Sunday, May 13, 2012

To Stretch my Wings and Solo!

May 10, 2012
Pain Field
Cessna 152
.8 hours (.4 PIC) 6 landings

Taken by my CFI

I came, I saw, I conquered. Today, I stretched my wings for the first time and I flew like never before. May 10th around 08:30/08:45am, I soloed, the day the sky welcomed me.

I was prepared this time, I knew I had to solo and I wasn’t about to put it off again. The whole night before, and the drive there I was more nervous than I’ve ever been for anything in my life. I kept picturing each lesson, everything I had learned, the good, the bad, all of it. I knew I was more than ready, but I couldn't stop the doubts from creeping into my mind. I arrived at the flight school 15 minutes early and sat there allowing myself to feel nervous, frightened, and anxious. I was feeling sick to my stomach, like I wanted to puke. But I just sat there, because I told myself I’d feel whatever it was that I needed to now, and as soon as I got out of the car I’d push those nerves down. I knew what I was doing, these feelings were just stemming from the change that was about to happen. There was no going back now, I knew that. Flying had become a part of me, and so I got out of the car. As I was walking towards the flight school one of the Boeing planes were taking off, I couldn’t help but smile as I watched her climb higher and higher, so effortlessly and so gracefully, the sound of the engine further calming me. It was almost as if she was telling me to stop being so lame and enjoy myself because today was my day.

As soon as I walked in I was told I’d be flying a different 152 since the Hobbs stopped working the night before on the plane I usually fly. So, during preflight, I took my time, though it was still a Cessna 152 it was one of the planes I had only flown once. I hardly knew her. I ran my fingertips along the edges, looking for cracks, dents, missing screws, anything out of the norm. But, she seemed fine and ready to fly. I squirmed my way into the cockpit, and welcomed the familiar scent. Though, it was still a little chilly outside, inside was nice and warm and I couldn’t help thinking how comfortable I was nestled there as I glanced over all the familiar gauges. I wasn’t really nervous, but I wasn’t exactly my normal self. I knew I was probably going to solo, but I also knew that there was no room to be frightened or nervous in the sky. I knew I had to be in control.

I did my first three landings with my CFI. My first landing on downwind, we were listening to another Boeing plane taxiing on the runway opposite ours, my CFI mentioned how people at his school would be freaking out if they heard that over the radio. I smiled, my home airport. I loved it so much. Here I am in my little Cessna, flying alongside the big boys. It didn’t even phase me, then again it shouldn’t since I’ve been flying here from day one. The controlled airspace was home to me, comfortable and welcoming and the Boeing planes kept it interesting and fun.

As I turned onto final, I saw I was a little low and needed to make some adjustments. And this is exactly how I knew I was ready to solo. You see, I knew I was coming in lower than I needed to be. I tried to add power, but that wasn’t getting the job done. As I approached, I put my final 30 degree flaps down, usually I have to hold the yoke steady so that when I put the flaps in I don’t let it bump me up. However, I allowed the plane to bounce herself up a little bit because I knew it would get me back on my glidepath. What made me realize I was ready was that (and I may be wrong here) but I’m pretty sure my CFI didn’t know I did that on purpose. Because he said right when I landed, “you see you were coming in a little low, but once you put that 30 in it bounced you right up.” He sounded like he thought I had just forgotten to keep her steady. Either that or he was so confident in my ability that he didn’t seem phased at all. Either way, that was how I knew I was ready to solo, because I knew how to get the plane to do what I needed her to do. I was in control. For my second landing, I was coming in a little low again, and by my third one, I made sure to be right on the glidepath when I turned final, and I was. In fact, my third landing was pretty good and apparently it was good enough for my instructor too because he asked me if I was ready to do this. And I sighed and nodded, he called up tower, told them we were getting off at G4 and that we would be doing a solo. My heart jumped at the words. I was really going to be doing this.

He hopped out of the plane, grabbed my logbook and started talking about how the plane was going to act like a sports car up there. A lot of what he was saying was going in one ear and out the other. I tried to listen, I honestly did, but my thoughts were racing. It took every bone in my body to not yell at him to get his ass back in the plane. But before I knew it, he was telling me I’d do fine, wishing me good luck and closing the door. Then, all of a sudden, I was alone. It was quite, but still oddly comforting. The funny thing about this was that I was nervous all the way up until he closed the door. As soon as that door was closed, my nervousness went away. Completely gone. I hadn’t even realized I had grabbed the checklist, it was already in my hands and I was going over it, being extra careful not to miss anything. I called up ground and then I was off to do the before takeoff checklist. It was second nature to me, a breeze, no issue once so ever. I called up tower, got my clearance for closed traffic and began to taxi onto the runway. I remember taking a deep breath, and mumbling to the near empty cockpit “here goes nothing,” before I put in full power, and began to takeoff. I will say that I was not disappointed in the fact that it really did feel like a sports car. I soared into the sky faster than I ever have, and before I knew it I was 500ft from TPA and it was time to turn crosswind. I hardly had time to take into account what was happening. Yet, as soon as I realized I was in the air alone I was smiling from ear to ear, I was actually doing this! I turned downwind, responded to tower and sat there glancing at the empty seat next to me. I was soloing! I was up there all by myself; I was actually flying an airplane alone! The sky had never looked so beautiful as it did right then and there. It stretched on for miles, the sun radiating down on the Puget Sound making it shine as if beneath its surface lay thousands of diamonds. Even though, I had flown here dozens of times it was as if I was seeing the true beauty of everything for the first time. It was amazing, and though I wanted to fly out into the world right then and there, I brought myself back down to reality. As I turned from base to final, I was on the glidepath, I took another deep breath, focusing, as I came in I landed a little hard, but I shook it off. Flaps up, carb heat in, and before I even finished glancing to make sure my flaps were going up, she was already trying to lift herself off the runway. I laughed, and remember thinking, ‘fine by me, if you want to fly then lets fly’. I noticed I was a little more aggressive in how I was flying. Not aggressive in a bad manor, it’s just that when I’m with my instructor Ryan I’m always trying to be careful for some reason, almost like I’m scared to do the wrong thing. Let’s take the rudders for example, I usually use them lightly, always have, don’t ask me why. But, when I was soloing I was using those rudders like it was no one’s business. I knew what their response would be, I knew how to use them, for some reason I just felt more at ease knowing someone wasn’t watching my every move. Don’t get me wrong, my CFI is awesome and I’m thankful he’s been so patient with me, but knowing he wasn’t there was a relief in a way. Anyways, before I knew it I was going in for my second landing and I flared a little too soon which caused me to eat up more runway than needed, but when I landed it was beautiful, I had landed close to if not on the centerline, and I came down nice and gently, probably one of my best. As I took off again, I felt so light and free and was even laughing to myself. If I had thought that my first lesson was my no going back point, I was majorly wrong. I promised myself right then and there that I would never go more than 2 months without flying. I will do whatever it takes to keep flying, no matter the cost. I really don’t understand how people can solo and then just quit. How can that satisfy anyone? If anything soloing has given me a thirst for more.

Taken by my CFI

As I was climbing on upwind I panicked for a second, forgetting how many landings I had done. I was enjoying myself too much, but I quickly relaxed when I realized that this was my 3rd not my 4th. Tower cleared me for my touch and go, I responded back telling them that this would be a full stop making sure to say my callsign afterwards. I didn’t hear anything back which made me nervous. Radios have always been a weakness of mine. Though I love being in controlled airspace more than not, I never know how to handle what to say and the way to say it. Regardless, he had told me the runway was clear for me. I did my final landing, I was coming in high, but I really didn’t want to do a go around, so I made her settle herself. I didn’t want to just leave without letting the tower know, and since he never got back to me I did the only thing I could think of, I called them up and told them that 4td was getting off at G4. That time he did get back to me, I sighed and took the exit cleaned her up before calling up ground and taxiing back to my flight school.

By the time, I unbuckled myself my CFI was already next to the plane with a smile on his face and talking to me about something but I couldn’t hear him since he was on the other side of the plane and I was still inside. He seemed more excited at that time than I was, but I don’t think the magnitude of what I had done had hit me yet. Actually I know it didn’t. Sure I was happy, and excited I felt free and on top of the world, but it just seemed like no big deal then, in fact I didn’t understand why I had freaked out so much before. My hands were steady my whole solo, the taxiing to the flight school and all the way up until I was getting ready to push the plane back into her spot. But then, it was like my body was finally relaxing enough to allow the trembling to seep through and suddenly my hands were shaking.

This was the first time I attempted to push the airplane into her spot by myself. And let me tell you, I could not for the life of me get the thing to move more than a few inches. I’m just not strong enough. I told Ryan that everyone’s going to laugh at me watching me try and push these planes. At first he just watched me, saying it was good practice, but after a few minutes of me hardly moving her he jumped in and helped. So, I’ll need to make sure whatever plane I fly I can just pull right on in… otherwise I’ll be out there for an hour getting the thing in its spot.

Once we were in the flight school, it slowly started to hit me. It took every effort to not smile my ear to ear cheesy smile. I had soloed, and I didn’t damage the plane or kill myself. I piloted an airplane all by myself, no assistance once so ever. I actually did it. And that’s all I could think about. That I had actually soloed. Ryan congratulated me, and told me how I was to set an appointment up for one of the stage exams (which I have for this Wednesday assuming the chief flight instructor isn’t busy then).

As I got in my car, I allowed my feelings to rush through me. I called my father first, who asked me what I wanted as a congratulation gift. My response? Flight time please? I texted my friends my photos, as well as the photos my CFI had taken from the ground. The congratulations came pouring in. I felt like I was being welcomed into the aviation world. Not everyone makes it to their solo, but I did. And not everyone finishes and gets their license, but I will.

Unfortunately, I had college at 10am, so I had to rush to make it to class in time. But, I didn’t let that put a stop to my mood. I will tell you this though, it was torture having to sit through 2 hours of chemistry learning about orbitals while being all bright eyed and bushy tailed having just experienced one of the greatest things in my life. Every other student around me was either half asleep of had their eyes glazed over. No one should ever be that happy in chemistry. But, if only they knew what was going through my mind. If only they knew what I had just done.

The world lay in the palm of my hands, if only for a day.

Total cost invested thus far: $5756

1 comment:

Melissa Huffman said...

I absolutely loved reading this! brought back all the memories, each step of my own solo! So Proud of you Ella!