Tuesday, August 19, 2008

First SOLO!!!!

After returning from an amazing trip down under, I was eager to get back in the pilot seat. My instructor was unavailable for the week so I practiced with another person. We prepped during our few flights for what I expected to come soon, my first solo.

A Review
My first flight of the week came one day shy of a month after my previous flight. Lets just say my newly minted skills broke form over that period of time. We spent the flight reviewing all the maneuvers I had learned. The skills came back to me with surprising ease.

My next flight was supposed to be pattern practice an another airfield with some hood practice in between, but because of a inop transponder, Santa Maria tower requested kindly we stay out of their busy pattern. The day turned into a day of hood practice. We were also able to use the small and less used runway 25 at San Luis.

The following day we stayed within the pattern at San Luis to prepare for my solo. The only problem was the wind. A variable cross wind made landings tricky, but with an instructor, it was a great time to figure out the proper crosswind technique. We also made great use of runway 25 again. Unfortunately due to the wind, my solo would have to wait one more flight.

Windy Again
My instructor scheduled today specifically to accomplish my solo. With 14 total flight hours, I was ready. I got off work today to find the wind blowing even harder since the last unsuccessful attempt. While it wasn't a cross wind, the wind was 15knots gusting to 25, not ideal solo weather. There was one more possibility, the untowered field, Paso Robles, to the north. To make matters worse, 63G was in the shop again for a 50 hour inspection. I would be flying an aircraft I have never flown before. N5269N. Usually a bad idea for a solo.

We arrived over the airport, with the only other aircraft in the pattern reporting variable winds. Not again! My instructor said we should try a few touch and goes to test the wind and then decide. In the pattern the winds seemed to blow the plane around things were not looking to good, but amazingly enough, the air was smooth on final all the way to the crosswind turn. After three landing my instructor pointed me to the runup area. "I getting out."

The Solo
I sat at the runup area, the right seat empty, almost at a loss of what to do. I feel like I am forgetting something. But I wasn't. I took a deep breath and checked the checklist on more time. "Lights, camera, action." The words of my instructor played out in my head as I made my way into the empty runway.

I throttled the plane down the runway, and it sprung to life quicker then normal. They sure mean it when they say the plane is much lighter without the instructor on board. My action came without thinking. Each step of the pattern practiced many times before this. Before I knew it my, first land came and went. Not bad I thought.

My second approach just didn't start right. I was high, so I pulled the power. I was fast, so I pulled up. Too much of everything and I was over controlling. By the time I made final I was low and slow, 50 kts when I should have been at 65kts. Just to make things more flustering, a pair of birds played chicken with me just before crossing the threshold. I flared normally but dropped hard onto the runway with the lack of speed. On the bounce I put in the throttle and went around. No use try to salvage that. I just hoped my instructor didn't have any regrets after witnessing that.

I need to two redeeming landing after that. With sheer concentration, I kept remembered my approach speeds, power settings, flap setting, all at the precise moment practiced. 500ft/min descents, and 500ft AGL turning final, everything matched up and I set the plane down with more finesse then I have before. Two more landings and a soaked shirt, I turned off the runway with a bit of relief. I had successfully soloed.


Flight Hour Logged this week: 5.7
Total Flight Hours: 15.8

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