Flying was coming along pretty well. Ted said that my radio communications and cockpit work was becoming more confident. And I noticed as well that I wasn’t as afraid to talk on the radio 🙂 I asked Ted about my turns, because they felt sloppy to me. When you turn a car on the ground, you have trees and houses and things whizzing by, and the turn feels very definitive. But up in the air, you don’t have that immediate feedback. So I wasn’t sure if that was why it felt sloppy, or if I needed to do something to fix them. He said that my turns were good, “Actually, I was thinking they were about as smooth as a commercial pilot.” That made me happy!
I decided to buy my own headset. I ended up buying two to see which I liked more, then I resold the other one. I was so excited when they came in the mail…I later told Ted it was like Christmas. He laughed and said, “You are so pathetic! How many girls would be so happy to get a headset in the mail?!”
Landings were the most challenging part. Several of our lessons were just going around and around the pattern, practicing landings 🙂 Ted told me that when he wasn’t saying anything to me during the whole landing, that meant I was doing it by myself. At first he had to remind me to do just about everything, then he started getting quieter, and quieter. It was a little spooky, and I almost wanted him to tell me what to do, but I knew that wouldn’t help anything. At the same time it was also encouraging to know that I was starting to get this by myself. I even looked outside, just because I had time to, not because I was supposed to 😀
There’s a certain part of the landing where you have to ‘flare’ the airplane, which means you’re bringing the airplane level with the runway, right before touchdown, like in the picture below:
Ted told me that it’s hard to explain, but that one day I would ‘see’ it and know when to flare the airplane. Eventually, the only part that Ted was talking was when I needed to flare. We went around and around the pattern, but I still wasn’t able to recognize that point.
Then on June 26th, Ted said ‘the light bulb came on’. He was right! I can’t explain it, but I ‘saw’ it! He even drew a light bulb in my logbook to remember it by, lol!
Then the next lesson, I couldn’t ‘see’ it anymore and felt like that light bulb hadn’t come on at all! That time we went around the pattern 11 times.
When we got back, we needed to refuel, but first we had to wait on another guy named Jim, while he filled his twin engine airplane. I’m not sure what kind it is…I’m not very good (yet!) with seeing an airplane and recognizing it’s name 🙂 But at any rate, it was a bigger one, so we had to wait a bit. Ted knew Jim, and we got out of the airplane while we were waiting, and Ted teased him, “Would you get your airplane out of the way?!”
Sharon, a lady who works at the airport, came out and joined us, and so I got to meet her for the first time, and I found out that I liked her a lot, too 😀 We talked for a bit, then when she left, she was razzing Ted, “You be nicer to her! She told me! She told me!”
And he teased her right back, “Oh, just ’cause she acts all sweet and nice doesn’t mean anything! She’s terrible!”
After that lesson he told me that I had learned and done everything I needed to solo…I just needed to be able to solo (a.k.a. land the airplane!).
We had a pancake breakfast fly-in at at the club hangars on July 11th. I went and helped and got to visit with the club members and other pilots, and see all of the neat airplanes they brought in. There was a Piper Cub and a home-built airplane, plus several other Cessnas and other airplanes I don’t remember. I hadn’t seen Ted for a week because he had been gone for his job. When he came to the breakfast he said, “I think I know you…you look kind of familiar.” He was teasing because I was flying 2 or 3 times a week if I could, and a whole week seemed like a very long time to not fly! We got to fly again that day and practice some more landings. That was a good thing, because the 4H fair was coming up the next week, which meant another whole week of not flying 😀
The club also gives airplane rides at the pancake breakfast to raise money for Operation Quiet Comfort which is headed up by one of the pilot’s wives (have I told you that we have lots of neat people in this club?) 🙂 I told Ted, “Hey, can’t I give some airplane rides??” And he laughed and said, “Maybe next year you’ll have your license, then you can.” I said that I might be more excited to fly the airplane than the people were were going for the ride. The kids might be saying, “Moooommm? This girl is too excited…I’m not sure I want to fly with her!”
We had another flying club meeting on July 17th, and Andy asked me again, “Have you soloed yet kiddo?” 😀
I haven’t told you about ‘Captain Andy’ yet. I first met Andy while going to ground school, and Jim told me that Andy and his wife took a ten year trip, sailing around the world in their own boat! They’d sail for a while, then stop and open a restaurant and run it long enough to create enough money to keep sailing. Then off they’d go again. Two of their children were born on that trip, and I asked him if they were born on the boat. But he said no, they were born in a hospital at one of the places they had stopped 🙂 When I first heard about this, I thought, “His wife must be a pretty neat lady!” And I was right! I got to meet her at a club dinner and she is a neat lady!
Andy already has his license, but he came to ground school as a refresher course. He’s a part of our club, so at every meeting he’d ask me, “Have you soloed yet?” or asked how flying was going. He’s always been an encouragement to me.
July 20th…I SOLOED! It was a nice calm evening. We did several landings, a couple of which felt so smooth! My landings often felt like a ‘thud’ to me 😀 Whenever they were smooth, I’d be bracing myself for the ‘thud’ and then be pleasantly surprised.
He said that my pattern work was perfect, and that he was checking emails on his phone because he had nothing to do, lol! After several landings he asked me, “Are you ready to do this by yourself?”
“I don’t know…maybe!” I replied.
“Drop me of by the office, and go do three take offs and landings to a full stop.”
I was excited that the time had come to solo, AND I wasn’t too sure about him leaving the airplane!
I dropped him off, he waved, and away I went.
As I was taxiing to the runway, I was thinking, “I can’t believe I’m doing this! I’m gonna take off and land by myself! I’m soloing!” then my next thought was, “Okay, pay attention, Jessica–what are you supposed to be doing here? If you don’t pay attention you won’t solo! Oh I can’t believe I’m soloing!!!” 😀
The plane felt lighter without another person in there, and it was so quiet. The trip around the pattern seemed a lot longer.
The first time I landed I thought, “I just landed the plane BY MYSELF!” I was so happy.
I did exactly what Ted warned me about…I left the flaps down (you use flaps to land, but they need to be back up before you take off), but thankfully he reminded me over the radio.
It was a pretty, pretty sunset about that time, too. Sunsets are pretty enough, but in the air…they’re even better!
I taxied up to the fuel pump and Ted met me there and congratulated me and shook my hand, and said that he’d pump the gas since I soloed 😀 He asked me if I noticed that the plane took off quicker without him in it. I said that it did, and that the turns felt different, too. He said, “Are you trying to tell me that I need to lose weight?!”
I said, “Hey, you were the one who suggested it!”
When we taxied back to the hangar, I forgot to put the brake on when I started up the plane, and Ted pretended to roll his eyes and teased me that we needed to get the plane put away before he changed his mind or I messed up some more 😀
We got the plane put away (after I asked Ted to take my picture next to the plane, lol!), and filled out the logbook. I started my first column of solo time!
After everything was filled out, I put all my stuff away, then when I stood up and turned around, Ted had scissors in his hand and a big smile on his face and he said, “Here comes my favorite part!” Lol! It’s tradition to cut out the back of the t-shirt and write your name and the date you soloed, then you hang it up as a trophy 😀
I looked it up once, curious how that tradition got started. I found several things that said that ‘in the old days’, an instructor sat behind his student (there wasn’t a seat next to the student like there are in a lot of airplanes now). There was also no intercom, so the instructor couldn’t just talk to the student, it’s too loud in the airplane. So apparently the instructor would tug on the the student’s shirt, about which way he was supposed to go, etc.
So to cut off the shirt tail was kind of like ‘cutting off the apron strings’…you didn’t need your instructor to tell you how to do every little thing anymore 😀
I wore it over my jumper, so I told him to make sure he didn’t cut off the ties of my jumper and he said, “Hey! I’m a wild man with scissors!” Lol! We then had to hunt around for a marker, and finally found one. He wrote on the shirt and tacked it up on the bulletin board.
As we were getting ready to leave, Ted was putting the hangar door down, and he said, “Heads up! It’d be a shame to drop the door on you right after you soloed!” 😀
I was oh so happy as I drove home, and I skipped into the house, dropped my bags, turned around to show my family that the back of my shirt was gone and said, “I SOLOED!” 😀 Then we all hugged each other, and they congratulated me, and I was on cloud nine for the next few hours. Actually for the next SEVERAL hours…I couldn’t even try to sleep until after midnight…and then I think I still wasn’t asleep until 2 a.m. because I was so wired, lol!
When I got home, I saw an email from Ted that he had sent out to our club email list,
Huge congratulations to Jessica (Amelia) Richardson for her 1st solo tonight (7-20-15)!!! Great job, Jessica!
And one from Jim, who lives right under the downwind leg of the traffic pattern,
Congratulations!! I knew you were soloing. I was watching you fly, then there was a lapse in the cycles, which told me Ted was getting out and you were going by yourself….I am so proud and happy for you…
Other club members also emailed to congratulate me as well 🙂 They’re all so encouraging and supportive 🙂 There are two other student pilots in the club right now that were in ground school the same time I was, and we all soloed within a month of each other, I think, and it’s been so neat to see the rest of the club encourage and cheer us on 🙂
→to be continued 🙂Subscribe to get our blog posts in your inbox!