I’d like to make clear at the beginning here that this story happened many years ago. I’d also like to ask, what is required to call oneself a pilot? I have my pilot’s license, yet I have not piloted an aircraft in over 15 years. Am I pilot? Anyway…

I took my flight lessons in Lowell MI, but we often flew over to Ionia to do stuff. It’s only a 6 minute flight, so it’s practically like using the same field. I didn’t know I was going to solo on the day my instructor (George) told me to head that way. We did a few take-offs and landings, and he said “Why don’t you land and let me out?”. I landed (grass strip) and George walked over to the edge of the runway and sat down and I very calmly took off.

First let me tell you what’s supposed to happen on a “pattern” flight. A pattern flight is where you take off, gain some altitude, turn left, gain a little more, turn left again and level out. Now you’re flying parallel with the runway. About halfway down the runway you cut some power and start preparing to land. After the right distance, you turn left again, set your flaps if you need to, and turn left to point at the runway. At this point your power is low and you’re just coasting, and if you did it right you’ll coast down to the right spot and just kill the power.

So started in on that, except halfway down the backside of the runway I forgot to start killing my power. I got all the way around to where I was lined up with the runway and realized I was WAY high and still at full power.

I SHOULD have gone around. Just leave the power up and keep going. But did I? No! I got clever. Fortunately, it worked.

There’s a trick you can do if you need to lose lots of altitude without gaining lots of speed. It’s called letting it all hang out. I killed the power, just pulled the knob all the way out. This doesn’t shut off the engine, it just sets it to a really low idle. Then I put my flaps all the way down (where they should have been anyway). The I stamped on the left rudder and turned right with the yoke.

Think “falling like a rock”. It also gets very quiet because the engine isn’t roaring, and the wind whistles around everything.

I mentioned it worked. It dropped me fast enough that I was able to get back onto the right path at the right speed and I touched down smooth as glass. I taxied over to George with my heart thumping. He was sitting cross-legged in the grass, and got up and came over to the plane and said “Why don’t you go around one more time?”

I went around again and did everything just right. George got back in the plane and said “Nice job” and we went home. He never once mentioned anything about my first go-around.

2 thoughts on “My first solo

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