Monday, June 2, 2003

First Solo Flight

After years of gazing at the skies,
Dave finally gets the chance to
live his dream!

From the time I was a kid, I've has always loved being up high,... mountain tops, tall buildings, and especially airplanes. Even now, I try to get the window seat whenever I fly for business trips. The idea of actually piloting an airplane was just a dream, though,... something best left for those far-off, halcyon days of retirement.

Then, late last Fall, Karen took me to dinner and made an announcement. She had decided that it was silly to put off the dream when we had the means to make it happen now. What a wife!

So, in February, I started ground school at Madison County Executive airport, under the entertaining tutelage of Rob Lindstrom. Later the same month I began flying lessons at Redstone

Returning from a successful flight: the plane is still
in the same number of pieces as when it left, and so were we :-)

Army Airfield with a fellow Lockheed employee, Dave Williams. Doing both at the same time was like "sipping from a fire hose", but somehow that new knowledge leaked in. By the end of May, ground school was over, the FAA written test had been passed, and it looked like the first phase of flight training was coming to it's logical conclusion,...the first solo.

The first solo take-off.

On June 5, Dave Williams determined the skies were clear and the winds were acceptable, so together we did a few takeoffs and landings to make sure all the cobwebs were blown out. Then Dave had me drop him off and told me to go make three take-offs and landings on my own. He remained on the taxiway to observe, listening on a hand-held radio and taking pictures.

On final approach, flaps down and lined up with the runway.

After the initial "ohmygosh", I steered the Cessna 172 (N35553) onto the runway and took off. As the plane climbed into the air I realized that it was a lot quieter than usual,...due to the absense of my "Constant Flight Interrupter" (the acronym "CFI" actually stands for "Certified Flight Instructor", but they do have a way of peppering you with questions while you're flying!)

The first solo landing, of the day.

Everyone's first solo is memorable, but Dave found a way to make it even moreso! After three successful landings, I steered the airplane back over to pick him up and found him standing with two security guards.

It seems they had seen a guy out on the airfield, with a walkie talkie and taking pictures, and given the heightened security around airports these days, they thought that looked suspicious. Well, after several phone calls it was determined that Dave was probably not a threat to national security, and we were allowed to go on our way. Not many students can say their CFI was willing to get arrested for them on their first solo!

Gerrit and Tucker were waiting us when we pulled up at the flying club, and got to help do the traditional shirt thing. I was a little disappointed that Karen couldn't be there, especially since it was all her idea in the first place. But then, as we rounded the corner for home, it all became clear. To cap the whole day off, she had organized a surprise "first solo" and birthday party for me with all of our friends. What a wife!

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