not that bad.
Air traffic controller instructs me to take taxiway Alpha 4 off the runway to the Alpha hangars. Simple enough, that’s the taxiway we normally take from either runway 5 or 23. I see the sign “A4” I turn and I find the view outside of my window very different than what I’m use to. It turns out you have to turn after the sign. I actually turned on Alpha 5. I asked ATC, “If I can use this one instead” he said sure and gave me instructions from there.
Simple mistake to fix, thank goodness it wasn’t my checkride, I’m pretty sure that would have failed me, falling under the “Deviating from an ATC directive” rule. Let’s chalk it up to nerves.
What really made a lasting impression, are not the landings that I made, or the great sunset I got to witness, or the fact that I had the airport all to myself (expect for a Cessna that came in while I was on downwind, and had no effect on me) but the words from my CFI letting me know that he hasn’t felt this confident with endorsing a Solo student in a very long time. He said those words before he left me alone in that plane, and hearing him say that, I knew I could do this.
Waner - 1st Solo flight, picture by Amanda Del Rosario
Just the numbers
Total Hours: 14.2
Total Dual: 13.5
Total Solo: 0.7
Questions, or Concerns about my first Solo Flight? Leave a comment below!