First Solo!

I haven’t posted for a while (I have got a few notes about previous lessons which I might get round to putting up at some stage), but I have to do a post today as I had my first solo this morning!

I’d had a lesson that went very well yesterday, where the last part of landing (the flare) seemed to click and I managed 3 unaided landings in a row (one of which was on grass which was interesting), and I was hoping for a chance to consolidate this today. We were in G-UFCB today – things started off pretty well, with the first landing being reasonable (slightly off being straight when I touched down but nothing disastrous) – we continued with the circuits, two of which were go arounds (one as I ballooned and the other due to a fairly large bounce), and then on the 6th one the instructor said we should make this one to land.

I started to get a little suspicious at this point as time wise I could see there was probably time for another circuit or two, but I put that out of my mind, and achieved a reasonable landing. As I taxied us off the runway my suspicions were confirmed when the instructor got on the radio and informed ATC that we would be stopping on the compass point (a turning area on one of the taxiways), and the instructor would then be getting out for the student to go solo. After I’d confirmed this wasn’t a joke, we went through a few formalities (I needed to use the prefix ‘student’ on my radio calls, and also what to say to request further taxi etc), I was told not to worry too much if the circuit ended up quite wide, reminded that if I was at all unsure to go around, and then my instructor got out and headed over to the tower to observe (and be available on the radio should I need her).

I got taxy clearance from ATC, and went off to the holding point (thinking the aircraft felt awfully empty with just me in it!), did my power and pre-takeoff checks, including giving myself a take-off briefing, and then reported ready for departure to ATC. I was given clearance to take off, so on to the runway I went, lined up on the centre line and applied full power.

I remember thinking as I left the ground that now I was truly committed to getting it back down, and being grateful there was plenty of fuel in case it took me a few attempts. The first part of the circuit went OK, I felt I was a little more wobbly than normal, though I’m putting that down to nerves – I stayed on track and at the right altitude so I was happy enough. After reporting downwind to ATC and doing my pre-landing checks, I remember at that point starting to get quite nervous, but once I turned on to base the nerves disappeared as I concentrated on what I needed to do.

I got lined up on final nice and early, and the approach felt like it was going really well. I flared at roughly the right time (I started a little bit too early but caught myself and didn’t balloon), and then touched down. I had what felt to me like a bounce, so I made the split second decision that I was better safe than sorry and decided to go around (I heard later from talking to the instructor that all that had happened is one wheel had lifted slightly, probably as I wasn’t perfectly level and now the weight in the aircraft was slightly uneven – I would have been fine as it would have settled back down on its own).

The second time around the circuit was OK, though on downwind the nerves started to build up a little bit more with thoughts along the lines of I’ve gone around once, what if I have to again, but as with last time once I turned on to base leg I was focused on what I needed to do and didn’t have a chance to think about the nerves. The second approach was also OK – towards the end I was starting to notice my airspeed being slightly lower than it had been. so was keeping an eye on that as if I let it get any lower I’d need to go around, but in the end I was able to flare at the right point, and had a relatively gentle touchdown (possibly one of the smoothest I’ve done so far!). I rolled out, exited the runway at charlie, came to a stop and did my post landing checks. At this point the shaking started realising that I’d just done my first solo successfully (I was quite glad this hadn’t started while I was in the air, and I was glad that steering on the ground is done with feet not hands!)

I taxied back to park, and began securing the aircraft – while I was doing so the instructor arrived back from the tower and congratulated me, asking about how I felt it went – apparently she’d been slightly surprised by the go around as when she saw me touch down she’d started heading for the stairs but then the controller called her back, but wasn’t critical of my decision.

It was then back to the aero club where I signed the authorisation book and tech log (which I’ve never had to do before as I’ve never been what’s known as P1 or pilot in command), and then logged my first 25 minutes solo time in my logbook, which was not something I’d been expecting to do when I got up this morning (I’d assumed I’d have another 2 or 3 lessons at least before this happened).

I spent the rest of the day with a grin on my face and found it quite hard to concentrate on anything else…

Now to hope that I don’t forget everything before the next lesson – it would be rather awkward if it was a different instructor who was then wondering why on earth I was sent solo last time!