As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I totally relaxed on Thursday evening but ended up going to sleep quite late! So I ended up having a bit of a lie in on Friday morning and got to the school for around 11:30am. I went straight to a spare office rather than a study room so I could get to work without any distractions.
Because no one saw me come in, everyone assumed I was still at home. So whilst I was working away in the office, a jet pilot had come in to see our CRJ Simulator, which is $500,000 piece of super high tech kit!(Pictures on http://www.careerpilotschool.com) Two of our students got to fly it and one of them even landed it(Onon)! And I missed it ALL!!! I could have even had a shot! Hopefully it won’t be long until the instructor comes back and we can all learn to use it!
Due to weather, Chinzo wasn’t able to do his cross country. I wasn’t actually meant to fly at all because Brandon was busy all day and I was taking a day out from being tired from flying twice the previous day and also having a large todo list I wanted to catch up on. My Dad came through to my office (hehe I love saying that) and said that Brandon isn’t flying with Chinzo, it’s perfect weather, he’s free – do you want to go solo today? I was like urrr, YEAH! He said right we have to go right now then! So I gathered my things in a rush with the emotions of excitement and nervousness running through me. My Dad came back through shortly after and said they’re actually coming back for lunch and we’ll go afterwards. I calmed down a little and it meant I could freshen up since I kinda got ready in a rush and was looking like a bit of a mess! We quickly went home for a sandwich and then headed to the airport with Brandon, Onon (who was going to have a lesson after my solo) and my Dad, who was going to come along to take pics and vids.
We got to the airport and I did the preflight for the aircraft whilst my Dad recorded the whole thing narrating what I was doing. After starting up, we refuelled and on the way for take-off after I did my passenger and emergency briefing, Brandon said we’ll go out for a few touch and gos then he’ll decide if I’m good to go solo.
So off we set in the pattern. It was very hot – the sun was shining and there was absolutely no clouds – clear as you like! There wasn’t any traffic and there was a very light crosswind, so really just perfect conditions.
I felt calm, relaxed, alert, focussed and confident. My turns were a little steep at the beginning of my touch and gos – perhaps I felt in a rush to complete the circuits or something, but I was working on making my turns less steep, around 20degrees, when I was banking past 30! Also, when on base my airspeed was low, I had a tendency to increase power but since we need to lose altitude, we should really just pitch the nose down, because this will increase our airspeed as well as allow us to descend. Anyway on my 3rd/4th circuit with Brandon, I was controlling my airspeed better and all my landings were pretty sweet. On the 3rd touch and go when we landing, I didn’t have my feet firmly on the rudder peddles and so as we were rolling along the runway slowing down, the aircraft started to skid and started to twist as if it was about to start drifting and perhaps tip onto one side! I mean it could have been a close call, but at another level, it was easily fixable – we just pressed the rudders straight and gained control of the aircraft slowing it down smoothly trying not to lock the brakes. I totally panicked when it happened since I’ve never experienced it but it was a close enough call to always remember to have my feet firmly on the rudder peddles when I land and always apply the brakes smoothy without locking the brakes.
Anyway, the four touch and gos were over and I was pretty sure I was about to go solo and as we cleared the active runway taxiing back to the ramp, Brandon said he’s happy and he talked through exactly what was going to happen – I’d do three take offs and full stop landings. So I wouldn’t just land then put full power on and take-off – I would take off, go around the pattern, land, taxi off the runway, do my after landing checklist, taxi to the beginning of the runway, do my before take-off checklist then take-off and do this three times!
I dropped him off at the ramp, he shook my hand and wished me luck and got out the aircraft. There I was, with my own aircraft on my own, with the engine running away at 1000rpm – I was Pilot in Command and I was about to fly this machine by myself, just after 12 hours of flying.
My feelings? – Still calm, relaxed, focussed and confident.
I taxied to back to the beginning of the runway, passing my Dad as he was taking videos of me at the edge of the taxi way near the runway. I could see that Brandon was sprinting to the main building to get a portable radio so he can speak to me if I need any help or advice. I stopped short of runway 36 and did the before take-off checklist. I checked for traffic left and right and sat back in my seat for a moment to take things in. Looking at the runway in front of me without Brandon for the first time, I took a deep breath realising what I was just about to do alone and made my radio call. “Midwest National Traffic: Cherokee ThreeFourEightZeroQuebec, taking off runway ThreeSix, Midwest.”
The parking brake was released and I taxied onto the runway, lining up the nose wheel on the centre line and applying full power. I didn’t feel nervous, scared or any of those feelings which perhaps someone would think someone would feel if they were flying for the first time themselves. I just felt ready and confident! As I accelerated, I could see Brandon sprinting towards my Dad with the radio to see me take-off! I waited for Vr (52kts) at which point you apply back pressure and allow the aircraft to begin to lift from the ground. My take-off was gentle and smooth. I made my upwind call(to tell traffic I have taken off and I’m climbing and I’m going around in a pattern to land back on runway 36. Climbing to 1,300 ft, turning to my left crosswind leg, I felt relaxed and quite simply content to be flying. It felt quiet in the aircraft. Brandon and I are always talking, whether it’s following instructions, learning something, asking questions, making radio calls or just having a joke, there’s always something going on. But when I was by myself, I was doing the flow checks in my mind and after I was all done with my checks, radio calls and I was flying straight and level, everything felt very quiet. I felt a peace and serenity being in the air on my own and I didn’t feel rushed or nervous or that things were going too fast, which is what I was perhaps expected when I used to think about flying – I just felt confident and things were as they always are! When I became a beam with the beginning of the runway when I’d come all the way back downwind, the power was reduced to 1700rpm(from 2400 cruise) and one notch of flaps were activated. This initiates a descent and just before turning base, 300ft should have been lost by dropping the rpm and also adding 10degrees of flaps. Continuing on the downwind leg, waiting for the runway to be at a 45 degree angle behind me, which I usually judge when I pass a highway near to the runway, I make my base turn, along with the radio call. Adding another stage of flaps and reducing power, it’s important to have control of both airspeed (80 knots on base), preparing for an airspeed of 75 knots on final. On the base leg, another 300ft should be lost, leaving just 300-400ft between you and the runway. Judging my last turn on to finals, I make my call for my first solo landing. “Midwest National Traffic: Cherokee ThreeFourEightZeroQuebec, Finals Runway ThreeSix Full Stop, Midwest.”. My airspeed and altitude are a little high which is alright – I reduce power and point the nose at the numbers on the runway. I scan the runway making sure there isn’t traffic and keep the runway in view on the dashboard so I have a steady and fixed glide slope for landing. There is a slight crosswind pushing me over to the left of the runway so I compensate by pointing the nose into the wind, readying myself to add rudder as I flare. I committed to landing and as I drew closer to the runway, I made sure not to push the nose towards the runway and flared at the right time. The power came back slowly and I kept adding back pressure to bring the back wheels down first. With the stall horn sounding for just a moment before I touched down, I knew it was a good landing, on the centre line and no bumps. It wasn’t perfect – I tend to flare a tad early and climb a tiny bit but there wasn’t a thud so it was pretty sweet!
My Dad maxed out the camera memory and also the camera overheated due to how hot it was on the taxiway so he didn’t catch my whole circuit, but there’s a video of my first take-off and landing which i’ll DEFINITELY make the effort to upload! So that’ll be up soon! Although I’ve been saying for ages about videos – I need to sort it out man! Nevertheless, some folk don’t get any digital memory of their first solo flight so I am grateful for those vids and pics, even though chunks are missing from my flight. The still pictures of one of my circuits in the gallery is on my second touch and go with Brandon – I hadn’t gone solo yet but I still was in control and landed and took-off by myself.
The next two short flights went great and I enjoyed every minute of it! On each landing, Brandon got on the radio and gave me lots of encouragement. On the first landing he said, “Well done Preet! Give me two more like that”, to which I replied, “Yes Sir!”. On the second landing, I got, “Well done! Two down, one to go!”, to which I replied, “Wayhay!” and finally on my last landing Brandon cheerfully says, “Congratulations Preet! Well done! We’ll see you at the ramp.”.
I taxied over to the ramp and Brandon did the air traffic control thing with his arms to bring me into the parking spot, which was really cool! I felt like a fighter pilot coming from a mission, like in Top Gun at the end when they land on the aircraft carrier and everyone comes to the aircraft to cheer them on! It’s a shame he didn’t have the table tennis racquets but yeah it was awesome hehe. There’s a pic of Brandon doing that which I’ll include in the album!
I shut the aircraft down and took down the tachometer/hobbs times and got out the aircraft, to be greeted by my father, Brandon and Onon. Brandon put the epaulettes on me and we got some pics and then headed back for the main building.
Whilst Brandon went off for his next lesson with Onon, my Dad and I sat in the FBO (Fixed Based Operator – which I call the main building for my blog) and looked at the pics and videos and cleared the camera. My Dad is in the process of expanding the school by having an office at the airport too. So we spent some time taking some photographs for our website and also went to our hanger to take some pictures of the hanger and our mechanic who was working on one of our aircraft. I’ll include them in the gallery too.
After that, we went back to the school together (with Brandon and Onon aswell) and I was congratulated by Rahul and the other students. I was taken out by my Dad and Rahul to celebrate in the evening and I really enjoyed going out into town in my uniform, no longer looking like a waiter!
We got home quite late. I was pretty tired but I washed my hair and did some laundry and then stayed up until like 3:30am just on Skype and chilling, reflecting on my awesome day!
And that’s about that! Apparently, it’s all ‘downhill’ from here. The solo flight is meant to be the biggest day of a pilot’s aviation career. Guess what? – it was almost a non-event for me! My Dad actually felt the same way when he went solo in South Africa when he went to train to fly Microlights, or ultralights as they are called in the USA. The fact that it was a non-event shows that I was ready for it and I am ready to push on to the next stage – preparing for a cross country flight!
I’ll be printing some of the pictures that were taken on Friday, probably of the one me shaking Brandon’s hand beside the aircraft and send it to my mum, grandparents etc. It’s a big day so I think I should frame it and have it in my bedroom when I go home! If you’d like a framed picture of me with my instructor after my solo fight, feel free to get in touch and make your order! hehe!
Reflecting on my first solo flight, I feel confident and ready to get back in the aircraft excited to continue my learning! I feel I really accomplished something on Friday. Whilst reflecting on this over the weekend, I have realised that becoming a pilot wasn’t just a childhood dream, but it still is my dream and it’s coming true. I’ve also realised it’s what I see myself doing for the rest of my life.
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