Thursday, September 4, 2008

Solo for the Third Time

Unlike some of the first solo stories, my first ever solo flight in C172 was not frightening, terrifying or nerve-racking (well, it probably was…. for my instructor…. as I was his first solo student ;-). I was ready for a while and the solo kept getting postponed on account of weather, so when my instructor got out of the plane and told me to go for a circuit, the only thought I had was “Finally”!

I do not remember taxiing and taking off, but I do remember the moment on the downwind when I looked at the downtown Toronto and the vast expanse beyond it and it finally sunk in that I was flying the plane by myself and the incredible sense of freedom it gave me.

By the time of solo #2, in the Citabria, I had a lot more hours in my logbook and a lot more appreciation of what it takes to fly and, more importantly, land a taildragger in a somewhat controlled fashion on a narrow upsloping runway. So solo #2 was everything solo #1 was not: frightening, terrifying and nerve-racking as tried to keep the Citabria away from the bushes on take off and landing. I managed just fine but it took me a while longer to get comfortable with that plane.

My solo #3 or first ever glider solo was a perfect blend of the first two. I was a little anxious (this time worrying about doing a proper take off), but comfortable with my skills and abilities to fly and land the glider. Having Citabria instead of higher powered Pawnee as a tow plane added a bit to the anxiety as it meant a longer take off roll and longer tow. Anxiety was replaced by concentration once we started rolling as I worked on keeping wings level. I even remembered to call “300 ft” to myself as we passed that point.

Once we were off the field and climbing, I finally relaxed, remembered to breathe and concentrated on doing a good tow. Soon enough we were 2,000 ft above ground and I stabilized, looked to the right, released the rope and turned to right. The day was not lift producing (not at my skill level in any case), so I just had enough time to practice some turns and had to join the downwind. Did my downwind checks, all while saying “airspeed” once in a while to remind myself to keep my airspeed up, turned base, final and had an uneventful landing.

As I sat in the glider waiting for a cart to pick me up, I suddenly realized how high I was on a first solo adrenaline. It took a while to wear off but being drenched by some cold water helped ;-).