My First Solo Flight
Updated: Jan 31
Another goal towards realizing the dream.
It was a cold November day with a steady wind coming out of the west, and light snow accumulating on the tarmac. The small flakes continued to hit the windshield of the Cessna 172 trainer plane as I prepared it for another landing sequence. It would be my fourth landing that day, and I wanted it to be as perfect and precision as the previous three.
Turning toward the runway on final approach, I clicked the mic button and announced my intentions. My voice sounded confident compared to four months ago. I thought to myself, “I’ve got this.”
I clicked the mic button five times to turn on the PAPI lights to see if I was too high or too low on final. Perfectly positioned, I reminded myself not to get too cocky because you never knew when a gust of wind would mess it all up.
We came over the last bit of trees and I held the yoke firm, waiting for the airplane to lift like it always does due to the air currents. I gave the plane a little slack and let her flex her wings a bit before getting her lined back up in the pocket.
I noticed David hasn’t said a word from the right seat, and though he is always on the alert in case I have a problem, I haven’t seen him reach for the controls on final in a long while.
“It’s my plane,” I thought to myself. “I am the pilot.”
She glides over the threshold, her wheels reaching out to meet pavement. At the right moment, I ease her nose up, flaring the plane and waiting for the light squawk of the tires to indicate she touched down.
As she gets all her weight down, I clean up the plane by taking out the flaps needed for landing, and throttle her down as we taxi toward the first exit point.
I get the plane stopped after we are safely clear of the runway, then look over at David and smile. I don’t bounce up and down anymore like a child riding a bike for the first time without training wheels. Instead, I’m composed. Confident. And very happy with myself.
“Well…” he said, in one of those tones he uses to pick apart my performance.
I try not to roll my eyes because I thought I did pretty damn good. I wait and listen to his critique knowing his wisdom will only help me become a better pilot.
“I’m thinking today is the day,” he said, smiling.
He couldn’t get another word out as I knew what he meant. Exactly. I would be soloing this day!
I was going to fly the airplane all by myself!
Holy crap, I was stoked! Maybe someone else would have been freaking out thinking there was no way they would do it alone. But after all the time spent getting to this point, I couldn’t get him out of the airplane fast enough.
Trying to get a handle on my giddiness, I took a few cleansing breaths and talked to myself all the way down the taxiway. It wasn’t until I keyed up the mic to make my announcement that I heard the wobble in my voice.
Okay… so I was just a little bit nervous. But there was no way I was going to let that feeling take over.
I rolled the plane out onto the runway, lining her nose up with centerline, and nailed the throttle. The wheels left the ground, and I thought, “I AM FREE!” Free from all life’s little hassles. Free as the pair of eagles watching me from the treetops to the north of the runway as the little Cessna climbed to pattern altitude. The pair had watched over me from the beginning.
The first two landings were spot on. I was in the zone.
I paralleled the runway on what is called a downwind and set the plane up for my final landing configuration, then called out the turn just before final. I was almost done. Three full stop landings was all I needed to become a soloed pilot, and things were going perfectly until the King Air announced he was coming straight in on a long final RIGHT! BEHIND! ME!
Holy crap! A King Air? They are so much faster than the puny Cessna I was flying. Images of him running me down on final flashed through my mind, and I panicked. Any other time, David would have key up the mic and worked this out, but David was on the ground.
That was the moment I NEW I would become a pilot. I reminded myself that I was the pilot in command of this airplane. It was now my job to ‘handle it.’
I keyed up my mic, and announced my turn onto final. Then I asked, “King Air, what is your position?”
The guy was so smooth on the radio, he sounded like he had been flying planes his entire life. Not one hiccup, not one blunder. He let me know he was still five miles out, which was plenty of time for me to get my puny plane off the runway before he landed.
I made my final landing… a greaser (airplane talk for perfect), and pulled off at the nearest exit. I taxied back to the airport where my family had showed up to watch me climb out of the plane a soloed pilot. The moment was so overwhelmingly happy, I can’t believe I didn’t start crying.
“You handled that King Air like a professional,” David commended. “Great job!”
He reached out to shake my hand in congratulations, but he was more like family at that point. He got a big ole hug and a thank you instead.
I did it! I soloed… but it was only the beginning of the long journey to earning my pilot’s license. Another small step completed from a list of goals I needed to satisfy in order to succeed.
Achieving a Dream
Achieving your dream starts with setting that first goal, and like becoming a pilot, it takes a whole list of smaller goals to get to your final destination. Think of it as a breadcrumb-trail except you don’t want to end up in the old witches oven like poor young Hansel did in the story, “Hansel and Gretel.”
By now, you should have written out a clear picture of what your dream looks like. For help with this, read my previous post “4 Steps to Defining the Dream” here.
A fantastic article by Shawn Lim on Goalcast offers Top Ten Reasons Why People Fail To Reach Their Goals, and I think everyone should consider these points when deciding what their “Dream” looks like, and whether or not it will become a reality, or remain a pipe dream forever.
1. They are not specific
2. They have doubts
3. They are not working for it
4. Their goals are not motivating
5. They are not committed
6. They do not focus
7. They give too many excuses
8. They don’t know how to handle failure
9. They get distracted
10. They give up way too soon
Next, you need to write a loose, but detailed list of how you plan to get there. I say loose because you will be tweaking the plan as you go. So think about some things you can do that will move you closer to your dream.
I’m sure you can recall simple things you’ve accomplished in your life that started out as a ‘thought’ rather than a dream. It might have been something difficult to accomplish, or it might have been easy. Either way, it starts with you wanting to do this thing.
You set a mini goal first, and accomplish it. Then you set another, and another until you reach the ultimate goal. You can’t give up on the goals along your path, or you’ll never get to your final destination… The Dream!
Setting goals and finding your way to meeting them.
In order to reach our dreams, we have to first make a plan, then stick with it.
There will be times along the way that you will meet with failure, so it is imperative that you maintain a good attitude and keep thinking positively. If you must… go ahead and have a day of wallowing in self-pity, but then you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.
Don’t forget to talk about your goals with someone you trust… the one person you know always has your back. This person could act as a sounding board for your ideas and help you brainstorm ways in which you can reach your goals.
Goals are meant to be flexible, so don’t get too attached to them. Sometimes the plan of attack isn’t working, so you have to tweak it as you go. Redefine and readjust your goals along the way to keep the ball rolling toward success.
Lastly, celebrate each and every accomplishment as you go. This will give you the confidence to believe you are capable of reaching every goal you set afterward. Do this, and you will soon find yourself on your way to achieving a dream.
Thanks for reading!
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