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The Solo

By October 12, 2015January 26th, 2016Aviation

I did my first solo flight June 7, 2015. What can I say, I am not the quickest at this blogging thing. But they say everyone remembers their first solo flight and I wanted to document it.

The Transport Canada Flight Training Manual says the first solo is a “landmark in your flying career … but do not exaggerate its importance”. In hindsight, that’s an accurate statement. I was very much anticipating and pressuring myself about the solo, particularly since my training was delayed a bit. But now that it’s done, it feels like the heavy lifting is yet to come. Yes, I can go up in the airplane by myself on a calm-ish wind day but proficiency still seems a long ways off.

The solo started with some dual time to warm up. I did five laps around the circuit with my instructor Akshay, and on the fifth he said that if I didn’t crash the plane on this one, he’d send me up on my own. I remarked that his standards seemed a bit low.

But sure enough, he got out of the plane.

After jumping out, Akshay signalled for me to lock the passenger door. I was alone. Deep breath and press the transmit button: “Squamish traffic, Cessna One-Seven-Two, Golf-Victor-Foxtrot-Echo is backtracking one-five”. I taxi and look at the oddly empty right seat. “GVFE is lining up one-five”. I run my pre-takeoff checks. Deep breath. That’s the whole checklist right? Right? Yes. Another deep breath. “GVFE is rolling one-five”. Full throttle. Off the ground uneventfully. Noise abatement turn (per Squamish procedures) and then follow the river before making my crosswind turn. I feel good! 1250 ft on the altimeter. Shit. I was supposed to level out at 1200ft and being one instructor lighter has put me at circuit altitude quicker than I’m used to. Correct my error. Downwind turn. “GVFE is downwind one-five”. I stumble a bit through the downwind checks. Primer in and locked, master is on, mags on both, circuit breakers are all in, carb heat to hot, mixture is full rich, fuel is on both. All good. Altitude 1100ft. Ack, 100ft below circuit altitude. Correct my error again. Let’s slow it down a bit and put in some flaps. Base turn and pull the throttle to near idle. “GVFE is turning final one-five”. Did shit just get real? Uh huh. The runway looks the same as it always does but there is no one here to get this done but me. Triple check that the carb heat is on. Throttle is idle. Flaps to full. Lined up with the centre line (well, lined up-ish). “Use your feet!” I hear the voice of my first instructor Nico yelling at me to use use the rudder pedals. Transition to the flare. Too early! I’m ballooning over the runway. Don’t panic. Nose down a touch and put it down easy.

Ker-THUNK! “Nice job” comes Akshay’s voice over the radio. I feel he is lying. But he is trying not to discourage me. “Well, I’m here” I reply. My first solo circuit done safely if somewhat inelegantly. “GVFE is backtracking one-five”. I do it two more times with somewhat better success (but not exactly what I would call good).

Four laps of the circuit, three take-offs, a matching number of landings, one go-around, and one cup of cold water over the head and I was done. Plus a nice round of applause when I entered the Glacier Air lobby (thanks gang). Pretty rad!

I’ve been asked if it was scary. That’s actually a somewhat complicated question to answer. Yes, there were nerves involved. But mostly it was a good feeling. I had been trained and knew I could do it. So it was time to simply show it. I did the same things I had been doing with my instructors. And while there’s a long ways to go, I know I can get the airplane safely back on the runway. Some style will come with practice. Or so I hope anyway….