Friday, 15 May 2015

First SOLO flight!!!

After only 16 hours, they let you go solo. Your first is just one circuit and one landing around Falcon but it feels like a crazy amount of responsibility; it’s really scary starting up the engine, taxiing and even just having to close the door by yourself. I have to get the ATIS, contact dispatch (who wished me luck and told me to pay attention and be careful, they were so nice to me), contact ground and then contact tower during the long taxi to the runway. At this point I was so impatient to get off the ground but what I did not expect was how fast; without the weight of my instructor and flight partner I rotated so early and reached circuit height in the upwind!

Here's what my little circuit looked like (I had a practice with Lee before I could go alone on the day): 

As I declared it was my first solo over the comms, I think the controller spoke extra slowly to me and gave me an easy pattern, and cleared me to land number 1 on the longest runway. After I landed I got a “good job” from the tower, something which Lee said made him sick how I “flirted” with them. He makes me laugh all the time but stayed out on the ramp to watch my solo and had a little handheld radio to listen in. The landing wasn’t perfect but I was so proud of myself and was literally buzzing for the rest of the day, I think that’s why they only let you do one circuit on your first solo.

As is tradition after a first solo you get to be thrown in the pool, in your uniform. Throughout ground school I’ve appreciated how supportive the staff and other students are here and I love that we can all celebrate with each other. I’m proud of how far we’ve all come in such a short amount of time J

Progress test 1

The next set of lessons is just going round and round the circuit with the instructor, practicing different types of landings. The theory behind them is fairly simple; you perform 90 degree turns around the runway to get back onto final, do a normal, flapless or glide approach then make it a touch and go by drop the flaps, throwing the throttle forward and taking off again. I found it really hard to judge where to turn and what the ‘runway picture’ should look like however. 

AP13 is the last practice you get before the first progress test and this lesson for me went horribly. I had one terrible landing where I bounced it and I felt so frustrated with myself. I did not feel ready for the test and so went to speak with a senior flight instructor about getting more practice; this is available to students under the skills plus guarantee but only after interrogation to see why you’re asking for it and if you actually know the theory. My instructor thought it was a confidence thing (which it probably was) but that it was my decision so I took the extra hours and was to repeat AP13 the next day.  On the plus side I hardly think about the radio anymore and listen out for my call sign, I can now hear what other people are saying and can recognise the voices of my fellow students over the radio so it’s definitely something that just comes with practice; I needn’t have worried so about it.

As we went early in the morning, touch and goes had to be performed at Chandler Municipal airport (about 5 minutes flight time away) as opposed to Falcon Field due to noise abatement before 8am. I felt much happier with my landings after the extra practice and my instructor was so supportive that I said I’d be ready for my test the next morning.

The test is with a different, unfamiliar instructor and so is a little intimidating as you don’t know how harsh they’re going to be. The briefing and theory questions went okay, I didn’t know everything but I knew most of the questions he asked. He also said my walk-around and knowledge of the aircraft was very good, which I was happy with as I’d just visited maintenance the day before for a talk through the Archer’s engine. Everyone here is so friendly! The test was early in the morning so guess what? We went over to Chandler! I felt really confident for this as that’s where I’d done my practices. My landings weren’t amazing (still a confidence thing) but I passed everything and couldn’t contain my grin for the rest of the day. Passing that test means I’m able to fly a circuit solo something which I was so looking forward to and that also terrifies me. I felt really proud of myself and my instructor that day and I was later to find out that everyone else in my class apart from Lee’s students (my instructor) failed theirs the first time!

My goal is to work on my landings; I have the habit of coming in slower than the approach speed of 76 knots or flaring too early, both of which results in a slightly harder landing than is necessary. I hope I can improve on these.