My First Solo Flight a Lesson in Aviation Literacy

For my college english class I had to write about a specific event where I learned a certain literacy. Literacy is not just your ability to comprehend and correctly speak, literacy is to be able to learn and be confident in your abilities in a certain discipline as well! Of course I chose my first solo flight as a memory I had where my literacy in aviation made such an event possible!

Below is my paper, hope you enjoy!

Leaving this planet and breaking the bonds of Earth is something that can be scary to many, but for pilots it is just one triumph loved by the masses. For many, flying a remote controlled airplane by themselves is a scary process. Unwrapping the miniature airplane on Christmas morning and putting it together to fly it after breakfast is half the battle. That excited kid or even adult powers up the controls for the first time and the little airplane speeds down the neighborhood street suddenly becoming airborne. The person is so frightened but happy at the same time, knowing they defeated gravity even if only for a couple seconds. For me it was never about the little airplanes made of foam or cheap hobby wood. No, I needed something more, something real. I needed to fly a real airplane by myself and prove that the bonds of Earth can be broken by anyone willing to pursue such adventure.

I knew this was the moment, the moment my life would change and my personal convictions would be crafted and defined. Flying an aircraft is something only about three percent of the population in America gets to experience. For the few that have joined this elite club, they can attest to the anxiety and concentration that a pilot’s first solo flight can bring. As I approached the Findlay airport in my old beat up Ford Thunderbird on my sixteenth birthday, I knew all the costs, personal sacrifices, and challenges I had experienced in the past year would make this day that much more worth it. I typed my oh-so-special airport code in and as the gate was opening I reflected on the past twenty flight hours I had undergone to prepare for this very day.  All the information and instruction I had undergone to know what to do in the case of an in-flight emergency, or if I were to stall the aircraft.

I pulled into the airport parking lot and gathered my flight bag with all my logbooks, licenses, medical certificate, and headset in it and entered my flight school’s hangar. There my instructor Ryan sat, waiting to go flying on my birthday. Although we both knew that I was going to take my first solo flight today, it is customary for student pilots to go flying for a few landings with the instructor before hand. We waited for the winds to be perfect before climbing in the small cozy cockpit of the Cessna Skyhawk 172, a single engine aircraft. I had a checklist for use to get the airplane started, but I had flown this bird for so long I knew the flow by heart. In less than thirty seconds the engine roared with life as if it was a lion ready to attack it’s prey.

We made our radio calls and taxied to the runway. With confidence I added the power and we rushed down the runway pulling back on the flight controls to get airborne. Three landings later my instructor said, “Alright, stop here and I’m going to get out”. Although I knew this was coming today, hearing my instructor say this so nonchalantly caught me off guard and I did not think he was serious. Sure enough, as he stepped out of the airplane and locked the door giving me a thumbs up as if saying “You can do this kid”, I knew just one thing, I was alone. I had prepared for this moment my whole teenage years, and I knew that I my first solo flight was only once so it was time to make it history.

I taxied up to the hold short line ready to take off alone for the first time. I double, no triple checked everything and made my first solo radio call to area traffic “ Findlay traffic, Cessna-six-one-eight-six-tango is taking off runway three-six, remaining in the pattern, Findlay”. Here was the moment, a time where everything could go right or everything could go horribly wrong. With a year of training in my favor, I added a little throttle and the airplane rolled onto the runway. Already sweating from head to toe (or so it seemed), I added full power and the engine roared to life. As the airplane and I sprinted down the runway I could feel the excitement mounting. At sixty miles per hour, I pulled back on the yoke and I watched as I left Earth for the first time all alone.

As I held back tears of joy and urges to cheer in happiness, I kept calm because I knew the only way down was for me to land this airplane on my own. As I flew the standard pattern to get back to the runway for landing, I could not help but remember all the people that encouraged me to go after my dream of becoming a pilot. All the knowledge I had gained from my flight instructors and flying friends from all walks of life, helped to make my ability to be in an airplane alone this easy.

I turned onto final approach, aligning with runway three-six. Making my final announcements on the radio, I slowed the Cessna aircraft down by pulling back the throttle and adding in flaps.  Aiming for the white squares one thousand feet past the beginning of the runway; I began to approach the my first solo landing in my flying career. I was less than ten feet away from the ground as I pulled back to cushion the landing. Ever so lightly I felt the wheels kiss the runway and I knew then, I was safely on the ground. I proceeded to take off and land two more times before I called it a day and taxied the airplane back to the hangar. I was greeted by all my family members cheering and taking photos in congratulations for the enormous accomplishment I had just done. I had my first solo flight on my sixteenth birthday!

After shutting down the airplane and getting some pilot rituals done for this monumental accomplishment, I finally had time to reflect on the incredible feet I was able to overcome. Without an amazing network of instructors and mentors helping me, I would have never been able to safely fly an aircraft by myself. Flying my first solo flight may only have lasted for a half-hour, but the experience and the knowledge gained throughout this journey will serve me a lifetime.

Thanks for reading and I want to hear your first solo flight experience in the comments.