Solo solo

Today was my first solo flight without my instructor at the airport. For some reason, I was a little more nervous than I expected to be during preflight. I had to call for fuel, but they came pretty quickly. I took a little extra time to be sure I covered everything and to wait for any water to make its way to the bottom of the tanks. The fuel was clear. I double checked that I removed the tiedowns and got in.

I was in 89333 instead of my preferred 4640B, and runway 21 was active. I haven’t flown 333 much and haven’t soloed on 21, so those two things were adding a little to my nervousness.

One never knows what might happen while in the air, so I made sure I had my sectional chart, some airport information with frequencies, and a pencil and paper. I was limited to the pattern still, but if something were to happen on the ground while I was in the air that caused the runway to be closed, I’d have to be prepared to go elsewhere and land the plane. I checked the comm radio frequency and other instruments and went through the prestart checklist. I called for taxi to 21 and headed out. I had plenty of time to get comfortable on my mile plus taxi. There was no other traffic, so I didn’t feel rushed at all. I went through the pre-takeoff checklist. The runup went fine; everything checked out. No radio calls in the pattern and a visual check revealed nobody. I called for depature and off I went.

333 doesn’t like idle speeds. It seems no matter how slowly I apply the throttle, it sputters a bit. I went full throttle, airspeed indicator…check, engine temp/oil pressure…check, 50 knots rotate and up I go. At just after 4pm, the sun was setting off to the right of runway 21. I don’t know why 21 was active; the winds were calm and runway 3 is the default calm winds runway, but everybody was using 21, so I stuck with it.

The first round went surprisingly well. Approach and landing were smooth and there was no traffic to avoid. The sun became more of a problem as it approached the horizon. It wasn’t too bad on landing, but it was nearly impossible to see the runway after turning base, so I had a little trouble judging when to turn final. On almost every idle to full throttle after a touch and go, 333 sputtered. It was annoying, but it never became a safety issue.

There was a little traffic on some of my rounds, but nothing I wasn’t able to handle. My last three rounds were shared with a C172 making practice rounds as well. We had plenty of separation, so there was never a conflict. After my second or third round, every bit of my nervousness turned into pure bliss. I know it was only in the pattern, but I was flying, and there was that much difference not having an instructor watching. Weeeeeeeeee!

On every landing, I worked on getting closer to the runway before roundout, and I think I made good progress. I touched down much sooner than I had been (except for one) and two landings were particularly smooth; if not for the sound of the screeching tires, I wouldn’t have known I hit the ground. I believe that’s called a greaser.

After 1.1 hours and 10 rounds in the pattern, it was time to call it a day. On final approach, another plane called for taxi to runway 21. As I touched down, I decided to roll out past my usual exit so I could avoid having to wait for him. It took a little longer than I had expected, but the C172 behind me turned final just before I exited, so there was still plenty of room. I taxied to the ramp and found myself with no spots that didn’t require pushing the plane. Oh well. I stopped in the middle of the ramp, shut down, got out, and pushed, pushed, pushed the plane back while leaning on the midsection of the tail. It’s harder than it looks, but I managed.

On my way inside, I was feeling very satisfied with my performance. I’m ready to hit the practice area. After Christmas, I guess.

Another 1.1 hours puts me at 34.6 total, 2.3 solo. I added up my unassisted landings and after today it’s at 93. Seems like I’ve done more, but that’s not a small number. As long as my landings equal my takeoffs, it doesn’t matter.