First Solo

solo.gifThey say that the day a pilot first flies an aircraft alone (“solo”) is something he or she will always remember. Today was my day, and now that it’s over I understand what they mean. Every pilot faces that moment when the CFI has left the aircraft and you’re taxiing back to the runway, excited yet all the while wondering if you’re really going to be able to do this.

I missed the opportunity to solo before Brandon went on vacation, so I’ve been waiting a week and a half. But when he finally let me go on my own, it was well worth it.

The traffic was heavy around John Wayne for most of the flight–but once I was on my own everything suddenly became calm. No 757s arriving on 19R, no warnings from the tower about “Caution, jet blast–737 crossing 19L” or Gulfstream jets on 3 mile finals. Just me, the plane, and a very nice controller in the tower. It was a fortunate thing, because it gave me a moment to look around and savor the moment once the wheels were up and I was climbing away from the runway.


Speaking of controllers, in the L.A. Basin most airspace is under the perview of an entity known as “Socal Approach”. Most of the controllers I’ve come across in the L.A. area have been friendly, but there is one guy who works the area southeast of SNA who always seems to have something up his ass. He has jumped all over me on several occasions for things which are unavoidable–talking at the same time as another plane, for example. Sometimes two pilots will simple key the PTT switch at the exact same instant. It happens.

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that there is at least one guy out there with a poor attitude, but every time he does it a lot of the joy goes out of the flight. Brandon said he almost jumped on the com to ask the controller for his name and a phone number so we could call HIM. I wish he had. I think that would have been fun.

Anyway, the photo above (see a larger version) was taken in front of a Katana, but I soloed in a C172. The plane I really wanted Sato to get my picture in front of was the KFC Corporation’s Canadair Challenger 604, which was just off to the right. It has a huge Colonel Sanders image on the tail. I put it into the “hip to be square” category, although personally if I was going to spend $30 million on a high performance jet aircraft, I would probably not put Colonel Sanders on the tail. Brandon said every time he sees it, he get the urge to go over there, walk up the airstair, and ask if he can get a order of Cajun chicken ‘to go’.

Man, what a great feeling! My landings were excellent, and when the Boeings finally did start appearing, I did a great job with the wake turbulence avoidance. When we got back to Sunrise everyone was very congratulatory. I dig the spirit of camaraderie you find in the aviation world. I often see that in the theatre as well. And while your average pilot is a lot better trained than your average actor, it’s a tall order to find decent work in either field.

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