Lesson 39 – Solo to Practice Area

I am slowly stretching my wings. Yesterday I made my first solo flight away from the airport. It was just out to the practice area west of Waukegan, but it felt like a big deal to me. It was almost like I was getting away with something by getting in an airplane, by myself, and flying away with it. Sandy was not at the airport so Kimberly checked my logbook endorsement, verified that the winds were within my limitations and dispatched the airplane.

The flight itself was pretty uneventful, except the landing which I’ll get to later. Before I took off, I made a list of maneuvers I wanted to work on. In the end, I didn’t even get half way through it. I did a couple steep turns and some slow flight and tried a few slips at altitude. Before I knew it though, it was time to head back to the airport.

Even though I knew where I was and where the airport was in relation to the familiar landmarks on the ground, I still had a moment of doubt when I asked myself if I was really headed toward the airport. I was and the airport soon came into sight.

I called the tower, got into a right downwind for runway 23 as directed and was cleared to land. I was feeling pretty good about my approach when I got to short final. My speed and altitude were good, flaps were down and I was looking for a good landing. Maybe the three week layoff was too long for me. I flared too high and bounced the landing. I brought the plane back down and then bounced again. This bounce was higher than the first one and the nose felt high to me so I added full power and started a go around. Once established in a climb, I let the tower know what I was doing, and slowly brought up the flaps. The controller directed me to fly a left hand pattern this time. I had a just a brief moment of doubt about my ability to land at all, but this one went much better and I got down fine.

I am satisfied with how the flight went. I didn’t get everything done that I had planned but this lesson was more about the solo flight away from the airport than about the actual maneuvers. I knew right where I was at all times and had no problem getting back home. The first attempt at landing wasn’t good but, looking back on it, I am pleased that I had the presence of mind to go around rather than try to force it in a situation I wasn’t completely comfortable with.