Do you remember your

Do you remember your first supervised solo? Though it has become decades in actual time, it seems like yesterday in my mind. I had a really good instructor, who fortuitously for me was working on his instrument instructor while I was getting my private. We did lots more instrument work than required and I really liked that, but I digress. We were putting on a bit of a push and I had been doing my own landings for quite some time. The day was like any other training flight, in a Warrior II, and we returned to the airport did a couple of full stop landings and take-offs. He said make this one a full stop and taxi back to the ramp. I did, but before we got to the FBO ramp he said taxi over to the tower. I stopped in front of the tower and he said, "Now go do three landings, remember what I told you and you'll do fine." With that he got out of the plane and went into the tower. I thought "Wow" and "Oh, crap" at the same time. I am really gonna do this all by myself. I was cleared to the active and then take-off. I started down 17 and the plane suddenly jumped into the air. I noticed how different it felt without his weight in the pax seat. I got to pattern altitude and made my turns to downwind. Called mid-field touch and go. As I turned final everything looked good. Somewhere between there and touchdown things get a little hazy. I landed on the left main and bounced rolling right to hit on the right main, near the runway edge. At this point I knew this was not going to have a good outcome if I did not do something quickly. The plane was now rolling back to the left and headed for the left edge. I said, no third bounce to myself. Pushing the throttle all the way forward, I called Go Around on the tower frequency, leveled the wings and started a nice climb. I remember looking at the tower cab to see if my instructor was watching but all I saw was the darkened glass. On my second approach I was determined that whatever happened on the first attempt there would not be an encore. Someone else might disagree but as I recall it was near perfect. Yes!!! I now knew I could do this and the feeling was exhilarating. Now I was the pilot, I had crossed the Rubicon. I remember there was a thunderstorm building several miles West of the airport, I started giving weather reports, storm distance, lightening, rain shafts, apparent movement. My instructor informed me to make this one a full stop and get the plane on the ground, now. (Not angry but concerned.) I can still see the slate gray sky and the flashes and I still see the runway moving the wrong way across the windshield. All in all it was, and still is, wonderful. Do you remember your first solo, betcha do, hope your memories are just as wonderful. My instructor moved on to DHL, the owner of the FBO died, the FBO is long gone but when I get home I still land on that same runway and sometimes I think about the first time.

Comments

  • I don't have to think back very far to remember my first solo...it was August '09. I had actually been flying longer than most students before they solo, because I was waiting on my medical to come through. I was also trying to meet a goal of accomplishing my solo before going on a vacation to visit friends in Europe who didn't know I was training, and I wanted to be able to brag about my solo!

    My medical finally came through, and I had four days before I left the country. First two, weather had me grounded. The third, my CFI and I hopped in the Tomahawk and did pattern work. Now, I'd been landing fine (well, "student fine"!) for weeks, but this day I was just horrible. Couldn't maintain a stable approach. Couldn't land on the centerline. Couldn't hit my speed marks at the flare. Couldn't hit my desired touchdown point. Fishtailing during rollout. It was a mess. I guess maybe I was just too excited, but regardless, I looked over at my instructor and said, "Today's not my day, is it?" "Nope, it sure isn't," he replied. We agreed to try again the next day.

    That fourth day...the day before I was going to leave the country to go visit my friends...dawned bright and beautiful, and I met my CFI at the field shortly after sunrise. We fired up the 'hawk and took runway 23...not the runway I was most familiar with, and the same one I had trouble with 24 hrs earlier. But for whatever reason, I was back on my "A" game, and greased the first two landings. The third was a little ugly, but I coolly made the necessary inputs to correct the problems and my CFI gave me the "Stop here on the taxiway" call.

    By this time, a couple of other pilots had come out to enjoy the day. One plane had a student from a different flight school also doing pattern work, and the third was a Pitts driver just tooling around locally and popping into the pattern for the occasional touch-and-go. They both noticed my instructor getting out of the plane, and after I made my first full-stop, I got some friendly congrats on the radio from them. I did five or six more before my CFI thumbed me down to pick him back up, and we did a couple more celebratory laps around the pattern.

    It was definitely a good day! (And I got to share my milestone with my friends!)
  • The 1st solo is always one of the sentinal moments right along with the private check ride and flight home. I came off a Friday late afternoon with a FAA check pilot who offered to check the oil and after in the plane told me he failed another pilot for not checking the oil himself as PIC. Then I passed the check ride; VICTORY! but had to fly home from Champaign IL back to Huntingburg IN at night for the 1st flight solo at night into a snow covered field with runway lights out... (no NOTAM of course as it is was nature) due to ice frozen & expanded lights pushed out of the sockets for a dark snow covered white on white landing with overcast clouds into a small Indiana airport airfield with the only lights on the wrong end of the runway...you guessed it, first solo night landing in the dark on an unlit runway with everyone home for the night. Nobody to celebrate the new pvt pilot license with and nobody to appreciate that 1st night landing solo in such conditions. 1979 February is always a reminder to aviate, navigate, and communicate and enjoy that green and white flashing light at night 20 miles away over a white winter landscape calling one home. All this was way before GPS! It was just simple VFR night cross country and back to basics. 32 years later it still holds a thrill few experience in a life time. But I really appreciate the instrument rating and all the new upgrades that make it so much more safe and professional. Hope everyone is staying current and safe as Spring comes along.
  • The main thing I remember -- like so many other pilots -- is having to fight to keep the plane at pattern altitude with my instructor on the ground instead of the right seat. I won't say the solo was unremarkable. It's just that I was concentrating too much on aviating to feel much exhilaration at the moment. The landings were just OK but certainly good enough for a first solo. My fondest memories are the sincere congratulations I received from my instructor afterwards and the picture he took of me standing all pilot-like in front of the plane.

    My second solo is perhaps more memorable because after I had done a few landings with my instructor, he got out and said, "Do three more landings. I'm going home. Call me and tell me how it went when you get home." That's when I knew he really trusted me and I was truly PIC.
  • I have very vague memories of the second or maybe third supervised solos. I was mostly turned loose very quickly after the first one. I would schedule my own flights for solo practice and no one raise any eyebrows about doing that. The FBO/Fight School had three T-hawks and couple of Warrior IIs and an Archer II. I never flew the Hawks. My dual was in one of the Warriors. One day I went to schedule and the Warriors were both out. So, without giving it any thought I took out the Archer. I really liked it. More gitt-up go than the Warrior. For several weeks I scheduled my flights in this plane.
    One day my instructor said, "One of these days you will be able to move up to the Archer II." I said, "I have been flying 03S for X hours." I then found out that it was not for training, but since I had already done 15-20 landings and could apparently handled it with no problems, I was exempted from that rule.
    I finished my training and did my check ride in the Archer.
  • Bill, its a good thing they didnt have a Lear out on the ramp for rental too. :) Although, you might have been able to get some additional ratings.
  • Oh, yeah. Let's see, generator on, igniters, spool up, run around disconnect ground power, door closed. Throttles up, taxi. I'm ready. :lol:
  • I remember my first solo well. After a couple of touch and go's my instructor told me to taxi to the tower. He then got out and said, "I'm going up to talk to the guys. Do three touch and go's and come back here and pick me up". I said, "Wait! You mean you want me to go up by myself"? Yes. "I mean you want me to go solo"? Yes, go do three touch and go's and come back here and pick me up.

    So he walks off and I am scared to death, but I called ATC and requested taxi for takeoff. They told me to taxi to runway 22. Now I had never taxied to runway 22 from the tower and didn't know the airfield, but I just replied "43Papa cleared for taxi to 22". I started to taxi and then realized I had no idea how to get to 22 from the tower area. Sheesh! So I called the tower and said, "How do I get to 22"? I could literally "hear" the smile on ATC's face when he said, "Just follow that 310 that just passed in front of you. So off I go following Uncle Sky.

    After an uneventful take off I start the pattern and on downwind just as I was about to start the landing drill ATC called and told me to extend my downwind for a Bonanza that was inbound on a long final which I did. When they finally cleared me to start my approach I was waaaay out there and had never done a straight in approach so I wound up way behind the airplane. I made my turn and made it to short final (carb heat out, full flaps, 1500 rpms) and ATC called again and told me to do a left 360 to allow for crossing traffic. I said, "Do you want me to turn left"? (I swear this is all true). He came back sounding like a teacher explaining something to a second grader and said, "Nooo, I want you to do a 360 degree circle to the left and then come back in on final". Okay, got it. So I hit the power and start to climb out at a rate of approximately 3 feet per minute. I thought "Holy Mackeral, there's something wrong with the airplane. It won't climb". I did the slow 360 and wound up back in the downwind area where I normally started the landing procedure and went to pull carb heat out and found, ta daaaa, that it was still out. Then I went to give it 10 degrees of flaps and found that, ta daaaa, the flaps were already down. I thought, " I've found the problem. I'm an idiot". I was sweating pretty hard and was pretty shook up when I finally got the old C-150 on the ground, but made a pretty good landing, so I happily taxied back to the FBO and waited for my instructor to give me my well earned accolades. And waited...and waited. After about 15 minutes he came walking in and just stared at me. I didn't know what to say so I said nothing. Finally he said, "Do you know how far it is to the tower from here"? I thought it was a test question, so I said "No". He said, "Well, it's how far I just walked. You were supposed to come pick me up. And you were also supposed to do THREE touch and go's, not ONE!" I decided the accolades would have to wait.

    But I was still happy. I had done my first solo.

    Mike
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