Monday, August 8, 2011

My first Solo

It's been a year since i last flew (as a pilot) and i'm sitting here in Ahmedabad, nearly 10,000 KM and a world away from the place where i did my first solo...


It was one of those glorious Australian winter days with calm, clear blue skies and the weather just cold enough to need a jacket.

Calm, clear day at ASC

 I was a student pilot at the Adelaide Soaring Club (ASC) and had just completed 6 short flights on the day of which 4 were rope breaks (The rope didn't actually break. The instructor simulated it by pulling the release, without warning, any time during takeoff).

My flight instructor for the day was Allen O' Halloran. In fact Allen was my instructor during most of my training because i used to fly on wednesdays and Allen was invariably the duty instructor on wednesdays.  An excellent instructor, he encouraged and at the same time was strict in just the right amount. Most times, after the day's flying and hangering the aircraft, we used to retire to the club bar along with the other flyers for a quick drink then Allen used to drop me to a bus stop near my place as i didn't have my own transport.  It was always an enjoyable half hour's drive with discussions ranging from WWII to current affairs. A through gentleman, Allen was always understated and never boasted about his achievements. This is a trait i found in all the older generation Australian flyers but, sadly, it doesn't seem to have rubbed off on the younger lot.

Getting back on topic, after the 6th short flight, we land and Allen hops off and asks 'Think you can take her up alone ?'  I was expecting to go solo soon as i had flown 11 hours and 52 launches till date but it still came as a real surprise to me. I replied in the affirmative and Allen told me to get cracking before he changed his mind.  In all the excitement i nearly forgot to install the ballast blocks in the cockpit. Those days, my body weight was below the minimum limit for the aircraft, VH-GPF, a Grob G103 Twin Astir. If i had forgotten to install the ballast blocks, the aircraft CG would be behind it's usual position and my first solo might have been quite interesting !

VH-GPF Grob G103 twin, my first solo aircraft

 I did the usual preflight checks, hooked up to the tug and launched. I had done the exact same routine  innumerable times previously. Absolutely no dramas. It was only when i was a safe height above ground that it struck me i was flying the aircraft alone. The peacefulness in the cockpit was exquisite without the constant nagging from the back seat ! I'm not exaggerating when i say i was literally whistling with joy. The whole flight went like clockwork. Took the tow till 2,500' AGL then wandered around aimlessly for a quarter of an hour then joined circuit and landed. Handshakes all around and i couldn't wipe the deranged smile off my face for quite a while :)

After that first solo, i have soloed in different types of aircraft including powered aircraft but it's never been quite the same...

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