Nothing strikes at all your senses quite so suddenly and fiercely as to hear your CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) say, "It's time for you to solo." "To solo" being used as a verb means to do something all by yourself. And in this case, it means to fly the airplane all by yourself...alone, for the very first time . This happened to me one sunny June day right before I graduated from High School.
I had eight hours of dual flight instruction in a little Cessna 140, just room for two people, about 85 HP. I could do quite a lot, I thought; completely preflight the plane including gassing it myself, checking the engine, instruments, and controls, all the maneuvers, even do stalls and recovery from stalls, and I knew the traffic pattern for our airport in my sleep.
I suddenly recalled how I felt the first time up, almost the same. "What's holding us up? What if the engine quits? What if I do something stupid?" This was the one that was most likely to happen. My CFI explained that there is a lot of air holding us up. Just because we usually can't see it or feel it, nevertheless there are millions of molecules and our movement through them creates the pressure difference that gives us lift.
If the engine quits, most little planes (especially trainers) have inherent stability built right into them that will bring them back to straight and level flight if you loosen your death grip on the controls. Then you simply restart the engine or land on a flat surface. You also become very familiar with your aircraft's envelope and plainly do not exceed it.
We had practiced so much that I felt really comfortable with the first two questions. That leaves me with just one thing to worry about - what if I do something stupid!! That has a way of just suddenly staring you right in the face. Well, I had thought, many times before - what about the Wright brothers? They not only invented the first airplane (controlled, manned, powered aircraft), but they were also the very first pilots (they had to teach themselves), the very first test pilots, and they documented everything. I don't remember them ever talking about fear or panic. Of course, they never did anything stupid, either.
And I thought about my friend from India, Chandra, who went on a three day hunger strike until her mother consented to flying lessons, saying she would rather have her child die in a plane accident than to slowly starve to death. None of this drama surrounded me, so I better get at it. My instructor got out at the end of the runway and reassuringly said, "You're ready now...just remember your plane is almost 200 pounds lighter now, so "watch your attitude."
Everything went really great for awhile. I did a perfect takeoff, up in a flash, and the traffic pattern was automatic. As I turned down final approach, I realized that I was coming in way too high and it seemed like I could not get the plane to descend. Boy, it really does make a big difference not having all that weight in beside you. So I just added power and did a go-around.
But the second time in to final approach and I still could not get down low enough or slow enough to land. Oh, my - Go around again -third time's a charm, right? "Watch your attitude!" kept running through my head. OK, I know what it feels like and looks like when you are about to stall, so I'll just have to get into that type of attitude, I mean just before you stall, and then mush to lose altitude and speed. I had a plan. That was the plan.
So I stretched out my final approach, and let myself mush into descent. It was working and it was going to be OK. I touched down further down the runway than I wanted to and landed a bit hard. But I had heard other pilots saying that any landing you walk away from is a good landing. Well, I don't think CFI's agree with that. Mine sent me right back up for "touch 'n go's" until I got it right. It helped to have a few more tips to remember also.
The Pilot's Log opens out to a two-page document (It is an official document.) which pilots will keep with them while flying. It is just as important as their Flight Certificate, Air Medical, and insurances.
Explanation of columns:
Date/Civilian date is month/day/year. Military date is day/month/year.
Aircraft make and model/ C-150 is Cessna 150.
Aircraft Ident./ 9858S pronounced "niner-eight-five-eight Sierra".
Points of departure & Arrival/ PAE stands for Paine Field. PAE to PAE indicates a local flight.
Remarks, procedures, manuevers/ These are the lessons you have done correctly and they are signed off by your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) with their cert. # and expiration date.