Last month, I passed a major milestone that’s been a goal of mine for a long time: I flew solo in an airplane, without my instructor. I started taking flying lessons in 2007 but had to stop due to financial concerns (flying a small airplane is a ridiculously expensive hobby). I started up again in April 2010 and I’ve been flying regularly a couple times every week. Towards the end of June, my instructor and I were practicing lots of takeoffs and landings, and it was increasingly clear that I was getting close to being ready to solo.
July 2nd, 2010 was a clear day and we flew from San Carlos, CA (my home airport) to Hayward Executive Airport, which has a nice long, wide runway. The wind conditions were ideal: light and straight down the runway. We did a few Touch-&-Go landings, which look like this (this is NOT me; start at about 3:00):
Things were looking good and my landings were textbook, so my instructor asked me how I felt about him getting out of the airplane. We pulled the plane over, he jumped out, and off I went for three takeoffs and landings of my own. It’s really the first sink-or-swim moment for a pilot, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was both nervous and excited. I did feel very prepared from my training, though. And I also talked aloud to myself through the whole thing, which I’m guessing isn’t unusual. Instructors could probably make a fortune by hiding audio recorders in the cockpit during student solos and selling the recordings. Anyway, my landings were all pretty smooth and uneventful, which is exactly what you want as a pilot.
Since then, my instructor and I have been working on cross-country flights and other skills, and I hope to be able to report back in the next couple months with the news that I’ve passed my FAA checkride and am a Private Pilot, but my first solo will always stick out in my mind as my first big aviation milestone