Your connection with the sky

My Very First Solo

On my drive home from the airport, I was trying to create some clever way to disguise my big accomplishment but I was too distracted by the feeling of logging Pilot in Command time that I simply couldn’t focus on cleaver writing strategies.  I arrived at the airport around 8:30 to prep good ol’ N64920 for an enjoyable day of flying.  Although I was ready to get up in the air, she was not.  A massive snowstorm had moved in yesterday dumping about 10 inches of snow North of Chicago.  The runway and taxiways were plowed but the planes were frozen solid.  During preflight, I noted that the rudder return spring had some type of problem and a frozen fuel system.  We brought out the tow bar and hauled 920 into the maintenance hangar.  There we noticed a bit of ice on the prop.  After removing the spinner for a quick inspection, we noticed that there was a lot more hiding.  If we had failed to check for icing there, the imbalance caused by the ice could have caused some serious damage.  We broke out the electric heater and melted off all the ice.  A half-hour later, all of us, Dana, the plane, and I, were ready to go flying.  We departed a very slippery runway three and worked on crosswind landings.  It was quite the challenge to get the plane down with the given conditions.  We had a direct crosswind of about 15 knots with lots of turbulence from the buildings.  To worsen the conditions, the runway was very slick.  After three less-than-perfect landings, we headed North to Burlington Airport [BUU] in Burlington, Wisconsin.  The runway had just been plowed and the wind was right down the center.  We worked on regular takeoffs, landings, and touch and goes at Burlington to make sure everything was going fine.  After the third landing, he told me to pull off the runway and to stop the plane.  Dana asked me if I wanted to do a few by myself.  My automatic response was yes.  He gave me a few pointers on scenarios such as getting lost in the pattern and making a go around.  He took off his headset and closed the door.  Here I was, Evan Krueger, sitting inside an airplane by myself.  The concept was inexpiable.  Nonetheless, I looked both ways and started my taxi to the runway.  By this time I was in focus mode.  I triple checked things like flaps and carb heat just to make sure everything was in order.  I pulled up to the end of the runway and closed my eyes millions of thoughts were running through my head: Look for traffic; track the runway; are the flaps up; trim for takeoff; am I really controlling this airplane all by myself?  I made my departing call and pushed the throttle to the firewall.  As speed increased, so did the smile on my face.  I had looked forward to this moment for such a long time.  I lifted off the runway and experienced a nirvana only a pilot would know.  I turned crosswind and base with ease and was feeling like a million dollars.  Half way down my downwind, a Piper Matrix took off from runway 11 and was going to do some pattern work just like I was.  Exciting!  I had never really had other traffic at Westosha.  Base and final went fine.  My landing was pretty darn good because of my descent traffic patter work.  I came in with 20 degrees of flaps at about 65 knots.  65 knots is my best guess because of our broken airspeed indicator.  According to it, I had been flying 30 knots when I departed Westosha.  Dana and I decided that we would have to ignore it the rest of the flight.  I flew right over the runway and slid 920 right on the pavement.  I turned off of the runway to find Dana giving me a salute.  That’s what I love about Dana.  He is so encouraging, positive, and overall just a great guy.  By the time I got back to the runway there was actually a line to take off.  In front of me was another Piper Matrix and behind me was another Piper (it looked like a Piper Six but I’m not positive).  It took about 5 minutes for my turn to depart.  In my cool pilot voice I said “Burlington traffic, Cessna 920 departing runway one one to remain in the pattern, Burlington”.  I made me feel on top of the world to actually be acting as the pilot in command of an airplane.  A Pilot!!!  The second takeoff and landing went the same way.  The only difference was this time I made sure to keep an extra keen lookout for traffic since there was quite a few of us around the Burlington area.  By the time I was departing for the third time alone, the winds had began to gust to 17 knots.  Luckily, they continued to blow straight down the runway.  Turning downwind on my third attempt to land, I noticed that the Matrix stood on the runway.  I wasn’t quite sure of his intentions, so I flew a longer base.  Unfortunately this screwed up my approach a little bit and caused be to put her down in a bounce.  Still not that bad though.  I had one last time to prove my skill.  I was determined to make my forth and final solo landing the best one I’ve ever done.  My traffic pattern had to be greatly adjusted in order to compensate for the high winds.   I lined up the plane perfection the center and headed for the threshold.  I ended up a little high so I added another notch of flaps and 920 sank a perfect amount. About 5 feet from runway, I held her off as long as I could.  The last landing was a greaser.  I was extremely satisfied with it.  I pulled off of the runway and met Dana with a firm handshake.  It was insane.  The feeling of accomplishing a goal I have been wanting to achieve is indescribable.  Dana got back into the plane and we tracked the Burlington VOR all the way back to Westosha.  The windsock indicated that there was still a fairly strong crosswind.  All the way on final I fought to keep the airplane pointing straight down the runway and keeping the plane lined up.  I landed with a little bit of a bump.  Given the conditions, it was not that bad of a landing.  We pulled the plane up to the flight office and began to work on the paperwork.  Dana filled out his section of my logbook, and I filled out my part (I logged my solo time).  He signed my solo endorsement in my log book and medical.  Finally, he cut my shirt tail to hang on the flight school wall.  It was (and probably will be) the happiest I will ever be missing the entire back of my shirt.  It was a great experience.  After I told my family about my great day, we celebrated.  I couldn’t have asked for a better solo.  A lot of people asked me what’s my next goal.  Right now, I’m going to be focusing on learning my navigation skills to be able to fly cross-country and to other airports in the are.  Of course, I will continue to refine my basic flying skills as well as I can.  I want to thank everyone who has supported me this far in my flight training, especially you.  Knowing that my interest in aviation is helping others to also become interested in aviation is a great thing.  Once again, Thank you!!!

Evan Krueger

4 Responses to “My Very First Solo”

  1. Dana, Congratulations on a terrific accomplishment under some trying conditions. Learning to fly will be something you will have for your entire life. I applaud your efforts!

  2. Congrats! By my reckoning, anyone who has sat all alone in an airplane, firewalled the throttle, and rotated is a pilot. Eventual certificate or no. It doesn't matter. You got it up and down all by yourself.

    There's a quantum change in blood and bone when this happens and you're irrevocably different now. You're a part of the tribe. Good to be a part of your tribe!

    - Steve

  3. Congrats!! It's an awesome feeling isn't it.

    P.S. - Please don't ever go flying with a broken airspeed indicator again!

  4. Congratulations, you'll never forget your first time!

    As was mentioned previously, you're part of the tribe now, welcome!

    Sanjeev

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