My Flight Journal

Saturday, October 4, 2003 4:56pm

So finally, after months of trying, my schedule, my instructor's schedule, the weather, and an available airplane all synched up.

I made sure to wear a shirt I didn't care much about before heading out to the airport today. I walk into the building and my CFI doesn't even let me sit down, instead pointing me out to the ramp and away we go. I pretty much knew what to expect. Three full-stop landings with no help whatsoever, then three more full-stops solo. The weather was beautiful, with ZERO wind. The flag on the pole out front of the FBO was hanging dead still.

One thing about sunny no-wind days: thermals! Holy cow were we getting knocked around as soon as we got off the ground. One of them even rolled me nearly 45 degrees in the blink of an eye. I hadn't considered this. I had a feeling flying good approaches might be tough with the airplane getting tossed around like that.

I made my three landings acceptably. One of them was a little side-loaded, which really pissed me off. And the last one I flared out a little high, which also pissed me off. The radio was crazy busy. Always a half dozen aircraft in the pattern at any one time. We spent as much time on the ground waiting for clearance as we did actually flying.

We taxi back to the ramp, and without a single word of advice my instructor gets out and tells me to go make three more by myself. Eeek! Well, he did tell me to tell the tower I'm on my first solo so maybe they'll go easy on me.

No such luck.

I had to wait about 5 minutes (hell, coulda been ten, my sense of time was probably not working real well at that point) before being cleared to take off. That went normally, and yes, I noticed it climbs a little nicer without the extra meat in the right seat. As I've said before, Sanford has three 9-27 runways. 9L is the main, big one, 9C is used primarily by the academies, and 9R is the one used mainly for landing practice. I fully expected to be sent to the latter for my solo landings. I took off from 9L, and immediately was told to switch to the other tower freq - which was more than all right by me since our "controller with an attitude" had just come on shift on the main freq. The nice female controller was working the other freq. As I'm on my downwind for 9R and my first ever solo landing, she switches me to 9C. A little background here: 9C used to be a taxiway till they painted a white stripe down the middle of it and started calling it a runway. In fact, the parallel taxiway is almost twice as wide as the runway! AND I've only landed on 9C ONCE. Ever. So my first solo landing is going to be my second ever on the taxirunway that is 9C. No sweat!

Before I even land I start digging thru my bag to see if I have an airport diagram. I'm totally not familiar with the taxiways off of 9C. I can't find a chart. Oh well. Made a nice landing and got off on the first taxiway to the right - which led to the big parallel taxiway. I switch the radio over to ground control and they tell me to taxi back to 9C. Hmmm, no mention of a taxiway name. I'll figure it out. Well, I didn't because I taxied right past the turn I was supposed to make. Luckily the ground controller was paying attention and stopped me before I got the terminal where all the jumbos park. At this point, something goes whacky with the radio. Every time the ground controller tried to transmit, all I heard was squealing. This concerned me a bit, but at least I was on the ground and not in the air. I could hear all of the other aircraft fine, so I knew it wasn't my radio. I finally gave up on him and switched over to tower, where they had apparently been calling for me. Oops.

Took off on 9C after more waiting and waiting. This next circuit went much smoother and they had me land on 9R this time. The landing was my absolute worst ever. I still don't know what the hell I did wrong. Touchdown looked and felt normal to me. There was a little bit of a crosswind picking up, but I landed centerline and lined up. Shortly after touching down the nose went much lower than I'd ever seen before and the whole airplane cocked over to the side. I quickly realized that the left main had lifted off and I was balanced on the nose gear and right main - and starting to tip forward. I pulled full yoke back and consciously made sure that I wasn't stepping on a brake or standing on a pedal. Thank God the left main came back down before the prop chewed into the asphalt. I cleared the runway, cleaned up the airplane, and just sat there for a few seconds to shrug that one off.

My last landing, this time back on the big runway 9L, was a thing of beauty. As I'm taxiing back to the ramp - the controller had me stay on his freq - I hear a helicopter coming in to land at the place I'm headed. I turned down the wrong row to park the airplane (hey, I just wanted to shut it down and start breathing again). I 180'd to change rows when the helo comes in to land RIGHT in front of me. Well, he was about 100ft in front of me, but still. I pointed the nose right at him and stood on the brakes. I had visions of his rotorwash flipping me over if I had left my side pointed towards him. As soon as he shutdown I finished my taxi back to the correct parking spot.

I don't know, but if I'm not the first I'm one of the very few pilots at Sanford to get a full tour of the airport on their first solo. All three runways! So much for going easy on the new guy.

And yes, I got my shirt ripped.

Woohoo! 0.8 PIC [pilot in command].

Back      (22)      Next

  1. In the beginning   (pages 1 - 5)   6. Hurricane Season Begins   (pages 42 - 47)
  2. Pre-Solo   (pages 6 - 21)   7. Hurricane Season Ends   (pages 48 - 54)
  3. First Solo!   (pages 22 - 26)   8. Solo Cross-Countries   (pages 55 - 58)
  4. First Night XC   (pages 27 - 32)   9. Checkride!   (page 59)
  5. Longest Flight Yet   (pages 33 - 41)  
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