First Solo!

It finally happened. On Thursday, after a successful lesson, Stanley had  us taxi off to the side, where we completed some paperwork and then we both got back in the plane… Wait, let me try that again. We completed some paperwork and then I GOT IN THE PLANE BY MYSELF.

Yup, you heard read right. Stanley’s confidence level in me crossed the “Might kill himself / Probably won’t kill himself” line and with the weather being absolutely perfect, he decided to send me off on my own. I went out to the plane and warned it, in the nicest way possible, that if it gave me any troubles whatsoever, I would park it on the side of the runway with the dying Apache for eternity. After we both agreed to do our best, I got in, started up, and headed down to the runway.

After going through the checklist, twice, it was now or never. Time for the radio call.

“Raleigh East traffic, Cessna 63472 is departing runway 19. Will be remaining in the pattern. Raleigh East.”

And just like that, with exactly 12 hours in the log book, I was soloing.

Regardless of how many videos you watch or times you hear, “the plane takes off much faster when you’re alone”, it’s hard not to smile when you take off earlier and climb faster. The quiet, surprisingly spacious cockpit is more welcoming than it has ever been. The right seat, which has been your reassurance to this point, is empty. And if you’re instructor is comfortable enough to sit on the ramp and read a magazine (not that mine did!) while you fly your tin can through the sky, then you are likely on autopilot at this point.

  • Line up on the runway. Full throttle. Right rudder. Rotate at 55 KIAS. Initial climb out at Vx, then transition to Vy.
  • 1000ft AGL. Turn crosswind.
  • Over the powerlines. Turn downwind.
  • End of the runway. IAS in the white arc, carb heat on, throttle to ~1700RPM, flaps 10 degrees.
  • Over the football field, turn base, flaps 20 degrees, 65 KIAS.
  • Lined up with the runway. Turn final, 30 degrees flaps, 60 KIAS.
  • Throttle as needed. Idle when the runway is made. Flare when you just can’t stand it anymore. Nose up until touchdown.
  • Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

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My first landing went like clockwork. After coming to a stop on the runway, I let out a sigh of relief, hurried back up to the beginning of the runway, and completed three more full stop landings. With the sun setting in the background, my first solo was in the books. I was already beginning to critique my patterns and landings on my own, preparing myself for more of these in the near future. In the next two to three lessons, I’ll go out to a practice area on my own and do everything I’ve been doing with my instructor, except by myself.

After taxing back, Stanley clipped my shirt tail, a tradition for all new solo pilots dating back to the dawn of aviation. I’ve since decorated it to be mounted on the airport wall.

And that’s it! I’m back at it this coming week. Check out the video below for my first time around the pattern in the Red Stripe, along with all of my commentary from the cockpit.

Alright, David. You’re up.

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