It seems even the most seasoned pilots remember their first solo as being one of the most fond and memorable experiences in their flying life. I was blessed to finally feel that yesterday with my family there to watch.
It was a beautiful day in Southern California. I started my morning off with a call to the weather briefer and told him about the day ahead of me. He replied, "No Hazardous weather, not a cloud in the sky, Calm winds, a weak high pressure keeping the marine layer at bay, and no Temporary Flight Restrictions." Good news!
I'm not sure why, but pilots always refer to their planes as girls. Pilots in WWII named their planes ladies names. I'm not going break tradition, so I call my plane my girl, and treat her like a lady. I preflighted my favorite girl like I always do, but felt I had a case of excited butterflies, because this time...it was going to be just me and her.
Dad and I went up and did a couple touch and go's and after the last "just one more dad" he said, "tell him this is a full stop." I taxied to our flight school and dad said, "Are you ready to solo?" With a quick "yes" I felt those butterflies multiply by the thousands.
This time when I asked ground for my taxi clearance I mentioned "First Solo", Air Traffic Control quickly responded,"you kicked your dad out?" This kept the nerves at bay as I taxied over to the run-up area and did my Before Takeoff checklist. I took a deep breath and said to myself, "you've got this" and taxied up to the hold short line of RWY 27. "N47672 RWY 27, CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF." OH MAN! I repeated my instructions and did my "Lights, Camera, Action!" Lined up with the centerline between my shoulders and pushed the throttle forward, right rudder and eyes glance at the airspeed indicator. "Airspeeds alive," (yes, I talked to myself and my plane). Then in no time, I rotated. The airplane lifted off the ground sooner than normal without my dad sitting next to me. As I climbed, I looked at the empty seat where my flight instructor aka dad normally sits, and it sank in, it is just me and her (my airplane).
As instructed, the first lap around is a full stop landing. Dad does this with all of his students. It gives the student a breather, lets dad see if we followed the after landing checklist, which shows the "head space" of the pilot. As I taxi back past the flight school, I give him a thumbs up, and he gives me a thumbs up, I am good to go and fly as many touch and go's as I want!
I ended up doing a three touch and go's because I was having an absolute ball. I came back to a teary eyed mom and dad, hugs from my boyfriend, sister and good friend and fellow pilot Tom. It sank in that I DID IT! My dad and boyfriend teased that I walked the rest of the day with a pilot swagger...haha...I guess they noticed their walk...;)
It felt incredible. I know I will NEVER forget that day and feel so lucky to have been able to share the moment with those who mean the most to me. I did get a video of my solo from the inside the cockpit, but unfortunately the gopro camera on the wing did not work. It is funny though, I had an all business/"poker face" the whole lap around the pattern. I will post an iPhone video of the landing from the ground.
I know some people probably think that is crazy to video tape it, but I know I will absolutely love to look at me on this day 50 years from now, maybe hopefully even share it with a grandchild who too has the flying bug.
I can't wait to go flying with my girl again.
Flight Instructor aka Dad and me.
Sister and Mom