[OZAPRS] First Solo
darryl at radio-active.net.au
Sun Mar 25 16:28:49 EST 2012
Greetings to All… I hope you will forgive my off topic message. It is slightly APRS related, but only slightly. I tried to do a GPS log but the App did not work. I really should have loaded the APRS app for my iPhone.
Well, Tuesday, I managed to do something that I was never in my life expecting to ever do - I took myself flying. I don't mean that I took a trip on a commercial airliner. I have been taking them since just after I was born. And I don't mean that I took a joy flight either. I am talking about a flying the plane myself without anyone else in the plane - my first solo.
And not only did I do my first solo, I did it at Bankstown, one of the busiest airports in the world. It used to be #26 in terms of aircraft movements, although it might have slipped recently.
I arrived at the airport about an hour early, having had an early lunch. At about 12:15, my instructor sent me out to pre-flight the plane. For once, I did not need fuel but I did need to add some oil as the level was at minimum. Adding the required oil was easy thanks to the provided paper funnel. We then took taxied the plane out to runway 11R for circuits. Unusually, 11 Centre was being used because 11L was being used for filming. This meant that I needed to be a bit more careful with my turns from base onto final than normal.
My first circuit was a bit rusty, but after that they got better. My flapless approach was quite good, as was the following approach. To be honest I thought I had stuffed it up but managed to touch down gently exactly where I wanted to. After about five circuits in total, the instructor got on the radio and let the tower know that we would be making a full stop, after which we taxied to an area where instructors wait for their students. I then got a briefing, basically saying that my landings were quite good, do one circuit, but go around if needed. Do as many go arounds as you need to until you are happy. If you have any issues with radio calls, ask, and ask more than once if needed. Also, listen for unrequested radio calls (we twice got asked to turn crosswind early during practice). Once I was done with the circuit, request taxi to pick up the the instructor up and go from there. And she got out of the plane.
Was I nervous. Yes. How could I not be. I was in charge of flying myself. As soon as she got out I checked the name of the holding point, and made the radio call 'Cessna 152 UAK at holding point Yankee for first solo' to which the tower responded 'Cleared for Takeoff, UAK'. I then taxied onto the runway and lined up. I turned the landing light on and opened the throttle nervously but firmly, accelerating to about 55 knots. I then pulled the stick back and started flying. Once I got to about 200' I was no longer nervous, more interested in flying the plane than being concerned about things.
There was no one in front of me which was great, so at 500' I turned right and continued ascending. I did notice I got to the downwind turning point I was probably 100' higher than normal and needed to level off and turn at the same time. No problem here.
Then came the BUMFISH checks on downwind (Check Brakes, Undercarriage Down, Mixture Rich, Fuel On, Contents sufficient, Instruments OK, Switches On and harness secure.), but I noticed I needed to go through them more quickly than normal. Then a quick call to tower 'UAK downwind for full stop'. Tower responded with 'Downwind for full stop. Traffic is a warrior on late final (Runway Centre?). You are number 1, UAK', to which I responded 'Looking for traffic, number 1 for runway right UAK'.
By then it was time to set up for turning base, so I quickly put the carb heat on and pulled back the power and kept the nose up until I slowed down and could add some flap and turned right onto base and started heading for the beach on the river. In the middle of this turn I was cleared for a full stop. Down about 500' I turned to final and adjusted the power to keep my height good. I was slightly low and I had turned slightly right – I will fix that on my next flight. I think I was using slightly not enough power on base and also turning so I kept away from the path to the centre runway.
I came in straight towards the runway, and was concerned that I was going to touch down before the piano keys. Thankfully I landed just after them. Not sure how far after, but it was fairly close. The landing was not the gentlest I have ever done but it was fairly good. For a first solo it was certainly good enough. I was happy.
I then taxied to the side taxiway and headed back to pick up the instructor after making a radio call. When she got back in the plane and congratulated me, we headed back and I made another radio call and got congratulations from the tower too. I was really happy, as you can see from the photo above.
It has taken about 27 logbook hours to get to this point in my training. It should have taken 22 hours, but issues with my CASA medical caused some delays where I just kept flying doing more lessons. If my medical had come through, I could have done my first solo around February 19th. A bit over 15 hours of this has been doing circuits. This was more than I was hoping to do, but I was having issues in getting my landings to a standard that I was happy with. Eventually it twigged to me that my biggest problem was that I was not able to explain to others how I was intending to land the plane, and was therefore unable to land it properly. What had happened was that circuits were explained to me before the first lesson of circuits, and in future lessons we both assumed that I absorbed 100% of what had been explained. What really happened was that I had absorbed a lot, but thanks to lack of reference, some things had not really sunk in.
Once I realised this, I had another briefing from my instructor on the correct landing procedure, and this made a significant improvement. This included things like adding power when landing, regardless of the sink over the field on late final. This allowed me to quickly improve my landings. If I am honest, I don't know that I would want to have moved on from circuits any earlier as the time I spent doing circuits allowed me to improve my situational awareness and circuit procedures.
I decided to get my pilots license in October 2011 when Richard and I arrived in Langley Park in Perth in a plane that we had built in a garage. After that amazing experience, I could not hold off any longer.
After some mucking around I did my first flight, a TIF in a Piper Warrior on November 28, 2011. Since then, I have been flying Cessna 152's, generally either VH-JNB or VH-UAK. Both these are basic aircraft with little in the way of modern electronic avionics, which is why I chose to fly them. Having spent so much time in more advanced aircraft, I wanted to go back to basics.
Right now I would like to thank all those who have been mentors in my flying experience. My best friend Richard Talbot has been extraordinarily helpful providing advice and support. Not surprising really, since he is probably the most to blame for me going for my pilots license after all these years. I would also like to thank pilots John, Kevin and Ian for their advice, particularly as I was struggling with circuits.
I would also like to thank my instructor, Olivia H. for putting up with my amateur flying and fitting in with my varying work schedules.
Since last Tuesday I have done another two solo flights, each at about 30-40 minutes long. These are great for building up my confidence and abilities.
>From here, my next stepping stone is (possibly) a GFPT (General Flight Proficiency Test) then definitely by a PPL (Private Pilots License). Then given some experience a Command Instrument Rating is definitely on the cards. The CPL (Commercial Pilots License) might follow, but I have not decided on that one yet. The GFPT only gives me some limited ability to take passengers, which depending on how long it takes to get a full PPL might not be worth it. Of course I will need to save up a bit to do all this training, as well as buy that new iPad which is definitely needed.
I am looking forward to a solo flight down Victor One when I get my PPL. This is a trip where you take off from Bankstown, head to the northern beaches, head south to Sydney Harbour, do a couple of loops near the opera house, head back out the heads and then south at 500' over the ocean before almost hitting Wollongong and returning to Bankstown. I think this will be a rite of passage for me!
Darryl Smith, VK2TDS POBox 169 Ingleburn NSW 2565 Australia
Mobile Number 0412 929 634 [+61 4 12 929 634 Int] - 02 9618 6459
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