First Solo


I did it! Monday, 10/4/93, at about 6:00p. My flight lesson started at 5:15p, and I did 4 landings and one go-around with my instructor. He did one "uh-oh… what do you do now?" after another. He would pull my power off, or tell me to make an emergency landing in a field, then we’d pull out before touching down. Anyway, after 4 of them, he had me radio the airport informing them "full-stop."

I knew that meant he was getting out of the plane, and I swallowed hard. He told me that with him out of the plane, it would want to climb. I was thinking as if he were ballast, and simply by stepping out I would float up. He actually meant that I would have more lift when flying.

While on taxi to runway 24, all at once I shivered, laughed, and thought "What the hell am I doing here inside this contraption? These things need a PILOT to control them!!"

So I make my turn to the final taxi-way parallel to the runway, and this big 4-engine, turbo-prop, 46-seat, US-AIR plane pulls onto the runway from an entrance further up. I first thought "Do airplanes have horns?" Then I wondered "How far does one stay behind another plane? Is it two plane-lengths? Are they big-plane or little-plane lengths?" Eventually, the US-AIR plane took off, and it was my turn to get on the runway. It’s a HUGE runway, and I felt like a mosquito on a football field. Take-off is no problem. All I had to do was LAND three times.

I kept my pattern reasonably clean the first time around, but the second time, there was another plane in the pattern that I could not see. I heard him on the radio, and asked where he was. He was above and behind me, so I couldn’t see him through my high-wings. I knew he wouldn’t run into me or anything, but kept thinking "Uh oh! There’s a bogie on my tail. RATA-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT!!!" I was nervous, and what should have been a clean, crisp, 90-degree turn from "down-wind" to "base" probably looked more like evasive maneuvers, though that was not the plan.

Most of flying is not really all that hard, except where it matters close to the ground. Despite the standard use of flaps, ailerons, rudder, trim, and stabilizer, I’m still convinced that it’s really just an artful combination of will power and sheer terror that actually makes the thing touch the ground.

Between all of that, I did it. I brought the plane to its designated parking spot, recorded the numbers I needed off the instruments, finished final landing procedures, and headed back to the terminal. In the back of my head, I heard "Don’t forget to lock the plane."


Copyright (C), 1998, by Ashley Guberman

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