Today I actually felt like a pilot! Before you go solo, it’s hard to gauge how competent you are or how much assistance is being provided by the instructor. At the point of solo, 100% trust is applied in your instructor to ensure you are ready to fly a plane by yourself. Even on your first solo, thoughts of ‘was that just a fluke’ appear in your head. This is how it played out for me anyway.
Today was the first solo check in the ‘hold your hand before releasing you in to wild’ method of flight training. My first solo experience was a single whirlwind circuit over Archerfield with Robert watching from the sidelines. This lesson however required me to drop Robert back to the office after completing 3 circuits with him as passenger, and then head back out by myself to complete a further 3 or 4 circuits. No longer can this just be a fluke! Under my command only, I would take off, fly a circuit and land 3 times before taxiing back to the apron, parking and securing the aircraft. My communications are no longer being scrutinised and I have no help to decipher ATC instructions. It’s all on me!
The day started as do all the rest. Being greeted in the office by Robert, grabbing the keys for JOO and heading out to get started! After unlocking and untying the aircraft, I complete the external checks and set up the cockpit for flight. GoPro in the back to record the session and the S1 Digital on the dash ready to go! Shortly after, Robert joins me; we make a call and taxi out to the run up area. Run up checks complete, we take off and start the lesson. This time however, 2 circuits in, Robert asks “Do you think you’re ready to go by yourself?” A very quick and excited “yep” from me and Robert suggested I make this next one a full stop. After landing and pulling off the runway, we head back to the office as if the lesson is complete. Except this time, it’s not! At the end of the taxi way, we turn around and Robert jumps out with a wave a thumbs up. It’s now up to me to repeat the said process flawlessly. In this industry, mistakes come with a hefty price tag.
To relieve nerves, I found it helpful to talk to the camera. On playback, the video does have lots of good commentary!
I completed 3 solid circuits, none of which felt uncomfortable in any way. It’s the greatest feeling of freedom knowing that you are in total control of this machine. I loved every moment of it. From this point forth, I have 3 more solo checks where control is slowly handed over, until such point as I take the plane out and return it by myself. After that we start to concentrate on area work!