Haven’t posted for a while, but thought this lesson warranted one.
On Sunday, John told me that today was a possibility for my first solo flight. He would go a few rounds with me, and if he was happy with my landings, he would step out of the plane. On Monday night, the weather forecast was showing IFR conditions and mist at 8am, but happily the sky was pretty clear when I woke up.
John jumped in the plane after another battle with traffic on the 101 which allowed me to catch up on some work emails while I waited for him after pre-flighting, and we took off. Even though my flight was at 8am, someone had taken the plane out for a couple hours earlier in the day so the fuel tanks were only half full. As a result, the lighter plane handled differently and I ballooned the first couple of landings quite a lot. John was silent the whole time, and I know he was just trying to simulate me not having him next to me on a solo, but I was struggling not to interpret the silence as sullen disappointment at the landings.
We then did a short approach and I came in way too high and had to go around.
To my surprise, after another couple landings, John said that he was going to step out of the plane and let me try flying it alone – the standard three take offs and full stop landings for the first solo. But we were going to taxi over to transient parking first to refuel so that the plane would handle more familiarly (especially given that John would no longer be in the plane). John signed my solo endorsement, wished me luck, and I was alone. It was very quiet in the cockpit.
“Palo Alto Ground, Skyhawk 501SC is a student pilot on first solo, at transient parking with Foxtrot, taxi for closed traffic.”
I was a little nervous, but far less than I had expected. I forgot to lean the mixture after starting up the engine until I got to the run up area, but otherwise I got up into the air fine. The traffic pattern was thankfully fairly quiet – a few others coming and going, but nothing confusing.
The first landing attempt felt wonky during the round out and I went around.
On the second attempt I had what was probably my best landing in a long time – a greaser. I pulled into the parallel where John was observing with his dog, and he gave me the A-OK sign.
My second landing was not so good – I dropped the plane in a little at the end. Taxiing back down the parallel, John was waving his hand at me, palm down. I didn’t know exactly what it meant, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with mediocrity.
My final landing was ok – a few issues with the rudder saw me bounce a bit from wheel to wheel on landing, but the flare was fine. Done!
I taxied back to the club and was switching off the plane when John arrived and congratulated me. I have to say, it felt pretty awesome.