Memorable first unsupervised solo! by Mark Bieschke

I guess that I’m about to be indoctrinated into the “unsupervised-solo-group” with this post, but its really the story that I have to tell that you’ll probably be interested in, not the fact that my instructor was drunk enough to give me the signoff to go up whenever I want!

The treat of today, and my flying career (only about 2 months!) so far was unbelievable. I’ve got to give you a little background: This weekend (Labor Day) there is a county fair at the airport where I usually fly (Spirit of St. Louis) and there will be tons of cool stuff including the Blue Angels, aerobatics, Harriers, etc, so the airport is partially closed (at least the “little” 3800×75 8L-26R runway that I’m used to. So I knew full well that I was going to have to do my touch and gos for my first unsupervised solo on the “big” 7000×150 8R-26L runway right in the middle of all the biz jets that are always coming in and out of SUS. No big deal, I figured it would be a good experience, as well as a chance for me to practice my landings in a somewhat “unfamiliar” setting. So off to preflight I went. As I was checking the fuel sumps, I heard this super-loud roar which I knew had to be coming from a fast jet, and when I looked up I saw a blue F/A-18 #4 – it was cool – it flew the runway and then pulled two 90 degree turns on dimes – something my little 152 never would be able to handle. From then on, I figured it was going to be a good day! So I taxied all the way around to 26L following a LearJet! I got cleared for takeoff and started my circuits.

Then when I was on downwind a little later, I saw the F/A-18 taxi into position! I heard him flip to the tower frequency and request a high-performance climb! I thought, cool, I’ll get a bird’s-eye view of this one! The tower told him to “Hold short of 26L, landing traffic is a Cessna just turning base for a touch and go.” Cool – he had to wait for me! Now I just couldn’t screw it up, or I’d ruin the airshow!!! So there I am on short final, staring at a Blue Angel holding short and waiting for me to land! Needless to say, the landing wasn’t my best, but I felt it was good enough considering the audience! So when I was on downwind again, the F-18 still hadn’t taken off because there was another plane following me for a full stop, and the tower said they could get him off if he wanted a normal takeoff, but he refused, requesting the high-performance climb. Tower then cleared me for a t&g, and then immediately cancelled the clearance and asked if I would do a left 360 to allow the Hornet to get off, I gracefully said of course! So here I am turning a 360, and timing it so I can see this high-performance climb (which was cleared up to 10,000MSL!!!). All of a sudden I hear this roar and see this thing (blue plane, I guess) get about 10′ off the runway and then shoot STRAIGHT up! What a view – it was unbelievable, to say the least!

And too add to the excitement of my first unsupervised solo, I had to extend my downwind a couple of times for landing biz jets, and even was informed to “use caution avoiding wake turbulence” for departing aircraft!

So, my first unsupervised solo was filled with firsts, and my landings were pretty good too! This will definitely be as, if not more, memorable then my first solo with only 3 landings – its kind of a blur, but I was much more comfortable and clearly thinking today. I think I could get used to flying without my instructor!

Matt Bieschke