My Solo Flight
“I want you to taxi to the end, make two touch and gos, then full stop and come back here to pick me up. Be sure to call rolling when you depart.” How may times had my flight instructor said those words; how many other dreams had he given the green light to as he walked away to “supervise” my first solo flight from the ground; how routine it all seemed….”
“Stay centered on the taxi line. Is your right leg on the yellow line?” The words echoed in my mind as I taxi’d to the runway departure end. I am amazingly calm, that’s good. No excitement stirring inside to distract. I breathe a prayer and concentrate on the uni-com traffic calls….A Cessna on final, one turning downwind.
“You just passed the hold line”, I recalled past mistakes, but not this time. Holding short, I watch final. What separation is required at an uncontrolled airport” We never discussed it. Just use standard ATC separation for a controlled airport, I guess. One Cessna lands, the second calls turning base, I taxi onto the runway and make my departure call:
“Cessna 9211 Uniform departing runway 18″.
“Stay on the runway center line, throttle in smoothly, hold right rudder, lift the nose wheel, the airplane will fly when it is ready”, my thoughts speak to me methodically. The runway departs from under the main gear.
“Maintain 60 knots until reaching pattern altitude, turn crosswind about 1700 MSL and past the the end of the runway”. “Nancy smooth out your control actions, not so abrupt, easy on the turns”, echoes from the past that had haunted me through sleepless nights. “Concentrate”, I tell myself, “no time to get excited now, just fly the airplane”.
As I climbed crosswind, I indulged in the view for a moment. I want to remember it all. A perfect January day, no wind, clear Kansas winter skies, more beautiful than my imagination could reconstruct from my childhood. A warm sun glow lingers as it threatens to end this moment, all too soon.
“Cessna 9211 Uniform turning a right downwind for a touch and go runway 18′.
Perfect. Downwind at 2200 MSL level off and pull power back to 2500 RPMs. Trim nose down. “Don’t use the trim to fly the airplane”. My instructor’s distinctive Oklahoma voice speaks in my head.
Abeam the numbers, carb heat on, power back to 1700 RPMs, adjust trim, maintain altitude and slow to 60 KIAS. “Maintain altitude, Nancy, you’re loosing altitude….”. Not this time, maintaining 2200 MSL. Speed in the white arc, flaps 10 degrees, 45 degrees from runway end, turning base, flaps 20 degrees. Evaluate: too high? Too low? Reaching 60 knots indicated and descending while holding airspeed. Looks good.
“Jabara traffic, Cessna 9211 Uniform turning final, touch and go, runway 18, Jabara“.
“Damn, who turned off the VASI?”
On final, flaps 30 degrees, runway numbers above the nose, adjust power and line up on center line. “Nancy, I want you to land with one wheel each side of the center line. I know you can do it”. “Sure”, I thought back, “I just want to land with some grace”, but now, I want to get it right.
Short final, flaps full in, over the numbers, begin transition and slowly pull the power off. Raise the nose, raise the nose, raise the nose…touchdown? I did it!
O.K., stay on center line….that’s one, just one more. Flaps up, carb heat cold, trim take off, power in smoothly, hold right rudder, on the center line back pressure on the yoke to raise the nose wheel. How was that one? Did I do it right? How did it look from the ground? Concentrate, Nancy, just fly the plane.
The little Cessna is climbing very well, it jumps off the ground with just me on board and the cold temperature.
One more time….on final,
“Jabara traffic, Cessna 9211 Unirfom, full stop, runway 18“.
Where is the VASI? What’s that code to turn it on? Rats. A bit high, pull back on the power.
-Over the numbers,
-oops began the transition a bit soon.
-Give back a little…
There, raise the nose, raise the nose, rats, still too soon.. not as smooth as I would like, but not bad. “As long as you land on the mains gear…keep the nose coming up. You should not be able to see any of the runway as you touch down. Just feel for the runway”.
Taxi back to the terminal. “I did it! I want to fly forever! Do we have to stop now?”
My instructor walks back to the plane. Routine for him, just one more student solo. I want to squeal with excitement, get out and run around the airplane, cry out the the world: I DID IT! “aren’t you excited?” he asks.
Not a good idea to get too emotional while piloting an airplane”, is my response. I don’t want to screw up now, so I hold in all the elation, for later.
As we lift of Jarbara to return to Mid-Continent, I can’t stop smiling. Do we have to stop now? I want to fly for ever…..
My Solo Flight – An Example
This piece is an example from my experience giving voice to what is a significant event in every pilot’s training. Many have passed this way, and may tell the story from time to time. However, writing it down gives it substance and honor.
This week, think of a moment you want to honor, in your life. Put pen to paper, or voice to a recorder and let me know how it transformed from a memory to a story with a voice.