“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air… .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
— John Gillespie Magee, Jr
Today was the day and it couldn’t have been better. Calm winds and clear skies for the entire state. I knew going in that if I performed well that I would be soloing today. In the lead up I have watched many youtube videos and read countless accounts of others solo experience. The accounts spanned the spectrum from terrified to casual. I have to say that for me it was on the casual end of the spectrum.
Last night as I was falling asleep, my thoughts turned to what it would be like with no one in the right seat to save my from some unexpected brain fart. It was then that I noticed that I don’t have the butterflies or nervousness that I was expecting. Surely this was going to happen, the weather projections were calling for perfect weather. I drifted into bliss and woke up refreshed and ready to go.
During the drive I revisited the idea of being alone but my thoughts wandered more to the procedures and radio calls. I did have some butterflies but now more than usual. These butterflies are normally reserved for the excitement of getting to fly a plane.
As I arrived, the airplane was attached to an engine block heater and wings tilted toward the sun. It was just below freezing and we had some frost. It seems my instructor wanted to take no chances and made sure that we had the best opportunity to fly today.
Everything was normal 0n run up. We took off on runway 21 and started our journey around the pattern. The first two trips, I came in too high and performed go arounds. We discussed the different site picture in this particular airplane and I commented on the plane really wanting to fly today. I adjusted my settings and site picture for the low density altitude, and made a nice landing. The next time around the pattern, was the same and made a nice landing. As we go up again we discuss certain things about what I am doing and then…. “You lost your engine”. I go through my mnemonic for failed engine and get us safely to the runway.
“You think you’re ready?” I replied, “Yeah, I do”
“Then drop me off at the next taxiway.”
She signs my logbook and instructs me to to full stop landings with a run up before each take off. Each time I land she will ask me if I am good for another. I am finally doing it!
As I taxi to runway 21, I still didn’t have butterflies. I was excited but it really seemed routine. I perform a run up and wait for landing traffic and traffic on Base.
Here we go!. I make my radio call and lineup on Rwy 21, do my heading checks, heels to the floor, throttle in. Green, green, green, airspeed alive… woah, I am off the ground. I was at crosswind altitude before the end of the runway. This thing climbs crazy fast when alone. I go around the pattern making my radio calls and hitting my numbers. First landing was decent… floated a little but I was expecting that.
I stop next to my instructor as I leave the runway. “You want to go again?” I replied, “Oh yeah, that was fun!”. Off I go.
I take off again, noticing how fast I am climbing… like a rocket ship. This time as I approach crosswind turn, I hear a call, “Cessna 69012 is going to cross midfield for downwind runway 21, I have the departing traffic in site.” hmm.
As I call my crosswind I let the traffic know that I do not have them in site. At this point, I hear my instructor on the radio. He is right over my head. I see the traffic and respond. I really thought as I was taking off he would have followed me in on downwind. I extended my down wind a bit for separation and made a good landing. Though I was right on my airspeeds, I floated more this time. hmm.
As I pulled off, my instructor asked me if I wanted another, of course my response was yes! The then voice her opinion on the radio about me being cut off in the pattern. As I started my taxi, I got the AWOS and notice the wind had picked up in the other direction. That is why I floated so much. I called my instructor on the radio and told her the winds had shifted. She had me do a 180 and come pick her up. At this point we had a lot of traffic lining up and I decided that I was good and we headed back to the south ramp to start the ritual.
It feels good. Not nearly as scary as I imagined when I first started. It was very serene. I think this is because of the excellent training that I have received and the confidence that I have gained over time. I now have .5 hours of PIC in my log book and it feels great. Not only did I get to fly a plane, but they let me fly it by myself!