First Solo Today!!!

Today’s post is super long but I wanted to capture all my moments 🙂 You can just scroll down to the end and see the pictures.


Everyone says it happens when you least expect it, and I suppose it is true.

After my last lesson, I was talking to the admin person, self-pity party on how many hours I had flown, how I still couldn’t touch down on centerline…she was encouraging as always, mentioning that the CFIs all tell her that I’m really close….and we parted with the reminder that I should start ‘dressing for the part’ with old shirts.

“In American aviation lore, the traditional removal of a new pilot’s shirt tail is a sign of the instructor’s new confidence in his student after successful completion of the 1st solo flight. In the days of tandem trainers, the student sat in the front seat, with the instructor behind. As there were often no radios in these early days of aviation, the instructor would tug on the student pilot’s shirttail to get his attention, and then yell in his ear. A successful first solo flight is an indication that the student can fly without the instructor (“instructor-less” flight). Hence, there is no longer a need for the shirt tail, and it is cut off by the (often) proud instructor, and sometimes displayed as a trophy.” -from somewhere on the internet


I went to my lesson today with the expectation that I’d get lots more landing practice in, maybe be solo at the end of this week (hoping this year’s record Fairbanks ‘no snow’ time would continue).

Got to add engine oil for the first time today. I’m a little worried at the growing size of the oil stain under the 150. Eh.

Preflight went very smoothly except I somehow got a superficial centimeter long cut under my right hand middle finger – no bleeding, but it hurts with every little pressure on the digit – shoot, I need that hand for the throttle!

My first and second laps around the pattern (right base on 2R) were pretty nice, very level touchdown because the winds were completely calm, and only about 1 foot off centerline (oh and 2nd lap I forgot 20° of flaps in the turn to base). My turns to final were too early, but touchdown was fine. I was really getting my hopes up at this point because when I rode with the pre-solo student a few weeks ago, he did 3 decent landings and was immediately allowed to solo.

The third landing: CFI headset off – it’s just me and the plane. It was okay except I landed about 3 feet off center. CFI2 indicated to go up again and my heart kind of sank. But not too much – I still needed the landing practice (darn centerline). I wasn’t expecting to solo today anyways right?

The fourth landing I ballooned slightly on flare (and turned to final too early again). I was slightly annoyed with myself since the first 2 landings today were pretty nice all the way down – ah! Why can’t I consistently do it nicely? Then CFI2 abruptly took the controls and radioed that we were doing a full stop. My mind started racing. I remembered watching him do this with the other student – that time, on the dead silent ride back to parking, I was trying to figure out if the student had done something terribly wrong since CFI2 didn’t even let the student taxi back to parking – and it turned out that he was going back into to sign the solo paperwork. This was happening to me!

I got 100% on my pre-solo written exam (got teased for setting my maximum crosswind limitations at 4 knots), scotch tape to keep pressure on my finger (so it wouldn’t hurt every time I touched something – yeah, yeah, ghetto-rific but I couldn’t find a band-aid), and I was off [so alone! :)].

I’d never had so many thoughts go through my mind on any flight. I’d always been really calm (or my mind would go blank when asked something). Not this time. It was kind of annoying (sheesh, calm down brain).

Waited for 2 planes to land and was told to line up and wait. Uh…I’d never had to do it before so I wasn’t sure what it meant. Well, you can’t go wrong waiting at the hold short line, so that’s what I did. Thankfully, I got cleared to takeoff before anyone noticed. (On a student solo last weekend, the student was told to go-around just as she touched down…she wasn’t sure what to do but land and taxi to parking. Luckily she wasn’t told told to report to any FAA officials, no 1-800 numbers to call – but this was prominently in my mind the entire time. I’m too close to the beginning of my flying days to be in trouble with the government!)

The first lap was as perfect as one could get – and I landed perfectly on centerline!!!!! So happy!

2nd lap: ATC told me to extend upwind (that’s a new one for me) but easy enough to follow. They cleared me for the option while telling me to turn crosswind. I didn’t really hear the option clearance; on base, I’m glad I had the presence of mind to confirm that I was cleared for the option (I was). I turned final too early, ballooned a little, flared too high, touched down 3 feet off center, and forgot you steer with your feet when you’re on the ground. I recovered quickly, and went up again.

Final lap: on downwind, ATC told me some long spiel about another plane coming in from the south on a direct final. Thoughts: ‘Was there an actual instruction in there? ohhhh, how do I respond?’ “Say again” was what came out of my mouth. I was abeam the touchdown point and it was time to descend. ATC repeated most of their words again, and I again didn’t hear an actual instruction.  “roger” – yeah, that’s a good response… ‘I heard you but I didn’t agree to do anything’ … My mind started racing again because I couldn’t remember if I was cleared for the option. Could I turn base? I wasn’t explicitly told to extend downwind….so confused. “Have patience during your landings” were CFI2’s paring words to me before the solo – so that’s what I did. Only had to extend downwind a little bit before ATC told me to turn base. Finally! Something I can follow! And this was when I finally remembered to say I was doing a full stop (I usually forget until I’m on the ground). This lap was the hardest to get set up on the right glide path – lots of shallow oscillations before I was able to pull myself to center. Deep breaths, relax. Thank goodness for the last minute save! I was getting mentally ready to do a go-around but I’d rather not have to explain the extra lap to everyone (‘silly me, I couldn’t line up on the runway even though there was no wind’). This touchdown was my worst of the day – I flared high and then not really enough as I came down again. Didn’t touch down hard, but I’m not proud of it.

Taxied to parking and was pleased I didn’t get distracted by the crowd watching me. Also actually managed to do straight down the taxi line 🙂

I wanted to do something crazy for my flight school wall picture – I’d decided on the alien a while back but I was so nervous I forgot to take him up!
—Also note: no Fairbanks snow as of late October!
Christina shirt cutting
Traditional first solo shirt-tail cutting time; methinks someone enjoys the scissors a little too much, jk 😀

Rhinestone ‘stars’ because the flight school people are tickled that I work in space research – purple because it’s the best color.

I’m really disappointed that no one saw my first solo landing since it was so nice! CFI2 only watched the 2nd landing – not perfect but at least he wasn’t watching the 3rd (sorta kidding).

All students I’ve talked to remark on how quiet their first solo flight is. I never get a lot of chatter from the CFIs (so I thought) so I wasn’t expecting to be surprised at the silence. Surprised to say that I did notice. (jokingly: on solo, there is no praise if you do something correct, ahh! *wink wink*). Did the plane take off faster without the weight of the instructor? Uhh….maybe? Not too noticeable to me.

The next student discovered something weird on her run-up magneto check and the 150 is down for a while. I was worried when she first came back to the office that it was something related to that icky last landing I did, but whew, mags, not me!

Cross country time now! Yes! But it means I have 4 large ground school sections to read before the next lesson….



3 thoughts on “First Solo Today!!!

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