I flew my first solos this week. To me it means that one of my biggest dreams has come true – I can fly an airplane! It has been an eventful week. Besides finally soloing, I have skydived from 3 kilometers, played lottery on mobile while doing it, and I had my first chart reading exercise flight.
My school week started on Tuesday. I flew a couple of extra flights in the traffic circuit to improve my landing skills. I had had a little trouble with approaches and landings and I needed to master them better to get a green light for the solo flight. Those extra flights were very helpful. I felt pretty good about it all afterwards. I also felt good, because the weather was quite challenging and I managed it well. Winds were 17 kt gusting 25 kt. The Cessna really demanded physical work from me. After the flights I felt like I had just finished a 30-minute workout. Some of the more advanced students even said they weren’t going to fly the traffic circuit because the weather was so rough. But I did it!
Wednesday started a bit differently than normal. A while back I was chosen to be an Extreme Tester for a mobile lottery site Veikkaus.fi. My job was to do a tandem skydive and play the lottery on mobile while doing it. The whole thing was filmed. I have wanted to skydive since I was a kid and I was really happy to get this chance. It was so much fun and it really kicked off my day well. Here’s a link to the first video edit of the shoot: Lottery while skydiving. This one features only me, but there were 3 of us doing the testing. More material should be available later.
After the skydive I drove back to Malmi airport to fly an evaluation flight in the traffic circuit with another teacher. I did 6 landings and 2 spot landings. They all went really well even though the winds were very strong again. I felt like I had suddenly found the touch. My approaches and landings were suddenly going really well. On top of it all, it was the first time I had flown the runway 27 traffic circuit. It is the shortest and the fastest circuit at EFHF. I felt very confident after doing so well. I now had a green light for the solo and I decided to go for it right away. The winds were still quite strong and gusting.
When I sat in the Cessna by myself and started doing the checklist to start the engine I felt different being there alone, but it also felt very natural. This is what was supposed to happen anyway. I was ready for it. I taxi to the runway 27 holding point Foxtrot. I do the engine run-up and finish the checklist. “OWB, holding point F, ready.” “OWB, cleared for take off to traffic circuit runway 27.” “Cleared for take off, OWB.” I push the throttle fully forward, “Power set, speed alive.. rotate”, and up I go. Five rounds in the traffic circuit were waiting for me. “Flaps up, climb power set, engine instruments checked, taxi light off, landing light on, QNH 1005 passing 500 ft.” At 500 ft I push the nose down quickly to observe traffic, no one in sight, nose back up, turn left to the crosswind and continue climb until 600 ft to reach the traffic circuit altitude. I turn until heading 180, then lift the left wing up and look for other traffic in the circuit, all clear, I continue the turn to the downwind. The circuit is so fast that shortly after I turn to the downwind, I start slowing down. Pull the throttle back, wait for the speed to drop under 80 kt “Speed check, flaps 10”, then add power again to maintain altitude. Very quickly I start turning to the base leg “OWB, base leg 27 for touch and go”. “OWB, cleared for touch and go”. I turn to the final, the approach is going well, I make a very nice landing. Then flaps back up, full power.. suddenly the plane sways to the right. Gusting winds had hit me. I try to steer the plane back to the centerline, but I can’t do it. I realize I will soon be on the grass if I don’t do something. A second after realizing the situation the Any failure during take off run procedure kicks in. “Throttle idle, brakes, inform ATC”. I had just aborted take off. I taxied back to the apron. Afterwards I was complimented for doing a good pilot-in-command decision, but I didn’t know what to feel. I had just flown my first solo, but only one round of the five I was supposed to. I wasn’t feeling very festive. Luckily we had family dinner later and my family made me feel better about myself. I had just flown a plane by myself after all. The next morning I realized that I was blaming myself for no reason. The weather just was too rough for me at this point, no question about it.
Thursday came and the winds were looking calm in the morning. I went for it again right away. This time I flew the 5 rounds and I finally let my school buddies throw some water on me! I felt better! I had soloed properly! Time to celebrate!
After all I’m thankful for the experience I had with the aborted take off. Like I mentioned, the emergency procedure kicked in. Clearly we are not repeating them for nothing before each take off, they really work as I noticed. It just came from the back of my mind. I realized I don’t have to think about what to do, I just do the procedure. For that lesson I’m thankful.
Friday I had another new flying experience. I did my first chart reading exercise. I was given a few waypoints to plan a route and do the calculations for the operational flight plan. We flew the route EFHF-Askola-Pernaja-Porvoo-EFHF. The flight took 50 minutes. I enjoyed the flight very much. The objective was to navigate with the help of a VFR chart, not using the radio navigation equipment. I loved this flight so much I wanted to go again right away. The navigating added something extra to the flying and it felt more real, like I was actually going somewhere, even though I ended up at the same airport where I left! I can’t wait for the proper cross country flights.
A busy and an exciting week. And now you can call me a pilot!