Life as a Learn to Fly Student #3 | First solo flight

Perfect day for a solo

It was a rather clear morning, which is a luxury in the Melbourne winter, accompanied by little to no wind. It was a beautiful morning to go flying, but a first solo flight was not on my mind. I just expected a routine of going out for a morning preflight, hopping into the plane with the instructor and heading to Tooradin for a few circuits and then I would come back.

I strolled out to the tarmac, breathing in the cold air of winter, the other aircraft still silent. The entire Moorabbin Airport was quiet and still as if I was sneaking into someone’s bedroom while they were still sound asleep. I went through my standard preflight flow check, “Electrical, Mechanical and Chemical.” The Sling was good to go, the fuel topped up and the instructor arrived just as I was about to strap into the lefthand seat.

I ran through the start-up checks and did the routine procedures that would allow me safe passage out of Moorabbin Airport. Only a few planes started rolling along the taxiway with me. The instructor didn’t say anything to suggest that I was ultimately preparing for my first solo flight.

The air was as smooth as butter as I climbed to 2500 feet for a short cruise to Tooradin. I got to enjoy the rising sun as I directed the aircraft to fly towards the small, private and unlicensed airfield that is Tooradin Airfield.

Joining the left downwind leg of Tooradin, I got a good look at the two windsocks placed at the beginning and the midpoint of the runway. It looked as if the wind was still down at the sealed strip of runway where I would touch down. We did a barrage of landings and even two glide approaches. At this stage, my mate in another aircraft, the Bristell, is already on his second solo doing circuits with us.

Finding out I’d be going solo

“Make this one a full stop,” the instructor says briefly.

So I did. I set the aircraft as steadily as possible on the runway and gently pulled on the brake lever to taxi off. At this point, I was wondering, “Oh maybe he just wants a break or a quick word with the other instructor.”

Except I was off by miles as he keyed the mic and said, “Sling 8781 will be returning shortly for a student first solo.”

I look at him in disbelief, but it was evident that he is adamant in sending me off on my first solo flight, and if he is confident in my ability to fly the aircraft without him on-board, I should be as well. He directed the aircraft past the other instructor, who was watching my mate do his second solo, and he briefed me on my first solo. He told me where I should go and what I should do, leaving me with one final tip, “My final piece of advice? Enjoy it; you can only go the first solo once in your lifetime.”

Taking to the sky

So there I was, all by myself for the first time in this Sling 2, just myself and the aircraft in all its glory. I slowly positioned the aircraft in-line with the runway and advance the power to full, a glance at the engine gauges confirm that my engine is running healthily. As soon as I hit 50 knots, I gently applied back pressure, and the aircraft leapt into the sky and climbed like a homesick angel.

I was pleasantly surprised at the significantly higher performance when I went on my first solo; the aircraft was climbing much faster than I was used to when flying with an instructor. I couldn’t help but look to my right and see an empty seat there. I was flying the aircraft all by myself!

As I turned into the final approach, I glanced at my airspeed indicator, and for the first time I can say I’d nailed the speed on the path, 70 knots, that is what I want to see.

As I passed over the bush by the beginning of the runway, the power came smoothly to full idle as my eyes looked down to the end of the runway for the flare. The nose came up, and up, and up until the landing attitude was established. Before I knew it, the main gears settled into terra firma once again in a gentle fashion and the nose gear did soon afterwards as well.

I pulled the brakes gently to slow the aircraft down, as I exited the runway my instructor said, “Congratulations on your first solo flight,” through his handheld radio.

An unforgettable experience

It felt surreal as I taxied back to my instructor after just completing my first ever solo flight, including my first flight, where I completed the takeoff and landing by myself. It was the first flight in my life where I acted as Pilot-in-Command!

The breath of fresh air hit me as I slid open the canopy, and the sense of joy and accomplishment washed over me as I basked in the glory of what is one’s first solo flight.