Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Flying Lesson #27: First Solo
The weather forecast called for scattered thunderstorms and heavy rains, so I was really expecting another ground lesson as I drove to the airport. But radar was clear, and the flight briefer said convective activity wouldn't be building for at least an hour, so the instructor and I got in the plane to fly around the pattern while watching the weather.
I haven't flown the Warrior for two weeks, so my first couple of landings were pretty shaky. The weather was warmer and more humid than I've flown in before, so the plane climbed slower and descended faster than I was used to. The landings got better. After five landings, the instructor called the tower to request a full-stop landing with a short approach. Then he pulled the power and watched me make a power-off landing. That went pretty well.
On the ground, the instructor radioed the tower to indicate we would make a brief stop at the ramp for a "pilot change." He asked for my student pilot certificate and logbook, and endorsed them as required. He told me to do two touch-and-goes followed by full-stop landing. He told me to end my initial call to the tower with "student pilot, first solo" to let ATC know what was going on. After a few you'll-do-fines and good-lucks, he got out of the plane and closed the door behind him.
I called the tower, then went to runway 20-Right. I didn't have to do a full run-up, but did go over the checklist to verify that I'd turned on everything that needed to be on (fuel pump, anti-collision lights, transponder mode C). I stopped at the hold-short line and waited. They gave me a position-and-hold instruction, then just as I'd started moving they gave me takeoff clearance. So I took off.
I was expecting the plane to climb better than usual, due to the missing weight of the instructor, but I didn't notice a difference. The upwind and crosswind legs went as expected. I had to extend my downwind leg a long way to accommodate other traffic. The controller had told me she would tell me when to turn base, but as I passed a point about four miles from the airport, I wondered if she'd forgotten about me. I was just about to call to ask when she told me to turn base. I had a four-mile final for my first solo landing.
The next two landings went fine. After my last landing, the controller told me to turn onto the taxiway and contact ground, then concluded with "Great job." Thus ended my first flight as Pilot-In-Command.
I taxied back to the ramp. My instructor and another instructor who had been watching directed me through the tight spaces between the parked airplanes. As I was shutting down, the instructor got in the plane and noticed that I had all the electrical switches in the On position, not Off like I thought they were. (I wonder if I had the switches backwards for the whole flight, with just my pitot heat turned on, and lights and fuel pump turned off.)
After parking the plane, there was a lot of handshaking, a picture of me and my instructor in front of the plane, and my shirttail was cut off.
I know this is a milestone, but it was really no big whoop. There was nothing difficult, nothing surprising, nothing I haven't done dozens of times already. But I'm still going to brag about it. w00t!
Logged today: 1.6 hours total, with 1.1 hours dual and 0.5 hours solo/PIC, 9 takeoffs and 9 landings, in N4363D. Cost: $304.58.
By the way, you have now replaced Daddy as the man Hannah wants to marry (since we told her she couldn't marry Daddy as he is already married to me). Sarah has chosen Uncle Steve.
Remember your words "There was nothing difficult, nothing surprising, nothing I haven't done dozens of times already" when it comes to your checkride at the end. The same will hold true. Just get the switches the right way around.
The Warrior (like the 172) is a bigger, more powerful plane than the two-seater 150/152-style planes that many people train in, so you don't notice as much of a difference with an empty right seat -- you're flying far under maximum gross weight either way. You'll see a big difference, though, when you start flying with full fuel and three or four people on board -- your nose will seem very low, and you'll feel that you're barely climbing at all.