First Test Sitting + First Solo

5 months, 27 days ago

The 27th of August 2016 marked a very special day in any trainee pilots log book, my first solo circuit. The first 20 minutes of Pilot In Command (PIC) time which equated to 1 circuit. Along with my first solo, I also had my first sitting of Air Law, Operational Procedures and Human Performance & Limitations.

The day started at around 08:00 local time, I arrived at the airfield for 07:30 and hammered the EASA PPL Success app on my phone (which I would recommend to people training, since you can do the odd exam here and there, plus it gives a direction to your self study).

After ingesting ample amounts of caffeine and failing a fair bit on the practice questions, I sat my Air Law exam, where I got 1 question wrong which gave me a passing mark of 94%. I knew I had gotten that question wrong, it was regarding a certain class of airspace, and as soon as I got to it (after being fairly confident I had gotten the rest right) my mind went blank, but my plan is to make a handy guide to airspace I can keep on my kneeboard aboard the aircraft until they sink in. The way I did the exam was how I revised for it with the AFE Revision guides, I had a piece of scrap paper and wrote out the question number, then the answer (A, B, C or D) and then moved on quickly. After getting to the end of the 16 questions, before I marked them on the answer sheet, I double checked the answer, marked it on the sheet then crossed it out on the scrap piece of paper. This meant I was checking my answers in the process of converting them onto the official answer sheet. After finishing the Air Law exam in around 5-10 minutes, I moved swiftly onto the Operational Procedures exam.

I think out of the 3 exams I was most worried about this, since on most of the practice questions I usually got a bit confused between light signals (again I have a print out incase I ever need to use light signals, until it sinks in). Low and behold I got 1 wrong, which was light signals! I got a passing mark of 92%. By the time I had finished Operational Procedures, my instructor had arrived!

We got into G-NINC(PA-28), similar to G-BFNI(PA-28) but with shorter wings so it doesn’t glide as well, it also feels a little rougher due to the more powerful engine. I requested to taxi, went to holding point N1 via N, did the power check, reported we were ready for departure and off we went. The first landing was a bit ropey, but the second felt textbook! We did a few more together and after doing some emergencies and practice forced landings, Miguel (My instructor) radioed the tower explaining that I was to go on my first solo. Now to say I was excited was an understatement, I had been dreaming of this day since I was probably around 12 years old, in Lyndon Secondary school talking about what we want to do when we grow up, and I wanted to be a pilot, as did the other guy, but he’s a radio DJ now I think.

We taxied to apron N, where Miguel jumped out and I was let loose, I latched the door and put my first, solo, request to taxi in. Luckily I went to the same holding point, then was cleared to take off after doing all the relevant checks (I even talked them out loud without anyone else in the plane with me, I think I’m so used to having to do that, so it provided me with a sense of comfort). It felt so natural, I had done circuits for a very long time and to finally get into the circuit alone was breathtaking. I turned crosswind, leveled out at 1,000 feet, Fuel Pump – OFF, Landing Light – OFF, then turned onto downwind. I called “G-NC, Downwind, Runway 22, Final Landing” (I was number 1 and had to report final), performed my BUMFREDAH (Brakes, Undercarriage, Mixture, Fuel, Radios, Engine, Direction, Altimeter, Hatches & Harnesses) check and got the chance to enjoy being in the plane alone. When I reached the threshold, I got the plane into the landing configuration, Fuel Pump – ON, Landing Light – ON, Carburetor Heat – ON, 1st stage of flaps, 80 Knots IAS (Indicated Air Speed). Once I passed Broughton, I turned onto base, 2nd stage of flaps, 75 knots IAS, slowly descending to 800ft. Once I pass the race course on the right, I turn onto final, I get my call in and add the 3rd stage of flaps, 65-67 knots IAS whilst I descend to the runway threshold. I put the engine to idle and made my flare. That was it, I’d officially flown a plane by myself, as Pilot In Command. This was the first of many and on the 29th of August 2016, I got another 40 minutes of PIC time, which now makes 1 hour…only 2 more to go as autumn approaches!

The only way is up (excuse the pun).

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