KRYV 182356Z AUTO 22009KT 10SM CLR 24/23 A2982 RMK AO2
This evening, after 22.4 hours of dual instruction, 95 landings, and several ego bruises, it is official: I HAVE SOLOED!! And what a feeling it was!
Things didn't look so promising this morning; the weather was gray and rainy. And the rain didn't clear out until close to 3:00 p.m., which was 3 hours before the lesson. In fact, Hartford (where my office is located, about 25 miles from Watertown) was hit by a small tornado, causing some damage. But things continued to improve even as I walked into the FBO. A line of showers building west of Madison was weakening, and the ceiling over the field was lifting.
Adam had me check the crosswind component and aircraft performance parameters and then I did the preflight on the plane. The winds were quite fluky - variable and a bit gusty. We were airborne off of Runway 23, and I knew that if I could give him some good landings, he would get out of the plane. But the winds were playing tricks with me. The first landing was ok, but a late gust from the left of the plane on the second landing pushed me a little to the right and crooked. The third wasn't any better, and I was slower than I should have been because I was more fixated on keeping straight than paying attention to my speed. I could feel my solo opportunity slipping away. But then the fourth and fifth landings were trouble free, and my confidence surged. After the sixth, Adam directed me back to the ramp. It was time. He got out of the plane, endorsed my logbook, and told me to perform three takeoffs and landings, each to a full stop with taxi back to the runway.
There was no perceptible increase in my heartrate, nor did I have a panic attack. It was more like "it's showtime". And then the plane wouldn't start. Cranked once for 6 seconds. Pushed the throttle in and pulled it out. Cranked again. Throttle in and out. One more time. Nothing. So I hit one shot of primer and tried again. This time it finally cranked over. That turned out the be the most difficult part of the flight! Taxied back out to 23, and I did the engine runup checks just for good measure. The oil pressure gauge showed low pressure at low rpm, so it wasn't a bad idea to run at higher rpm just to make sure it came into the green range.
I announced my takeoff on CTAF, and I moved onto the runway. Once I lined up, I held the brakes, took a deep breath and advanced the throttle. Once it got to 2000 rpm, I checked the gauges, then let the brakes go and pushed the throttle all the way in. Right rudder, 40 then 50 knots, rotate at 54 and airborne at 59. Level some to increase speed to Vy and I was on my way. Adam said the plane would be lively without him in it, and he was right. I was up to 1500' in no time, and I was turning to crosswind probably a full minute before I usually did. Everything felt really comfortable. As I reached the end of the runway before turning base, I reminded myself of my pattern speeds. Eighty-five, seventy-five, sixty-five. I turned to final, keyed the mike to activate the glide slope indicator and kept a hand on the throttle. Everything lined up perfectly. The wind was behaving. I crossed the threshold right at 65 kts. I pulled the throttle out, leveled the plane and bled off the speed. As she sank I pulled back on the yoke. Left main touch, right main touch, lower the nose gear. It was my best landing ever.
And the sweetest.
I couldn't slow before the first taxiway, so I coasted to the next. I could feel the elation building. I shouted something I can't repeat here. Turned off the runway, lowered the flaps, and headed back up the taxiway to the top. The second trip around was just as perfect (to me). What a nice landing. One more to go. I tried for a more artistic flare on the last landing, and I got a little crooked and also floated it just a little. But no hard or crooked landings. No go arounds. It couldn't have gone any better.
So the solo is done. I am now competent enough to fly an airplane. Now onto the next phase: cross country flight. Is the hard part over? Or is it yet to come? We shall see. Thanks for staying with me.
I'd be happy to take you up anytime. Unfortunately there's a big ocean in the way and I'd have to land every 400 miles or so.