The First Solo Away from the Traffic Pattern

Here are just a few thoughts about my first solo that left the airport area, Tuesday, February 6th, 1996. Not as detailed as the first solo.


The previous two solo flights were both supervised and remained in the traffic pattern. Supervised means that first I fly with the instructor and then without him. The traffic pattern is the flow of traffic around the runway. The only thing you can do if you remain in the airport's traffic pattern is to take off and the almost immediately land (give or take other traffic in the area). Today was the first time I left, on my own, and flew to the practice area. This is an area a few miles away that is designated for us to work on our maneuvers. It's not restricted, anyone can fly through it, and indeed the commuter planes often go through that area while approaching the airport, but that is the place were we go to practice. It's over farmland, so in case there's a serious problem, there is enough flat land below to land the plane.

After I got into the cockpit and sat down, I realized I was waiting for someone to come running out of the hangar, yelling at me that I must do something or must not do something. But that didn't happen. Even the people filling the fuel tanks didn't seem to really care when I yelled, "CLEAR!" and started the engine.

I taxiied out, took off, and headed out to the practice area. At that point, I was completely on my own, free to go where I wanted and free to do what I wanted to do. I practiced some turns, climbs, descents, stalls, and ground reference maneuvers. I also flew over Taughannock Falls, though I didn't spend too much time sight-seeing.

It was pretty neat, I must admit. It was pretty uneventful as well, which isn't bad. I returned to the airport, did three landings (the second of which was the worst, I was a bit too low, had to increase the power a bit, floated a bit, and touched down without being aligned well with the runway -- should I have done a 'go-around'? I felt like I still had control and could land. If it took much longer I think I probably would have gone around). The third was better, as I tried to correct the problems of the second landing. The first was probably the best.

This is mostly for me, more than anything else. But that's pretty much how it went. I guess the freedom and responsibility were the things that left the biggest impression.


This link goes to Frank's first solo .
Written on Tuesday, February 6th, 1996 by FNA