March 27, 2010

Solo at last!

Isn’t it great when a plan comes together exactly as you intended 🙂

Rosie and I agreed yesterday that I’d give her a call at 7.30am this morning and if everything looked good, we’d aim to get airborne by about 9.00am and try to grab what could be the best part of the day. So I did and we actually took off at 9.20. Rosie said that she’d shut up (I was sorely tempted… :grin:) and leave it to me to fly over to our exercise area. Everything went pretty smoothly until the time came to land. For some reason I couldn’t get my feet right on the rudder pedals and although we had a landing that we could walk away from, it was a bit ugly.

Rosie asked what the problem was and when I told her about my feet on the pedals, she gave me a little bit of advice that, after I’d thought about things a bit more myself, proved to be pretty invaluable. So we came round again and this time everything worked out fine and we had a pretty good landing. We did it again and this time we had a greaser. Before I could take off again, Rosie said to slow down and asked if she could get out now. For a minute I thought she meant, ‘Could she take off (ie get out) on the shortish length of runway remaining’ but when she said to turn round and taxi back, I realised that she meant she would get out of MZEL and for me to do it over again by myself.

I was really pleased about this and after she’d got out, I made sure I did a proper full set of pre-take off checks and got MZEL rolling. I was amazed at how different MZEL flew with just one on board. She shot off the ground and whereas before we were turning onto our crosswind leg at around 400 or 500 feet, this time I was at the circuit height of 800 feet. Strangely enough, flying alone I found that it was easier to talk myself around the circuit and do the required actions properly in the correct order. Power-attitude-trim when ascending, attitude-power-trim when descending, power and trim to maintain circuit height and correct airspeed and downwind checks in an unhurried, relaxed way.

On our previous approaches, we’d experienced the usual lift-followed-by-sink and variable crosswinds, sometimes from the right where it was supposed to be coming from and sometimes from the left. Now I don’t know whether I had the same again and just coped with it all without realising or whether the conditions actually were better, but this time I remained totally in control the whole way down. I even tagged the approach speed to within 5 mph for the whole of the approach and that alone felt good. The reward for all this effort was a greaser of a landing that I was really proud of and after not having flown and landed an aircraft alone for more than 25 years the good thing was that it felt natural.

I turned and taxied back to Rosie and she beamed back and congratulated me. I said that she seemed as delighted as I was and not only am I sure she was, but after all these years as an Instructor, I bet she feels the same whenever one of her students solos. In fact I’m sure she does. What a lovely lady she is.

We then had to fly back to the airfield as another student was booked for MZEL. I found my way back and to top an absolutely brilliant day, even though I had to do the usual jiggling over the trees on approach which always throws you off your chosen line, I managed yet another smooth landing.

Rosie said afterwards that she’d been thinking about putting me solo the last time we flew but I said that I hadn’t been pushing for it and anyway, I thought probably the gap after the previous time I had flown was probably a bit too long. She agreed and said that was why she hadn’t – a wise call I think. I was very happy for today to be the day. The other good thing as far as I’m concerned, is that by soloing today, so long as the weather remains reasonable during April and May, I think that my target of doing enough to get at least a Restricted Licence by the end of May should now be quite easily attainable. I just hope that I don’t regret making a statement like that 😕

I couldn’t let the day pass without commemorating it in some way, so I took a couple of shots of MZEL after I’d landed back at the field. These show Glenn, the other student who usually flies Rosie’s C42, getting ready for his flight.



I also took a short movie of MZEL taking off and when I’ve had a chance to load that onto my PC and edit it, I’ll show that as well.

I don’t know how Glenn found MZEL compared to the Ikarus, but one thing’s for sure. An AX3 is a totally different animal to a C42 and I bet he found it a lot harder work to fly 🙂