Pilot Log Entry #1
This is my first pilot log entry as a PIC, Pilot in Command.
Several hours have passed since I took my first solo flight and my veins are still surging with adrenaline. I knew the day and time was coming to take my solo. After all that is what I’ve been study for and working towards for the past six months. The first major milestone in the pursuit of obtaining my private pilot certificate. Today was a perfectly beautiful April day. Bright sun, a deep blue sky, calm winds and a few puffy white clouds.
I met my flight instructor, Steve Smith the Chief Instructor and owner of Future Flyers of Connecticut, at Simsbury Airport (4B9) at 4:00 pm. He already had the plane, a 1980 Cessna 172 Skyhawk, pulled in front on the ramp. Steve had me perform the pre-flight while he finished up with another student. I did the check, added some oil and we were good to go. There was a ton of activity at the airport and chatter on the common radio frequency. We flew the pattern several times. We practiced an emergency 180° return to airport landing. Then we did a power off approach and landing from abeam the numbers on the downwind leg. A couple more normal landings and then Steve said, “how about you let me out and take a couple runs around the pattern by yourself?” I paused, contemplating how to reply. I know Steve sensed my apprehension. “You can do it”, he said and I replied, “yeah I can do this. OK.” I taxied over to the ramp. We decided to fill the plane with gas, while Steve put the required endorsement in my logbook. Remember he said, “power to control speed, pitch to control altitude. I’ll be right here on the hand held radio”.
And then I was alone. I taxied up to the runway. Performed the standard run-up procedure and checklist items. Steve was in his vehicle positioned next to the runway so he could observe my approaches.
I made a radio call. “Simsbury Traffic, 5212 Kilo back taxiing runway 3”. I did a clearing turn to verify nobody was on approach and taxied up the runway, turned the airplane around and lined up for take off. I performed the pre-takeoff check. “Lights, Camera, Action.” Radios tuned, flaps up, carb heat off, mixture lean, tanks set to both, trimmed for take off. Everything was set. This was it. The moment of truth. “Simsbury Traffic 5212 Kilo departing runway 3”. I pushed the power all the way in and started my roll. I could feel the nose wanting to lift, a little back pressure and I was flying! “That looked good” Steve said over the radio. What? Holy shit! My instructor is on the ground and I’m up in the plane all alone! I didn’t panic, but it was really weird being alone. I’m in the air now. Taking off is the easy part. All you have to do is hit the gas and pull back. It’s do or die time, quite literally. Really it went very smoothly, just as we had practiced. I gained some speed and altitude and turned cross wind right at about 800′. I leveled off right at the pattern altitude of 1200′ and turned downwind. “Simsbury Traffic, 5212 Kilo tuning downwind”. This is about where I was thinking “OK, oh shit now I have to land this thing”! Abeam the numbers I put the carb heat on, reduced power to 1500 rpm, 10° flaps, set my pitch for descent and trimmed it out. “Simsbury Traffic 5212 Kilo turning base.” Another 10° flaps, watching my speed, maintaining my pitch attitude, looking good. “Simsbury Traffic, 5212 Kilo turning final for runway 3.” Here we go. I’m on final. Glide path looks good. Final 10° of flaps put in. I’m lined up nicely. Speed right where it should be. Keeping the numbers in the windshield. I cross the threshold a little high. Steve radios, “pull your power”. I do and the plane comes down. I flare a little too soon and the plane just floats and floats, but I hold it back, stall warnings buzzing, I touch down and make the landing, lowering the nose and rolling out. It wasn’t the best landing but that was the moment. Right then and there. Oh my God, I did it! I really did it. Wow what a great feeling.
I flew the pattern twice more making three successful landings and taxied back to the ramp. Steve met me at the plane with a big grin and an enthusiastic congratulatory handshake. I have to admit my knees were a bit shaky, heart was racing, adrenaline flowing. The feeling upon getting out of the plane was nothing short of pure elation. Almost euphoric. I had done it and I could hardly believe it was real.
After tying down the plane the traditional picture was taken. We went into the flight school where Steve preceded to cut the back off of the shirt I was wearing. This is a long standing tradition for the instructor to “cut the shirt tail” off of the student’s shirt. There are several theories about how this tradition began, but the most plausible seems to be a throwback to when trainers were open air tandems, with the instructor seated behind the student. The instructor would tug on the student shirt tail in order to get his attention and give him instructions. Cutting the shirt tail after a student solo flight symbolizes that the instructor will no longer have to tug on the student’s shirt.We debriefed the day’s lessons and made two log entries into my pilot logbook. The first was for the student and instructor time logged. The second was my first PIC (Pilot in Command) entry of .5 hours. Until this point my instructor(s) had always filled in the logbook entry for the flight lessons. As Steve was explaining to me how to properly fill it in, he said , “and in this box you can describe your flight”. There is no way I could have described my first solo in the tiny little box. So I wrote this and in the description wrote, “see attached”!
There is a funny poster in the flight school. It says, “Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man. Landing is the first.” For months I’ve looked at this poster and just kind of chuckled. After today, I know that little saying is truer than I could have ever imagined. My feet are now on the ground but my head is still in the sky.
I’d also like to mention and thank Phil Smith, the other certified flight instructor at Future Flyers of Connecticut, who has spent many hours training and preparing me to get to this stage.
Blue skies and calm winds to you.