Hours – 19.4
Ahhh, what a beautiful morning. The birds were chirping sweet melodies, the sun was settling on my silky smooth skin and the air was calm…WHAT? The air was calm? FINALLY! Yes, that’s right. I checked the weather last night and knew today would be the day I have been waiting for through many torturous weeks. Actually, I haven’t even flown in a few weeks due to weather. I was starting to think Mother Nature didn’t like me anymore. I’m not sure why…I always recycle.
Anyway, I got to the airport at 8AM. This is a little later than usual for me. Yigal was waiting in the parking lot. I know EXACTLY what he was thinking. “Hey, look. Here comes my best, brightest and not to mention, my favorite student.”
I walked over to the Cessna 172 and did the fingertip numbing pre-flight inspection. It was a little chilly. I went back inside and met Yigal. He was putting on his heavy coat and had his radio in his hand. All set, ready to go.
We hopped in the plane and taxied to runway 3. We took off and did a few landings. On the third takeoff, at about 1000FT, Yigal pulled the throttle back and told me I had a dead engine. He caught me by surprise, but showed me that it is quite possible to make a 180 degree turn and land back at the airport at that altitude. You just need to react very quickly. I like the fact that he enjoys teaching the tough stuff to teach. This is the stuff no one likes to learn, but could save your life one day.
After I landed that time, we taxied back to the beginning of the runway. He told me I was ready to solo and that he was gonna hop out. I kept thinking of all the articles and blog posts I have read on the topic. Was I supposed to be nervous? Excited? I am not sure what I was feeling. I think I may have been a little nervous right when he was getting ready to exit the airplane, but the minute he closed the door, I know for a fact that I was ready to roll. I mean I was really excited. I just adore that fact that a few months ago, during a conversation with my father, I was almost kidding when I said I was going to learn how to fly, and now I was sitting next to a runway, alone in a running airplane. An airplane that would be in the air in about 30 seconds. I have to hand it to these instructors. I mean, the way they get their students to do the things they do is pretty incredible. This is a pretty challenging skill to learn.
I made my radio call and pulled onto the runway center line. There was so much space on the seat next to me…kind of weird. I set the heading indicator and pushed the throttle in all the way. 60KTS…the tires came off the ground. I did notice that the airplane seemed lighter. I have read that you can’t really feel a difference anymore, with the higher horsepower airplanes, but I certainly did. I climbed at 70KTS and really noticed the lighter and more maneuverable airborne vessel (you like that?). I made my trip around the pattern and came in for final approach. Everything seemed right. It’s amazing that it really didn’t seem any different that any other time I have ever done this. I came in for my landing and it turned out to be very smooth. I taxied back to where Yigal was standing and he waved me on. I had two more to do. I pulled over for a quick mag check and took off again. This time, on my final approach, I was pretty high. I cut the throttle and lost some altitude. When I saw the VASI lights turn one red, one white, I gave it some throttle. I maintained my approach at 65KTS and came in for another nice landing. Taxied back and took off for another. Landed that one and everything was great. I let out a sigh of relief and headed towards Yigal to pick him up. Over the radio, he told me to do one more and meet him back at the office. Gladly. Now I was having fun. This time, when I came in for my landing, I floated a little bit. All those hours, about a month ago, trying to correct my ballooning paid off. I leveled out and just kept pulling back on the yoke. Smooth.
We talked for a little while back at the office. I have to say that I was beaming. I asked Yigal how he felt. “What do you mean?” he asked. I said, “How do you feel having a new member in the club?” He laughed and shook my hand.
Of course, now I can’t wait for my next lesson on Sunday. I feel good.