Today I had the joy of taking up the most memorable moment in a pilot’s career. I flew my first solo. I can tell you for certain that when my wheels left the ground it was one of the most freeing feelings I’ve ever had as it’s the first time you get to have complete control and responsibility of the aircraft. However I, like many others, were rather petrified in the moments up until my solo. I also learned quite a lot from my solo today so if you’re feeling a bit jittery before your solo and want some tips on what to look forward to, stay tuned! The following are some tips to get you prepared for your first solo and some things that I learned from mine to help you all out!
1. Know Your Checklists
I can not stress this enough. Knowing your checklists front and back will help you ace your solo tremendously. Almost every pilot will tell you that not only having your checklists with you but knowing them is vital for any pilot. When I say ‘know’ your checklists I don’t mean to just be familiar with them. I mean to have them memorized. Obviously having every one of your checklists memorized is a little ridiculous, but having the important ones like landing, approach, and emergency checklists memorized will go a very long way. I know for me having my landing and approach checklists memorized helped me out a TON. Since I didn’t have to worry about flipping through my checklist to find what I needed to do, I was able to focus all of my attention to the landing and set the plane down smooth every time. I highly recommend knowing your checklists before you solo. I’m more than positive it will help you out.
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re on your solo flight is to stay calm, collected, and relaxed. I know just as well as you that your first solo is nerve-wracking, but it’s important that you try and stay relaxed. When you’re extra nervous your natural reaction is to tense up your muscles. This may not seem like much of an issue but it really can be. There’s a saying by Air Force pilots in regards to aerial refueling that goes: “loose muscles are accurate muscles”. This couldn’t be more true. When your muscles are more accurate, you can make more accurate adjustments, allowing you to fly cleaner patters, approaches, etc. I highly recommend trying to keep yourself relaxed. Whistle yourself a tune while you’re flying or come up with a song that goes along with your checklist! Anything to keep you focused and relaxed is more than beneficial to a good solo. Not only is staying relaxed good for cleaner flight, but it will also help keep you safe. Who doesn’t want that?
3. Just Do What You’ve Practiced
Your first solo is definitely not the time to try anything new. Even if you’re extra confident in your abilities, I would not recommend doing anything you haven’t practiced while on your solo. Just fly your pattern, do a few normal landings, and head back. Your solo is a time to demonstrate what you’ve already practiced, NOT a time to practice anything else. You’ve (hopefully) done what you’ll do in your first solo plenty of times beforehand. Just do what you’ve practiced and you’ll be just fine.
4. Talk To Your Instructor
If you’re feeling way more nervous about your solo than you think you should be, talk to your instructor about it! Your instructor will know when you’re ready and wouldn’t let you up on your own unless they were absolutely certain you knew what you were doing. Knowing that helped calm my nerves quite a bit. Your instructor is responsible for you on your solo, so if they think you’re ready, you are. Just have fun with it! Your first solo should be an exciting time not a scary one! Just stay focused and you’ll be alright.
What I Learned From My First Solo
It’s Not Nearly As Scary In The Air
For me, the most terrifying part of my first solo was waiting for it to happen. The actual solo itself was a breeze. The moment your plane leaves the ground is one of the best feelings you’ll ever have. On your solo you get to have complete control of the aircraft for the first time. This thought is scary to some, but for me, it was freeing. My solo was the first time I could fly without any help and show what I was really capable of as a pilot. I can promise you that once you’re in the air, all your fear fades away in an instant. Just have fun!
You Know More Than You Think
What shocked me the most on my solo is that I knew much more, and was capable of more than I thought I was previous to my solo. My solo showed me that I did actually know what I was doing. I believe this is because when we have our instructor in the right seat constantly giving us tips, we tend to second guess ourselves. Your first solo eliminates this and forces you to actually use your knowledge. You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of. I sure was!
Your first solo flight will be the first big step on your journey through the world of aviation. It can be both a very scary, and exciting time all at once! However, if you go into your solo prepared and confident in your skills, it will be a lot more fun. Listen to your instructor! If they think you’re ready, you are ready. Don’t worry about your skill level, just do what you’ve practiced and have fun! You’ll be just fine. 🙂
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