21 August 2010

First solo

At 0900 on Thursday, 19 August 2010, I flew my first pattern solo. My CFI graciously recorded some of it:

The weather at KHEF was beautiful: better than 5 miles of visibility and calm winds. I did one hour of pattern work (3 takeoffs/landings and 2 go arounds) with my instructor. These landings were a big improvement from the last lesson. I discovered that it really helps to get more than 5 hours of sleep before these early morning flights, and now I schedule them 30 minutes later.

After the dual takeoffs/landings, my instructor endorsed my logbook and medical cert, checked that I had my driver's license (just in case there was an FAA ramp check), and hopped out of the airplane. When the main wheels left the runway during the first takeoff, it sunk in that I was really doing this and there was definitely going to be a landing, one way or another. Then I just did what I had done over thirty times before, though I checked the engine oil pressure and temperature gauge more often than usual. As you can see in the video, the landings weren't my best work. I don't think I had enough elevator back pressure at the end of the second landing. I ballooned a little bit on the third landing and came down harder on the main wheels than I would have liked.

Even though it is a very small step in the grand scheme of things, I view this as a major personal achievement. I feel silly mentioning that, especially when loads of kids fly solo on their 16th birthdays every year, but it is one of the more difficult things that I have done. When I was a kid, I had a fear of heights and was terrified on my first commercial flight to Disneyworld in 1986. I'm pretty clumsy by nature, and I've realized that there is fine kinesthetic component to flying that Microsoft Flight Simulator just can't do justice (especially landings). The technical aspects of flying and regulations come easily to me, but the forced division of attention does not. I am grateful to my CFI for all of his help and patience over the past month.

Flight time this lesson: 0.5 hours solo, 1.0 hours dual
Total time to date: 0.5 hours solo, 12.6 hours dual, 1.0 hours simulated instrument

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