Flying Lesson # 18 – First Solo

May 20, 2012

Juliet Oscar Oscar, Congratulations on your first solo!

Sunday was a great day in Brisbane! A cool morning of 10 degrees warming up to a pleasant 26 degrees during the day! Arriving at Gil Layt’s Flying School, I found Robert waiting for his last flight of the day. Wasting no time at all, we headed out to JOO together to get started. Checks and taxiing complete, we took off for a day of circuits.

Nerves set in fairly early and I found myself making silly mistakes. Perhaps because I knew where this lesson was heading or maybe because of the high expectations I had of myself in the perfect conditions. Maybe a little of both! With Robert keeping score, I landed five circuits. Two of which were excellent, two more that were slightly less than excellent and one without flaps (oops). Half way through the fifth circuit, Robert had me call a full-stop. Excitement grew as the moment edged closer. Robert told me the plan is to do one by myself and return to pick him up. “DON’T FORGET TO PICK ME UP” says Robert.

After taxing back to the run up bay, Robert gave some words of encouragement and jumped out. It was now just me and JOO. Holding short of the runway, the empty seat beside me started to play with my head. A million thoughts were streaming by, thankfully though, the important thoughts were the loudest: Engine failure on runway – throttle to idle, full brakes exit runway. Engine failure on take-off with runway remaining – throttle to idle, full flaps, nose down and land on remaining runway. Engine failure on take-off with no runway remaining – Do not turn back! Throttle to idle, flaps as required and land straight ahead (30 – 40 degrees either side of the nose).

After clearance was given, I entered the runway and accelerated hard. Without Roberts extra weight, the little 150 climbed like never before. I hit my 500 feet before crossing the end of the runway. Extending my upwind climb until I cleared the airfield, I turned crosswind, which also felt a lot different without the 80 odd kilos of passenger (Robert, it’s purely a guess! No insult intended). After turning downwind, I called for my full stop and went through my landing checks. That empty seat again started to haunt me when turning base, trying to stick the numbers perfectly I remembered to extend flaps and even used carb heat (I wasn’t taking any chances). My final approach was fairly neat. I turned final pretty close to 500 feet and maintained a good speed. After crossing the fence, I lowered the speed a little too much. For reasons unbeknown to me, I decided to land at the slow speed rather than applying power to smooth it out. The landing actually turned out rather well, watching the video footage, anyone other than Robert probably wouldn’t even notice that I stuffed up a little. Once on the ground, again for reasons unknown, I slammed on the breaks and turned hard to make the first exit. Any other time, I would just slowly apply breaks and turn off nicely at the second exit. I think I was just in a hurry to get off the runway so that I could finally breathe.

I did it! I’m safely on the ground and the plane is still in one piece. As a wise man once said: “A good landing is one in which you can walk away, a great landing is one in which the aircraft can be used again”.

Confirmation came with these words from the tower: Juliet Oscar Oscar, Congratulations on your first solo!

There it is! My first solo complete! A moment I will no doubt remember for quite some time to come. I am now one of a very small percentage that will ever fly a plane solo!

What a great privilege 🙂

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