First Solo!!!

“Remember, thou art mortal… Remember, thou art mortal…”

It is said that the Generals and Consuls of Rome, having returned from battle victorious, in their Triumphal Procession through the city, would actually have someone employed to whisper this phrase over and over in their ears.  One can only imagine how overwhelming to the senses such an event would have been, essentially focused on one individual and his accomplishments.  A prudent reminder that regardless of how invincible one might feel, you’re only ever a stab in the dark away from disaster.  I believe the Emperors after Gaius Julius Caesar largely abandoned this practice…

Before I continue with a metaphor that probably won’t withstand a lot of scrutiny, let me just say that on 9:30am on Saturday, March 30th, I probably could have used someone like that.  This was the day, after many months of anticipation and occasional setback, that I first Took To The Wing by myself – my First Solo Flight!

The previous few attempts over the past month or so were hampered by weather, and my almost diabolical ability to arrive for my lesson at the exact moment the winds/turbulence/thermals would reach a point beyond what would be prudent for a First Solo flight.  No sense freaking me out worse than necessary!

So this time, in conjunction with the 4-day Easter weekend and a much-needed getaway with Rebecca, I rocked up at 8am for the first flight of the day.  This turned out to be just the ticket, and after doing the daily inspection and preflight, Bruce and I went up for a few circuits around just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important.

(As a side note – my CFI Brett put me in touch with Bruce down at Fly Illawara at Wollongong Regional Airport so that I could go down there and try to rack up some solo hours without the extra time/expense of a Navs lesson from Bankstown)

3 quick circuits and nothing major bent and we called a Full Stop.  Bruce said “I’m outta here” and I dropped him off on the taxiway before taxiing back to enter runway 34 and make personal history.

Right away, something unrehearsed happened, as there was a huge ambulance helicopter sitting at the junction of several taxiways, and right in my path.   He didn’t look like going anywhere, so I just made a wide berth and got around him and continued on across runway 26/08.

Like the long walk out the lobby after a job interview, I slowly trundled my way to the threshold of 34, made my radio call, and acted as Pilot In Command for the first time.

Equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, and accompanied by my non-stop critical inner dialogue, this was certainly every bit as adrenaline-pumping as I had imagined it might be.  Even now as I type this, much of it is a blur.

I’ll try not to crap on too much, so that non-aviation interested readers won’t tune out (any more than normal) but the most noticeable thing was the aircraft performance was transformed!  I had a reasonably light load of fuel and with the instructor gone, this thing just shot out of the blocks like a Stripe-Assed Ape!  I am pretty sure I was close to 1000′ before I reached the end of the runway!

Anyway, I just did circuits, which are an established traffic pattern around the airport, so nothing really new or exciting there.  But with the enhanced performance everything happened much quicker.  I think that my training in Bankstown put me in good stead for some of the busier parts of the workload such as the radio calls etc.  The final approach slope was a bit higher and steeper as well, and the float down the runway longer until I worked out how to account for the lighter weight there as well.

So I did this for a little over 3/4 hour until I got to the point where I recognised the brain fade kicking in and went ahead and called for a full stop so I could come back down to earth and let this sink in for awhile.  Bruce was nice enough to welcome me back to terra firma with a radio call congratulating me on my first solo 🙂

I would also like to add my thanks here to Bruce Robbins at Fly Illawara, for working with me essentially as an unknown temporary “transfer” from another school, and spending the time necessary to make sure I was at the standard and got me familiar with the Wollongong airport.  I won’t post his number or info here, but please send me a note if you would like to contact Bruce.

So there you have it, .8 hours in the logbook as Pilot in Command, 4.2 to go as a minimum for my certificate, and an experience I can never repeat – First Solo!

Astute readers will note that I played it safe and avoided the Ides of March 😉