For reference, a solo in aviation terms is when a student pilot flies by themselves during their training. The first solo, for any pilot, is a huge step forward in their training and aviation lives, mine came on a cloudy April day in 2014.
I have always had an interest in aviation. Not a day goes by where I don’t look skyward at some sort of flying object, and when I’m not working or at school, I spend as much possible free time at Arlington Municipal Airport, or Paine Field, flying, watching airplanes, and talking to other aviation lovers.
From birth, I’ve been enthralled in the art and beauty of aviation. There are pictures of me sitting on the lawn, 9 months old, staring into the sky at a passing aircraft. My parents caught on to my interest early, and took me to the Arlington Airshow as a child. Happily, I indulged myself in the art and beauty of aviation, falling in love over and over again with aviation and ogling at the thought of joining the illustrious ranks of the airline pilot. I solidified my plan and created a timeline for my life, beginning at 15 and a half with the start of my flight training.
I took my first lesson at the age of 14, and intensified my training later when I was fifteen. I wanted to solo on my 16th birthday, the youngest you could be to solo is 16, and I wanted to achieve this milestone as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I received a concussion, which inhibited my progress in attaining a medical clearance, which would allow me to fly solo, the federal government happened to shut down in the midst of everything. It was all quite untimely, considering it would take a further 6 months of waiting, requesting, and pushing on top of the several months of delay for my medical to finally come through.
March was stressful. I tenaciously pursued soloing, taking as many chances as I could to get behind the yoke and get some valuable hours in the air. The aircraft I was flying, a 1946 Cessna 140, couldn’t have been more exquisite. A fantastic blend of character and stability, I could not have asked for a better platform to learn to fly on. N76616, or six-one-six as I called her, was an eye catcher too. Painted bright yellow with orange flames on the cowl, she drew attention wherever she landed. I loved this chariot of the skies. I remember what came next more clearly than any other memory I have had to date.
It was a cloudy, dreary Saturday in the beginning of April, April 6th to be exact. I woke up ecstatic, full of energy and ambition. At the time I did not yet have my driver’s license, so my mother drove me from her house to the airport. I was worried as we drew closer, the wind had picked up slightly, and it was raining, in other words, solo-canceling weather. We arrived, I pre-flighted “six-one-six” with my instructor, and together, we taxied her out and took off. The rain was localized and thinning out, and the wind was starting to die down. we did three circuits of the pattern, and on the third, he told me to land “full stop” and taxi to general parking. I shut down, he got out, and his next words will stay with me for the rest of my life: “Okay, you’re on your own” and shut the door.
I started up and taxied out, by myself, and did my pre-takeoff checks. It really didn’t set in that I was alone while I was on the ground because my head was buried in the procedures and I didn’t have time to think. I made my radio call and gradually turned onto the runway and advanced the throttle. Sticking to my training, I lifted off the ground and quickly started my climb skyward. the airplane climbed with unparalleled performance because of the absence of my instructor. I made my turn for crosswind, and that’s when I realized that I was flying solo for the first time.
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