- Published on Monday, 30 July 2012 12:30
Adam Southward (PPL Student)
In American aviation lore, the traditional removal of a new pilot's shirt tail is a sign of the instructor's new confidence in his student after successful completion of the 1st solo flight. Luckily for me, I live in the UK and Charlotte didn’t try to mutilate my clothing after I landed. However, I was very pleased to hear her praise for my landing, which I have to admit was pretty good. It would have been even better if I'd kept my eyes open.
It seems to be standard practice to spring the 1st solo on a student, not giving them time to get nervous and break out in uncontrollable sweaty palms. This is definitely a good thing and when I heard those words from Charlotte "I'm going to hop out now, why don't you have a go by yourself", I barely had time to flinch. Charlotte assured me I was ready. Taking this as a sign of ultimate responsibility on her part if I messed up, I let her get out. She sauntered over to the tower where I'm convinced they all donned crash helmets and put out a NOTAM.
An eerie calm took me at that point. I had been expecting my solo around 15 hours, but didn't expect it today because I hadn't flown for a few weeks. I got the checklist out and took extra special care over each item. My initial call over the radio including the word "student" made me smile and as I taxied across the grass I started to feel very excited.
Without describing the whole circuit, there were certain points in this experience that are worth talking about. For example, I had a brief scare when I heard a 'bang' just I was rotating. I think it was actually a bang on the radio (there was broken chatter going on) and I dismissed it, but it did break my perfect concentration, if only for a split-second!
Once in the climb I had the awful/wonderful (delete as appropriate) feeling that I was totally committed. I had to fly this thing around the circuit and land it (without breaking it). I must admit to having a few moments of heart-thumping anxiety, which (and this is a tribute to good training) soon faded as I focused on what I should be doing: flying the aeroplane.
Once I had turned crosswind and started really paying attention, my nerves disappeared and I began to enjoy it. With only 1 POB the Robin climbs and handles a little better, and I was soon settled on the downwind leg, doing my checks, keeping an eye out for enemy fighters etc :) Turning onto base I looked towards the airfield (yes Charlotte, I remembered carb heat first!) and thought "I'm nearly there, where did that time go?".
I have to say my approach was probably the best I've done so far, and that was probably because there was nobody to sort it out for me if I messed up. I was talking to myself a little "airspeed, airspeed, airspeed" but I think it worked. As I landed my grin was so big I had to open the canopy to let it out. The tower gave me a big 'congratulations' on the radio, and although I was quite tempted to go and do it all again, I could see Charlotte heading back to the club so thought I'd better follow her.
The feeling of elation is immense. The fact that you can fly an aeroplane ON YOUR OWN, makes you feel on top of the world. I told nearly every person I saw that afternoon and evening. Most didn't know anything about flying and failed to see the significance, but hopefully the people reading this will.
The last paragraph should certainly thank Charlotte. It is definitely a matter of good training that enables us to fly these things. And I was also Charlotte’s first solo student, so congratulations!