Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Up, Up and Away

It's been a while since I last posted as I've been quite busy getting the hang of flying so let me share a little experience that I had over the last few days that has been major.

By last week I had already done quite a number of hours and it was
about time for me to go solo so I was taken to a senior instructor who I flew with a couple times punctuated by a three day gap due to some lousy weather last week. However on Friday I was taken to the chief instructor who I had to stick with till he released me for my first solo. First flight on Friday went pretty well and he had some good encouraging words for me even telling me to believe in myself and I could do it.

The second flight on Saturday was a different story.I hadn't flown for 2 consecutive days for quite a while and those gaps tend to make you a bit rusty so I thought that this was my chance to get some good consistency. However after a relatively good start I made some of the same mistakes of the previous day and even some new ones. At one point I was given quite a dressing down in the cockpit and thought things had gone really bad. Afterward I was told that on Sunday morning I'd fly with the big boy himself, the owner of the school. He's quite an imposing figure a tall old man with a big grey beard who has a lot of experience under his belt so I knew the standards would be pretty high.

So on Sunday morning I woke up to another fine cloudless morning and I was surprised as the weather is hardly ever consistent. My flight was a little delayed as he was dealing with another student before me. When my time came he gave me a briefing first and looked at the comments from the previous flight and gave me some pointers on what to do. Soon after it was time to get going. Even when we were on the ground he had quite a number of comments to make on the things I was doing wrong and more when I got into the air. Probably due to nervousness I kept making some very silly mistakes which so got to him that he had to revise some of the basics with me in the air. This was really embarrassing for somebody who was already quite some way into the course. You can imagine how I felt after the de-briefing. I had really been brought down to earth or so to speak.After that I did quite a lot of thinking and praying, "have to pull up my socks" I kept telling myself. Fortunately on Monday I was scheduled to fly with the chief instructor so I was relieved.

Once again perfect weather on Monday morning, cloudless and only a slight hint of wind. This was truly amazing for me 4 days in a row of good weather was a first. I guess at this point you're probably thinking that I'm obsessed with the weather but it's part of the job! So as I was saying I was back with the CFI with a lot on my mind no doubt- "have to get to right this time, you can do it!" Went through the usual drill and he even expedited it so that we could get into the air much faster. Off we went into the sky, did a good flight and for the first time made a good landing, previously that had been my biggest problem. He went on to congratulate me for the good landing and of course there was the inevitable but- I had turned too early. Made the same mistake again and I was chastised but managed to fix it on the third try. I knew that what he was looking for was 3 good landings and that would be it. 1st one was good, misjudged the 2nd so
I didn't touch down but the next 3 were ok. On the last as I was about to get airborne again he took hold of the controls and just then I knew the moment I had been waiting for had finally arrived! A smile started forming on my face and I started psyching myself up. He asked
how I was doing whether I was ok and stuff and explained what I had to do next was to go up and do a circuit on my own.

Once he was through with the briefing he stepped out and it was time for me to do my thing. I gave him a thumbs up, put my hands on the controls, did my radio call and got going. The first thing that was really weird was the empty seat beside me and once I got airborne it felt really light and had to keep making adjustments. The flight went pretty well and it was definitely less stressful not having somebody there making comments every time you made a little mistake. Soon it was time for me to land and I was lined up on the final approach to the runway. Had to work on what was usually my weak point all on my own. This approach is particularly tricky as there are some trees just before the edge of the runway and so you have to be really careful so
that you don't end up perched on them. As I came in I noticed I was getting low and heading towards them. Naturally you would try to pull the plane up but this is a no-no as that would cause you to slow down and sink faster, I almost fell into this trap but I quickly increased the power and got over them and was back on course. Once Over them I was basically over the fence and went ahead to do a not so bad landing even if I do say so myself. It was finally done, the first solo, the first major milestone in my flying and 15th December 2008 shall remain permanently etched in my memory. After touching down I taxied back to the apron where the CFI was on hand to congratulate me and the other students were the to carry to the pool for a dip.

It's really hard to explain the feeling as I was really happy and at the same time relieved as it had taken me a while to get there as most of my colleagues had already gone before me. However I thank God for the way it went and the experience with the big boy which gave me a
wake up call.

Now it's on to the next stage.