First Solo After 16 Hours

Submitted by Alain Dagenais on Fri, 13.01.2012 - 00:00

I had my intro flight in October 2003, this was my first time ever in a plane.

The only other time I have ever been flying was a helicopter ride when I was 12 or 13 at the country fair where I grew up, well if you count jumping motorcycles 30 feet in the air then maybe more, but I don't think that counts. Anyway after my intro flight I was hooked. I signed up for the next ground school class and started flight training with James Feagan in November 2003. The winter was long and cold and there were times that I didn't fly for weeks due to weather, but made it to spring.

With just under 16 hours flight time under my belt, May 1st 2004 was the day. I new I was going solo that day (if weather permitted), so I wasn't nervous (o.k. just a bit). I had an 8:00am booking with James and I knew that the air would be calmer at that time. When I got up in the morning and looked outside I was disappointed to see that it was raining on and off. Never the less I went in anyway and I'm glad I did, by the time I got to Rockcliffe the rain stopped. James signed us out in WZA, ironically the same plane I had for my intro.

After my usual walkaround I walked back to the clubhouse to get James. He said that since the wind was calm that we should check the forecasts to see what the upper winds were doing. We decided to take runway 09. I've only flown the 09 circuit once before in a 150 instead of the usual 172, so I was a little more nervous than before. After doing my runup and 360 to check for traffic I made the radio call that I was backtracking on 09 for takeoff. I then lined up the nose wheel and steadily applied full power, airspeed was alive and rotated at 60. I found that it took a while to get to our rotate speed due to the fact that there was no head wind. After doing two perfect landings and an overshoot, James said that I could try it alone. His words were "you don't need me, I'm just dead weight". I made the call on downwind for a full stop. John who is another instructor at Rockcliffe was getting ready to do some circuits with his student, made a call to us asking what the weather was like in the circuit. He was wondering about the weather due to the fact that we had called for a full stop so early. James replied saying that it was a great morning for solo. Now everyone knew that I was going solo.

After making another very good landing James took over and taxied us down and stopped across from the clubhouse. As I held us there he got out gave me the wave and I was off. I knew that there was another plane in the circuit, so timing was everything. As I did my 360 turn I noted that he was on downwind turning base. I had two choices, either wait for him to come in then take off (which might have made me more nervous due to the fact that I would be sitting there waiting), or take off right away. I opted for the take off. I made the call that I was backtracking on 09 for take off. I rolled onto 09 backtracked a bit, turned and steadily applied full power, airspeed was alive there was no turning back now, and rotated at 55 (actually the plane just wanted to take-off by itself). It wasn't until I was downwind after doing my before landing checks and slowing down to 1900RPM that it hit me (I'M ALONE!!), the feeling was incredible, no words can describe it. While I made my turn onto final and made the radio call I knew I was too high, (I guess no wind and no extra weight changes things). I went for a side slip to try and lose altitude. I saw that by the time I would touchdown I would be quarter way down the runway. I could have went full flaps, but I opted for an overshoot instead. I applied full power, kept the nose down, retracted flaps, pushed in the carb heat, made the call that I was in the overshoot and climbed out for a second circuit alone. This time I knew I had to slow down before my last point. I turned final and made the radio call, I knew this time I was o.k. I left just a bit of power while on approach and cut to idle while crossing the fence. I made a good soft landing, rolled down to exit on Bravo and stopped at the required distance. I made the radio call that I was clear of the active, did my after landing checks and taxied my way to the gas tanks. James came out to congratulate me on my first solo. I don't know if it showed, but I could feel I had a grin from ear to ear (I still do when I think of the first time being in the sky alone).

I would like to thank James for his great instruction. James is one of those guy's that everyone gets along with and makes you feel comfortable and at one with the plane.