Exercise 14

Those in the know will recognise the significance of the first occurrence of ‘Ex 14’ in a pilot’s log book. For those who don’t know, exercise 14 in the ‘Pratt’ book is entitled ‘Solo flights and local flying’.

Yes, today, I went solo!

Arrived at Brize early (as usual) and after I signed the flying order book and had my ‘knowledge quiz’ checked (two of the remaining solo pre-requisites) and then Chris briefed me on what we were going to do.

The plan was for me to do a couple of circuits to prove I could still fly, then we could do a couple more where he would demo a glide and flapless approach (two more of the pre-requisites for going solo).

So, we did the first two circuits which were nothing special, but they were obviously OK because on downwind for the 3rd circuit Chris said ‘I’ll handle the radio for this one’.

Expecting him to request permission for a glide or flapless approach, I listened in to hear him say ‘Golf Alpha Foxtrot, downwind to land then I’d like permission to send the student on first solo’.

Gulp.

Somehow I managed to do a decent landing, and vacated the runway, stopping at the holding point and carrying out the after landing checks. Then, I had the unusual experience of sitting in an aircraft by myself with the engine running for the first time, as Chris got out, closed the door and walked off back to the club.

Again, gulp.

So I did a quick 360 on the taxiway (the taxiways at Brize are wider than a lot of runways at GA airfields!) and carried out the pre-takeoff checks at the hold.I then called for my clearance, and was given the usual squawk for the visual circuit.

I’d been thinking on how I’d modify my radio call on the first solo, as I wanted ATC to be fully aware of my limitations before I took off. I settled on ‘Brize Tower, Golf Bravo Papa Alpha Foxtrot is ready for departure. Solo student on first solo.’

I was cleared to takeoff, and headed out on the runway. Last checks carried out, and it was full power, check the Ts and Ps and RPM, and off we went!

I’d read a lot of other people’s first solo accounts, and they all mention how radically different the rate of climb is with only 1 POB. They’re right! I’ve never got to 500 feet so quickly, and after the crosswind turn I had loads of time after levelling off before making the turn to downwind.

Made the downwind call, then went through the downwind checks out loud as usual, finding it slightly amusing that I was talking to myself! Base and final were uneventful, and the landing was acceptable, but far from perfect.

This continued until my final circuit (Brize were expecting a couple of ‘heavy’ arrivals, and Chris didn’t want me orbiting in the circuit on my first solo). Then, after I’d done the downwind checks, the sun came out, and it finally hit me that I was really up there by myself! Out came the big cheesy grin, and I was back to being a 4 year old the first time my dad let me sit on his knee and steer the car 🙂 .

So, first solo flight was over. I taxyed back, parked up and finally had time to fully think about what I’d just done. I can’t come up with any words to describe, but I don’t remember much of the trudge back to the club.

Chris was waiting, and all he had to say was ‘That sounded OK!’ (there’s a radio tuned to the Tower frequency in the club), but he presented me with a ‘First Solo’ certificate, and I realised that in my excitement I’d forgotten to make a note of the tacho time at shutdown. Doh.

I then had an hour to kill while Chris went up with another student, who was also later cleared for his first solo. Chris had a busy day!

Then I had another session, and I managed to completely miss the ‘after being cleared onto the runway’ checklist, meaning I took off without wing strobes, transponder in ‘ALT’ and (most worryingly) the fuel pump off. I noticed the transponder as we were on the climbout, but it wasn’t until after an EFATO practice that the rest of the items were pointed out to me by Chris. Not good, something I’ll have to keep an eye on in future.

This time Chris demonstrated the flapless approach, and the glide approach (including some very heavy braking to demonstrate what you’d have to do if you were landing in a small field). Then we taxyed back to the hold, and again I was sitting there by myself.

Not sure what happened during this session, but the 3rd and 4th circuits become noticeably more ‘messy’. My height control was all over the place on downwind. I’m not sure if the atmospheric conditions had changed so as to generate more lift and then downdraft or whether it was just me.

Also, on one of the circuits I turned base so early that I ended up doing a glide approach unintentionally. Again, just a bit of brain fade, but something I need to pay attention to as I progress further.

The landings on this sortie again weren’t great, and I particularly noticed that I was landing very ‘flat’, almost doing a three point landing on one. This also isn’t good, and I made a conscious effort on the last two circuits to get the nose up properly in the flare and holdoff.

All in all, a very enjoyable day. I don’t know when the ‘buzz’ will fade, but I hope it’s not too soon!

Total flight time today: Dual 0:45 – Solo – 1:00
Take-offs: 13 – Landings: 11

Total flight time to date: Dual 14:55 – Solo 1:00
Take-offs to date: 49 – Landings to date: 47

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2 Responses to “Exercise 14”

  1. Multi-leg tour, and a tech aircraft | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] way back. As it happens, the Warrior that was available was none other than the aircraft I flew my first solo in back in October 2007 at RAF Brize Norton, that I had last flown on my first licensed landaway on 12th July […]

  2. A Warrior, 3 Zone Transits and two new airfields | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] quite a bit with the Club’s Ops Manager, and he explained that G-BPAF (the aircraft I flew my first solo in at RAF Brize Norton) was having its audio panel replaced at the moment, and this should get rectify the problems. So I […]

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