1st Solo by Tom Wiseman

I began my day by meeting my instructor at my homefield here in California at 7:00am or 1100Z.

My instructor had previously told me that I would be going solo today, so the nerves were up slightly, but I felt confident in my instruction and in my own capabilities.

After about a 30min. ground brief my instructor asked me if I wanted him to go along for the first pattern flight. I said yes, just to make sure I was ok, and to allow him to double check the weather up in the air for me.

I preflighted and then looked at the wind sock. The wind was slight to medium, probably 7kts, gusting to 9kts, almost down the runway, but with a slight crosswind. The first pattern trip with my instructor went ok, but I was slow to correct for the crosswind slip I was in just before touchdown, which caused the aircraft to bounce sideways upon landing.

No problem, my instructor said… Just correct for it sooner and you’re fine. I thought no problem. I dropped him off at the FBO with engine still running… He gave me a high five and said go for it. He went out toward the taxi way to watch all three of my approaches and landings.

The 1st pattern and landing I did solo was fairly good, I landed a bit hard but knew what I had did and thought of how to correct for it the next time around.

The 2nd pattern trip and landing was ok until almost touchdown. I had again miscalculated how strong the wind was blowing, and did not properly configure the aircraft for the crosswind. I landed with 40 degree flaps. In the Cessna 172 I fly, 20 or 30 degrees would have been enough.

The 3rd and final pattern trip and landing was ok again, but I noticed on final that my airspeed was dropping a bit. Normally you want to approach at 65kts in the 172. I figured it was because of the wind, so remembering my training I pitched down for airspeed, and then added a little power to remain on glideslope. Upon reaching the threshold of runway 33 I began my flare. As soon as I did though I realized I was high. I started to push the control column forward to get on the ground as I didn’t want to go long. (My homefield is a fairly short runway at only 2420′ in length.) But just before I actually pushed forward I remembered my training again, which I was told never do that, simply keep your attitude for landing, and add power to allow the aircraft to slowly sink to the ground. So that’s what I did, and I ended up with a pretty good landing. Not perfect, but not a hard landing, and definately not a landing on the nose gear.

After shutting down and some picture taking by my instructor, he asked me why I choose to land with 40 degree flaps. I told I had thought about using only 20 or 30 but for some reason I choose not to. I contributed that lack of intelligence to nerves, being my first solo and all. But he had just confirmed what I had felt while flying.

So.. The moral of the story here is, and the reason I am writing this, is to tell all the rest of the student pilots out there to always remember your training, and trust your instructors. And of course, trust yourself. The CFI’s out there have been flying quite a while and have a lot of hours under their belt, so they know what their doing. And I had received excellent training in my opinion, so I should have trusted myself when it came to how much flaps to use on final and landing. If I had not listened to my instructor concerning pushing the control column forward though, I may have ended up damaging the aircraft and possibly myself. So at least I trusted my training in that regard.

Before my solo flight, I figured I didn’t know it all and I always tried to listen to everything my instructor had said and taught me. Now, I know for sure I don’t know it all, and I will always listen to everything my instructor tells me!

Happy flying.

Tom Wiseman