My First Solo Flight
Driving out to Deanland for my 8am (on a Sunday!) lesson, it was hard to prevent myself from anticipating whether or not I would be allowed to fly solo today. Richard had said that I’d progressed really far in my last two circuit sessions so I hoped that, all being well today, he might be getting out of the cockpit at some point, for me to do one solo circuit.
Perfect Conditions For Flying
Even the weather conditions were perfect for a potential first solo with little to no wind and hardly a cloud in the sky on this bright September morning. The air was as smooth as glass on the trip from Deanland to Headcorn with stunning views of Sussex basking in the early morning sunlight; this is why I am learning to fly!
A Few Advanced Circuits
Richard put me through my paces a bit and I flew some advanced circuits such as short field landings and engine failure procedures after take-off and in the circuit. Whatever he threw at me I was able to handle and I was seriously beginning to think that any moment he would ask me to go back to the parking area of the airfield, post landing, and ask me to fly one solo circuit. And that’s exactly what happened.
Flying solo for the first time is something which is uniquely special and memorable to all pilots. As I used to hold a licence, I have flown solo before. However that time many moons ago, didn’t dampen the rush I was feeling as Richard was getting out of the cockpit and re-assuring me that he wouldn’t be doing so unless he was 100% confident that I was ready. And then he was gone, leaving me to fly the C42 around Headcorn.
I lined up on runway 28, waited for a microlight in front of me to start turning crosswind, then applied full throttle. Of course, with only 1 POB, the Ikarus took to the sky like a homesick angel. I can’t really remember what I was thinking at the time but I know it felt absolutely fantastic. As I had been banging in the circuits recently and nailing my landings, I felt confident enough to enjoy the experience, and I also trusted Richard’s judgement in my ability to handle a solo circuit.
Extended Downwind And Landing
As there was traffic on a very long final, I decided to extend downwind a bit to compensate, and communicated this with Headcorn radio. This slight diversion meant that I was forced to do a long final. I don’t think it was really until short final that I fully realised I was flying solo and that there was nobody in the right hand seat to take over in case it all went wrong! But I didn’t need anyone as I had been doing some great landings the past few lessons and this was just another. As the aeroplane was much lighter without Richard, the flare and landing felt different, but I touched down smoothly and safely.
Out of all the highs I’ve experienced in my life flying solo is certainly up there. For me, flying solo for the first time marks a kind of initiation into a unique club. Every pilot at some point will experience that moment of slight trepidation and excitement as their instructor steps out of the cockpit to do a circuit, followed by a rush when you realise that you have taken off and are now 1000 ft above the airfield flying on your own and that you are perfectly capable of landing the thing. It is a privilege that I have this opportunity to learn to fly again.
Go slip those surly bonds!