First Area Solo

September 2, 2012

I entered Gil Layt’s Flying School knowing exactly what today was all about! My first Area Solo. Holy Monoly!

For me, the week before was full of mixed emotions. Mostly excitement that I was finally being let out in the training area by myself, but that self doubt monster was always sitting in the back of my head saying, what if you can’t find your way back to Archerfield? What then?

The fact that Robert has let me go solo says that I’m competent, but, like your first circuit solo, you have thoughts of, what if everything I did with the instructor was a fluke and I can’t do it on my own? Once I jumped inside JOO though, all those thoughts went out the window. I felt calm and at ease. I know what I’m doing. I had my map and my checklist. What could go wrong?

Before leaving the flying school, Robert gave me a little pep talk on what to do, where to go etc. At that point, the nerves were racing and I just wanted to get up there.

The taxi and take off were normal and didn’t present any issues. At 500 feet, I turned cross-wind and stayed true until clear of the circuit traffic, before turning south-east to a heading of 135° (toward the bumpy mountains). At the time of taking off, the wind was at 12 knots with a maximum cross-wind of 8 knots. Tracking correctly required quite a bit of crabbing. Altitude is good, heading is good, I’ve remembered everything so far!

Clear of the Park Ridge track and the Logan Motorway, I started a cruise climb to 3000 feet heading toward Jimboomba, switched frequencies and kept an eye out for traffic. Passing Jimboomba at 2500 feet, I started looking for a nice area to do some forced landings. I found this just east of the Wyaralong Dam. The forced landings I did were perfect, and I have the video to prove it! I decided to test my bearings and did a few steep turns then tried to find my way back to Jimboomba township. No worries!

I guessed it would take about 15 mins to get back on the ground so I started to head back in to Archerfield. This is the part that worried me the most as it is the leg of the journey with the most regulations and requirements. When I reached Jimboomba, I started my descent to 1500 feet and started setting up for my approach to Archerfield. Changing frequencies and checking the ATIS, I tracked along the Mount Lindesay Hwy until I reached Park Ridge and made my first call, which was acknowledged by the ATC. Phew! First hurdle complete! At this point I realised I let my altitude drop by about 300 feet, I quickly fixed it up and all was good.

Second call was made at the Logan Motorway and ATC instructed me to Join and report base for 28L. I tracked toward the centre of the airfield, completing my checks and descending to 1000 feet. Just before reaching base, the tower asked me to change to runway 28R. I delayed my response by a few seconds so I could reach base and read back my instructions and reported my location at the same time. “JOO on base for 28 left changing to runway 28 right”, “JOO clear to land 28 right”, “28 right clear to land JOO”. Simple!

The cross-wind had eased somewhat, though landing still required a fair wad of rudder input. After I landed, I headed back to the apron and put JOO away. Success! My first Area Solo done without an ounce of problem. What a great feeling! I even made it back exactly on the hour. I was very impressed with myself.

Next lesson will be much of the same – another hour or so solo. Robert indicated that we might be doing my theory exam as well. Oh oh, me and written exams don’t get along too well. Hopefully all of this study is evident in the results.

Until next time…

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