In my last post I spoke about my experience of the circuit with my instructor beside me and often with my Dad sat in the back. In this post I’m going to go over the same thing; except this time I am doing it on my own.
I think I have been in a slightly different position to other pilots as I have known my first solo was coming up soon. I know because my instructor has been constantly irate at me me for not having done my medical. To make matters worse the weather has tried its darned hardest to stop me from flying. March 4th looked like a different day; the sun was shining and the clouds were few and far between.
I showed up to the airfield ready and raring to go. I had checked the weather. I had checked the NOTAMs. I had my fluorescent jacket on. I had my headphones with me. I was ready. I walked out onto the apron towards G-BFBR and it had a puncture. Disaster! Every other Piper Warrior was booked or in for maintenance. It looked like I was going to be failed by a deflated tyre.
Feeling as deflated as the tyre I began to leave the airfield. When at the last moment a knight in captains attire entered: another instructor was carrying out an hour briefing with another student before they needed their plane. Phew!
So, we rushed out to the plane G-BOHA – my favourite – and we were flying over the Solent in no time. Now is a good time to mention that I hadn’t been flying for a good few weeks and diving into the circuit was quite intimidating. As evidenced by my first attempt at a landing. My instructor had to take control and power us out as I had flared too high over the runway. This was the first time this had happened to me and was a massive hit to my confidence.
I took back control on the climb out and regained my composure. The next approach was a bit too slow. The next two landings were also nice and safe but my approaches were, again, a too slow. I was struggling with pointing the nose to the ground to increase speed whilst I was so low to the ground.
On the fourth landing I declared final touch and go but as I landed my instructor told the tower it would be a full-stop and me that I was going to have a go at it on my own.
Once we were stopped on the apron my instructor and Dad jumped out, gave me a pat on the back and left me in the plane. Other than doing my walk around checks or starting up the plane I have never been sat in a plane like this on my own; it was weird.
As I taxied to the runway I didn’t feel as nervous as I thought I would; I felt excited and happy. I taxied to the hold point before the runway and went through my vital check list.
I was ready.
A deep breath later and I trundled out onto the runway, and pushed the throttle to full power and I was off. I left the ground at fifty-five knots and immediately thought: “Uh-oh, I’ve got to get this back on the ground now.”.
The plane climbed a lot of quicker than I was expecting; I am used to there being two other people in it – not just me!
After my earlier landings I was conscious of my descent speed but I kept it a seventy-five knots, applying power when it was needed to increase my height.
I crossed: the solar farm; the road; the perimeter fence; the bushes and the runway threshold. I waited until the right moment and and flared out quite nicely. Just as I was about to touch down I ballooned a couple of times, nothing too major that I couldn’t recover from. Then I was down, nice and smoothly.
Whilst I rolled along the runway I received a message from Lee Tower congratulating me on my first solo. With a smile from ear to ear I taxied back to the apron, parked up and shut down the plane. Almost instantly my instructor and Dad were on the wing congratulating me. We headed into the briefing room to put my first Pilot in Command hours into my log book. The room was full of students and instructors going about their business but they all took a moment to shake my hand and congratulate me. The number of friendly people in aviation is fantastic and I love meeting them.
Over a week later I am still smiling non-stop about going solo. It’s a feeling I will never forget.