Warning: First time solo raving follows! by Chuck LaForge

The following is an actual account of what transpired on April 28, 1998.

My scheduled flight time was between 6:00am and 8:00am, in a Cessna 172; call sign 738DY. My CFI finished his coffee and we discussed today’s flight. Depart from Addison (ADS) and go to Frisco (DDJ) to do some more touch and go’s to get ready for the SOLO flight sometime this week. Weather is fantastic (for a change) winds calm, visibility 10 and sky is clear.

Pre flight, get ATIS, call ground ready to taxi with ALPHA. Get clearance to 33. At hold short line, do run up (everything is working as it should), call tower ready for takeoff – northbound departure. Get clearance to takeoff and away we go.

Get in the pattern at Frisco and do the first touch and go. Good landing, not as good as I would have liked but acceptable. Get midfield on downwind for second T & G and CFI pulls the power. I announce “Frisco traffic, Cessna 738DY, midfield downwind, simulated engine failure, turning DIRECT to runway 35, Frisco”. No time to go through the rehearsed engine failure checklist (permanently burned into my brain by this time), just get to the runway and land. I clear the area, turn immediately towards the runway and get us to the best glide speed of 65 knots. Get over runway, lined up pretty as you please and have one of my best landing to date.

Once on the ground, CFI says, “Let’s pull over and shut everything down”. We do and then he asks the question I have been anxiously waiting to hear:

CFI, “Do you think you are ready to SOLO?” Me, “Yes, I think I am” CFI, “So do I”

Get the logbook out with the medical certificate taped inside the front cover, he endorses both and hands the logbook back to me and says, “Don’t forget to do the run up again, do three T & Gs and on the fourth landing stop and pick me up. Have fun!”. With that he shuts the door and I am ALONE and ready for the first solo flight. Just to be sure, I question me readiness one last time and the answer comes back that, yes, I am ready to do it alone.

Perform run up (everything is working fine), check doors, windows, etc. and all is in order. I announce, “Frisco traffic, Cessna 738DY is taking the active runway 35, Frisco” and off I go.

Frisco is an uncontrolled field and so far this morning there have been no announcements from any other traffic in the area. This is a good thing, because no sooner than I get to altitude to turn and announce my left cross wind, the Push-to-Talk (PTT) switch on the yoke decides to quit working. Nothing like having your very first flight ALONE and your first inflight equipment malfunction all come together at the same time.

The hand-held microphone does not work. I think to myself that this is no problem, there is a PTT switch on the co-pilot yoke and I can just use that one. So here I go merrily announcing my position at each leg in the pattern using the other PTT switch. A little awkward flying and having each hand on a separate yoke but, hey, I’m supposed to be adaptable becasue I am now Pilot in Command.

Once on the ground, the CFI shakes my hand and tells me what a great job I did. I explain the above to my CFI and he responds, “Well, Chuck, that PTT only controls the microphone plugged into that side of the aircraft and since your headset is plugged into the other side, no one could hear you even though you were keying the mike”. We had not discussed which PTT switch controlled which mike prior to this, but I still felt like an idiot knowing that I announced my positions perfectly while in the pattern and the only one that could hear them was ME.

Anyway, this type of experience makes my first solo even more memorable and I thought I would share it with all of you. I did solo again the next day in a different Cessna without incident. The radio was working as it should.

Chuck LaForge