Flight Lesson #14 – FIRST SOLO
Flight Hours: 1.3
Hours to Date: 17.8
December 21, 2011
Today is finally the day, the day I get to climb behind the controls and depart from the runway all by myself. Today is…MY FIRST SOLO! It feels like this flight has come very quickly yet it still feels like it’s been a long time waiting. You couldn’t ask for a better morning either. It’s perfectly clear, very little wind, and it’s nice and cool out so the engine has got a little extra pep. I preflight the plane and Austin joins me for a couple of times through the traffic pattern so he can sign off that I’m ready to go on my own.
We taxi out, launch, and land three times and he simply says two words to me…”You ready?” Before he can even finish the last word I’m blurting out “Hell yeah!!!” I taxi back to parking to drop Austin off and then I’m off.
Since this is my first solo flight, I’ll be keeping things pretty simple. I’ve got about 30 minutes to work with so I decide to just stay in the pattern and knock out a few solo landings to build up some confidence. I announce to ground control that I’m ready to taxi with information Foxtrot (each time the weather conditions are updated, they’re assigned a different letter of the phonetic alphabet. In order to let the controllers know you’re aware of current conditions, you need to announce that you have that specific update, i.e., with information Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.). The controller clears me to taxi to runway 18 via taxiway alpha. I move off the ramp back onto the taxiway and conduct an abbreviated pre-takeoff check by making sure my fuel selector is set to both, my fuel cutoff is off, flaps are up, instruments are all in the green, and my control surfaces are free and moving properly. Well, it’s time to go!
I call the tower, “Executive tower, this is Cessna 227 Tango Whiskey at alpha-one-eight (end of taxiway alpha, near threshold of runway 18) ready for takeoff. Would like to stay in the pattern”. The tower immediately calls back “Cessna 227 Tango Whiskey, clear for takeoff runway one eight, make left traffic”. It’s at this point that I realize how good of a job Austin has done in training me. I should probably be feeling pretty nervous at this point since in about 20 seconds I’ll be leaving the ground by myself for the very first time. Strangely, however, I don’t feel the slightest bit nervous. I move onto the runway and get myself lined up on the centerline, making sure my rudder is neutral. I smoothly apply full throttle, add a little right rudder to keep me tracking straight, pull back a little, and I’m off…BY MYSELF! It’s kind of a weird feeling at first and I find myself getting surprised when I look to my right and see an empty seat, but amazingly (and thankfully), I never feel very nervous. I go on to knock out 3 takeoffs and landings and they actually felt smoother than they have in the past. My time is up after the third landing so I make my way on back to parking and tie the plane down. I walk back into Austin’s office and he’s waiting for me with a big marker in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other hand and I realize that I’m about to be undergo the first stage of initiation into the pilot fold by taking part in a tradition that harkens back to the early days of flight training. I’m about to have my shirttail removed! Years ago when flight training took place in 2-seat, dual cockpit biplanes, the instructor would sit behind the student pilot and monitor his or her progress from the rear cockpit. Since these airplanes didn’t have radios for in-cockpit communication, the instructor would get the attention of the student by tugging on their shirttail and would then yell in their ear. Since a student flying solo wouldn’t have anyone sitting behind them, they would no longer need their shirttail for “communication” and thus the tradition of cutting off the shirttail was born. I’m happy to say that my shirttail is now being proudly displayed in my house at the entrance to my mancave.
Flight Lesson #15 – Landings: partial power loss, engine failure
Flight Hours: 0.9
Hours to Date: 18.7
December 22, 2011
After having just completed my first solo flight the day before, I was still riding pretty high for today’s flight. It was a very similar flight to #13 in that it consisted mostly of dealing with partial and full power loss. I won’t say too much here for fear of being redundant, but it was another fun and educational flight. I will say, however, that it’s very important to be prepared for a loss of power because it can happen without warning. One thing I do is sit in my chair at home, close my eyes, imagine I have a control panel in front of me, and then mentally work my way through dealing with a power loss. It may just be me, but it seems like that really helps with dealing with a real [simulated] one in an actual cockpit.