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Thread: First Solo

  1. #1
    Member PatrickH's Avatar
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    Thumbs up First Solo

    When I was a kid I remember thinking that flying your own airplane would be the coolest thing possible. Unfortunately it took another 40 years to have the ability to do something about it. I got flying lessons started last summer, but work got too busy and life too complicated. I had to take a break, which I know sets you back in your progress.
    I recently got back into the lessons at Land and Sea at Merrill Field. I figured it would be about the busiest airport I am likely to use in Alaska, so if I get comfortable there, everywhere else should be less complicated. Getting comfortable using the radio was the my first challenge. Some people say the radio is the hardest part of flying.
    Last week we were doing pattern work in preparation for solo, but I had an off day, and almost all the landings sucked. They were worse than most of the landings I had done previously. I think I made most of the mistakes possible. I came in too fast, I leveled off too high, I flaired too soon and ballooned up. I guess it was good experience, but it sure was frustrating. I finally did it right at the end and called it a day.
    Yesterday we went up and the first four landings were good. Everything seemed to be different even though it was the same weather, the same Cessna 172, the same instructor. Mark, my instructor, said I was ready any time I wanted to solo. I decided to get it over with right away, so the next landing was a full stop. Mark signed off on my license and got out.
    I was nervous, but I knew it was mostly a psychological issue. I just focused on flying the plane and did not let my mind wander into the "what ifs." I got my clearances, taxied and took off. Now I was committed because I had to get back down somehow.
    I knew the airplane would be more responsive because of the lighter weight, but the difference surprised me. I had a much better rate of climb and the plane reacted more quickly to control input.
    Right after turning crosswind the tower called and said there was a helicopter taking off and another airplane to the southeast. I spotted the plane as I turned downwind, but the helicopter was white against a white background. I spotted it as soon as I told the tower that I was looking. I pulled the carb heat, dropped flaps and remembered to breathe as I finished the downwind leg.
    I turned to base and started my descent. The tower was talking to other pilots in the meantime. I am surprised they did not say, "watch out for the guy in the Cessna," but everything was actually going well. The better response of the airplane made it even easier. I dropped some more flaps and turned to final right on the glide path.
    I got lined up with the center line and dropped the rest of my flaps. I checked my speed and was right on target. I brought the plane down to the numbers and leveled off just right. I started the flare and was careful not to pull up too fast. The stall warning started buzzing as I continued to pull back. The main wheels touched down gently. I held the nose up for a little bit, then let it settle to the ground.
    I let my brain celebrate for about a second before getting back to flying the plane. I think it was my best landing ever, and I did it all by myself!
    However there was no time to relax yet. I had two more to go. I pushed in the carb heat, raised the flaps and pushed in the throttle. Before I knew it I was in the air again. I concentrated on doing everything right. This time on final there was a little more wind to correct for. Even so the landing went well. Two down and one to go.
    Everything went well in the pattern, but I turned to base a little above the glide path. I pulled more power and dropped the rest of the flaps to settle into the glidepath. This time the wind was a little stronger and gusts pushed my tail unpredictably. Just as I was over the numbers a gust of wind lifted my right wing some and made me yaw. I pulled up a little high to get level and straight again. I added a little power because I was high and felt the plane settling to the runway. I added a little more power and pulled up the nose even more. I touched down on my left main first followed by very quickly by the right. I pulled all power and held the nose up for a few seconds before letting it drop gently to the pavement. Not the prettiest touchdown, but it landed fairly softly and nearly level. I had maintained control even with the last-second gusts of wind.
    I remembered to follow protocol getting off the runway and taxiing back to the tiedown. I didn't want to forget and screw up the simple things. Thank goodness for checklists. I taxied to the tiedown where Mark was waiting with a handshake and a "congratulations!"
    We secured the plane and gathered my gear. Now the adrenilen rush started kicking in. WOW!!! Mark and I went back to the office, settled up the bill and filled out the logbook. Then out came the scissors. I had been wearing my least-favorite shirts for the last few flights just in case. Off came the shirt tail and I was on my way back to work. I was so jazzed that I could not eat a free home-made brownie on the way out. (Those who know me know that I never turn down free brownies!)
    I know there will be other milestones in getting my license, but the first solo will be hard to beat. I was on a high for the rest of the day.
    You know I was right when I was a kid. Flying an airplane by yourself is totally cool!
    Patrick

  2. #2
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    Default

    Congratulations! That moment was about 33 years ago for me, but your story brings the memory back like it was yesterday. Nothing quite like it, is there? Thanks....Louis
    Louis Knapp

  3. #3
    Member moose-head's Avatar
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    Great story!!! I'm glad you took the time to share it with us.
    If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  4. #4
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    Thumbs up

    Congratulations Patrick! Keep up your training and get that pilot certificate, then get a seaplane rating, you'll then wonder why you ever thought flying a wheel plane was cool!

    I was 3yrs old when my father sat me into the seat of a P-47 that he had been flying. I was fascinated by all of the strange gadgetry on the dash and a stick that could be moved in different directions. I started to fly in '68 on floats and have never lost the jazzed-up feeling you get from a well executed takeoff or landing, especially on floats.

    Wait 'til you get a greaser, that'll feel way cool!

  5. #5

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    Great story..........a flood of memories.

  6. #6
    WillowBilly
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    Congratulations..... Thats what its all about!!!!!! WB

  7. #7
    Member AkPacer's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Congratulations!! It only gets more fun the further you progress.

  8. #8
    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    Default thanks for the story

    Congrats!!!! How many hours did it take you? I'm working on my private as well and have 10 hours so far.. Last flight we were working on take offs and landing and it wasn't pretty Good luck with the rest of your training and please keep us up to date with you progress.

  9. #9
    New member akhunter02's Avatar
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    Default cool

    keep at it, i passed my check ride back in Dec. This week I start mountain flying training. Keep learning and keep having fun

  10. #10

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    Congrats! Nice story...Like most everybody else, it brought back memories for me from this time last year when I did my solo. Now that you have started, stick with it. If at all possible, don't do like I did and take a long break. For personal reasons, I stopped my trainning back in July and planned to start back again around Oct. Unfortunately I put off starting again until this Jan. But, I am now prepping for my checkride and should been ready soon after getting back from Mongolia mid May.

    Keep it up, it only keeps getting better!

  11. #11

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    Where at Merrill is land and sea?

  12. #12
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    Default Congratulations !!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by PatrickH View Post
    When I was a kid I remember thinking that flying your own airplane would be the coolest thing possible. Unfortunately it took another 40 years to have the ability to do something about it. I got flying lessons started last summer, but work got too busy and life too complicated. I had to take a break, which I know sets you back in your progress.
    I recently got back into the lessons at Land and Sea at Merrill Field. I figured it would be about the busiest airport I am likely to use in Alaska, so if I get comfortable there, everywhere else should be less complicated. Getting comfortable using the radio was the my first challenge. Some people say the radio is the hardest part of flying.
    Last week we were doing pattern work in preparation for solo, but I had an off day, and almost all the landings sucked. They were worse than most of the landings I had done previously. I think I made most of the mistakes possible. I came in too fast, I leveled off too high, I flaired too soon and ballooned up. I guess it was good experience, but it sure was frustrating. I finally did it right at the end and called it a day.
    Yesterday we went up and the first four landings were good. Everything seemed to be different even though it was the same weather, the same Cessna 172, the same instructor. Mark, my instructor, said I was ready any time I wanted to solo. I decided to get it over with right away, so the next landing was a full stop. Mark signed off on my license and got out.
    I was nervous, but I knew it was mostly a psychological issue. I just focused on flying the plane and did not let my mind wander into the "what ifs." I got my clearances, taxied and took off. Now I was committed because I had to get back down somehow.
    I knew the airplane would be more responsive because of the lighter weight, but the difference surprised me. I had a much better rate of climb and the plane reacted more quickly to control input.
    Right after turning crosswind the tower called and said there was a helicopter taking off and another airplane to the southeast. I spotted the plane as I turned downwind, but the helicopter was white against a white background. I spotted it as soon as I told the tower that I was looking. I pulled the carb heat, dropped flaps and remembered to breathe as I finished the downwind leg.
    I turned to base and started my descent. The tower was talking to other pilots in the meantime. I am surprised they did not say, "watch out for the guy in the Cessna," but everything was actually going well. The better response of the airplane made it even easier. I dropped some more flaps and turned to final right on the glide path.
    I got lined up with the center line and dropped the rest of my flaps. I checked my speed and was right on target. I brought the plane down to the numbers and leveled off just right. I started the flare and was careful not to pull up too fast. The stall warning started buzzing as I continued to pull back. The main wheels touched down gently. I held the nose up for a little bit, then let it settle to the ground.
    I let my brain celebrate for about a second before getting back to flying the plane. I think it was my best landing ever, and I did it all by myself!
    However there was no time to relax yet. I had two more to go. I pushed in the carb heat, raised the flaps and pushed in the throttle. Before I knew it I was in the air again. I concentrated on doing everything right. This time on final there was a little more wind to correct for. Even so the landing went well. Two down and one to go.
    Everything went well in the pattern, but I turned to base a little above the glide path. I pulled more power and dropped the rest of the flaps to settle into the glidepath. This time the wind was a little stronger and gusts pushed my tail unpredictably. Just as I was over the numbers a gust of wind lifted my right wing some and made me yaw. I pulled up a little high to get level and straight again. I added a little power because I was high and felt the plane settling to the runway. I added a little more power and pulled up the nose even more. I touched down on my left main first followed by very quickly by the right. I pulled all power and held the nose up for a few seconds before letting it drop gently to the pavement. Not the prettiest touchdown, but it landed fairly softly and nearly level. I had maintained control even with the last-second gusts of wind.
    I remembered to follow protocol getting off the runway and taxiing back to the tiedown. I didn't want to forget and screw up the simple things. Thank goodness for checklists. I taxied to the tiedown where Mark was waiting with a handshake and a "congratulations!"
    We secured the plane and gathered my gear. Now the adrenilen rush started kicking in. WOW!!! Mark and I went back to the office, settled up the bill and filled out the logbook. Then out came the scissors. I had been wearing my least-favorite shirts for the last few flights just in case. Off came the shirt tail and I was on my way back to work. I was so jazzed that I could not eat a free home-made brownie on the way out. (Those who know me know that I never turn down free brownies!)
    I know there will be other milestones in getting my license, but the first solo will be hard to beat. I was on a high for the rest of the day.
    You know I was right when I was a kid. Flying an airplane by yourself is totally cool!
    Patrick
    Thanks for sharing that experience. My solo was on a Friday the Thirteeenth, way back in April of 1956. Since then, almost 20,000 Alaska flying hours and 62-years have passed by. I still love the flying! Of all those hours, though,that solo still seems fresher than most. Congratulations again. One day soon you'll just put the airplane on like an old jacket, and you'll never again look back . . . . .

    Grizzly 1

  13. #13

    Default solo

    Patrick
    your story brings back many memories. I soloed in 1992 and It was truly an event I will never forget. I just bought my first airplane, a Cessna 150.
    Just goes to show that if you can dream it you can do it!!!!!

  14. #14
    Member PatrickH's Avatar
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    Default Thanks

    for the replies. I wrote out the post mostly to cement the memory in my mind. I am glad it brought back memories for others. It is definitely cool. I am hoping the fun just keeps getting better. I still have no real idea of what I will do once I have the license, but I can see getting more education and experience. Maybe it can work into a retirement job.
    Jim- Land and Sea is in Hanger.net across the street from Wendys. They have a couple of 172s and a couple of Citabrias. I think they will be expanding to multi-engine and an LSA in the future.
    Patrick

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatrickH View Post
    for the replies. I wrote out the post mostly to cement the memory in my mind. I am glad it brought back memories for others. It is definitely cool. I am hoping the fun just keeps getting better. I still have no real idea of what I will do once I have the license, but I can see getting more education and experience. Maybe it can work into a retirement job.
    Jim- Land and Sea is in Hanger.net across the street from Wendys. They have a couple of 172s and a couple of Citabrias. I think they will be expanding to multi-engine and an LSA in the future.
    Patrick
    Is unusual attitude's still based out of that hanger? Payne I think his name was. Did aerobatic training in a Citabria. You might want a few hours of that after you get your license.

  16. #16
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    Default Grizzly 1

    Quote Originally Posted by jim in anchorage View Post
    Is unusual attitude's still based out of that hanger? Payne I think his name was. Did aerobatic training in a Citabria. You might want a few hours of that after you get your license.
    Only a few hours (five or less, in fact) will be the best dual you'll ever get! And that includes the instrument dual !!! As the man said, Just do it!

    MM

  17. #17
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    Congratulations Patrick. Your story sounds very familiar- I did my first solo on January 22 of this year, with Mark as my instructor over at Land and Sea, and also had to contend with looking for a hard to spot helicopter while making my turn to base for Runway 7. I also had a really tough lesson the time before my solo where all of my landings sucked, but pulled it all together the next week for my solo.

    One thing that stuck in my mind when I did my solo was that I suddenly heard that ATC voice in my headset in a new light. I still remember who it was, probably won't ever forget the voice. The folks in the tower at Merrill are great and a few of them called up on the radio to congratulate me after I did my final landing.

    Right now I'm only one or two more hours away from my checkride and am very excited. Mark is indeed an awesome instructor and I feel fortunate to have learned with him.

    Best of luck on your cross countries, Patrick!

  18. #18
    New member AKDSLDOG's Avatar
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    Way cool! Congratulations! I will go for my license some day.......

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