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Solo'ed in 3.4 hours and so much more!

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In real life I have been simming for 18 years with what I've built as a really nice simpit and been on PilotEdge for over a year now if not two (time flies when you get old). A couple of months ago in Sept I had to renew my Part 107 UAV Remote Pilot license. Two years ago when I took the test I was so proud of myself. It was not a cake walk as one might think of for flying basically a toy. Basically it was the Private Pilot written with a few changes.

So I decided when I had to renew that I would take my Privates written as well. Mainly for the fact that I hated when I would talk pilot stuff and people would ask if I was a pilot or had a ticket I could say well I have my Part 107 but it kinda felt like an empty statement to the unknowing. Even though when i fly from the right seat in my friends planes they tell me all the stuff like you know what you are doing and all that stuff. So I felt if I could do the written and Solo that at least I could feel some what good about saying yes if only a Student Pilot until I could finish my hours.

I brought the Sportys Private Pilot online course. Earned my written test endorsement with a 90 and a 94% passing of two test and was consistently getting high 80s and low 90s when doing the practice test several times nightly. I arranged my 3rd class medical, UAV renal and Privates written all on the same day about a month out from when I got the class online course. I passed my medical, then got an 82 on my 107 renewal and followed it with an 87% on my private writtens. I was very happy that day.

Now to start lessons which on Nantucket is not easy. No flight school, no rental plane and to travel the 30nm to the mainland to then rent a car and drive to a close by flight school is about $150 bucks in travel and at least 3.5 hours of time wasted. Not to mention the not so great weather which makes it hard to book flight times only to have them cancelled. I looked at Alpha One in Plymouth as it was at least on my way to Boston where I am kinda seeing someone so I could do a lesson on weekends and stay off island but I tried to explain to them that I was not so much interested in paying for all kinds of ground school since I felt like I was way ahead of the curve and had already passed my written. The one instructor they put me with I met with before the day we had scheduled to fly but he didnt seem much interested in taking me on as a student.

However, I had already booked 3 days of lessons in Florida during my coming Thanksgiving vacation at Daytona Aviation in Flagler which is a Class D KFIN.  Plymouth is uncontrolled so I was also looking to practice more radio skills that I had learned on PE. See while I had been simming for 18 years or so, I only used default ATC. I had dabbled on Vatsim when I first started simming before there was default ATC and then kinda gave it up. Also to compare Vatsim to PE is not a level playing field. So when I joined PE I was so green on the radio. It was my one area of weakness I wanted to overcome. So after my time on PE and fine tuning my radio work, that also played a huge factor into my desire to actual fly.

So there I was in Florida with 3 days of multiple lesson times plotted to try and achieve solo for my own personal goal. I was put with a flight instructor who believed in me and we took to doing lessons with the goal of soloing. When I arrived at the school it was IFR so we did the pre-solo written work that needed to happen in the event I would be able to solo. Then we went to lunch and in the afternoon it was VFR and we started our lessons in  C172. KFIN is a non radar tower and gets a lot of student pilots from the seven or so flight schools in the area. I was expecting a more quiet field but oh no it was busy and after a brief sigh I was ready to key the mic and start my adventures in flying.

I had flown a various amounts of planes thanks to my friends that own them. RV's, Mooney, C182, Super Cub and even C402s but not once had I keyed the mic with them. So I hadnt really tested my radio skills I had been learning on PE but once I did on my first lesson, I owned it. The instructor only keyed the mic once on my second day of lessons right before I soloed to tell tower he was going to have me do a go around since there was 4 planes in the pattern for spacing purposes. Other than that I did all the calls and it felt GREAT! I was extremely comfortable and 100% of that goes to PilotEdge. 

So we took off and flew to a practice area where he wanted me to demonstrate some turns normal and steep, stalls and pattern work around a square field. We then returned and and did a few touch & go's. I was using Gramin Pilot which logs your flights and tracks so this is what it looked liked after we landed.

The traffic pattern and practice area was really busy not to mention the crazy amounts of birds in the thermals at the lower altitudes. I called for a break after the touch and gos to be able to talk about things. Like my right rudder control or lack of it in climbs and a few other fine tune things that I practice in the sim but is obliviously different in a real plane. So after we did a debrief on the ground we went back up to do some more pattern work and return to the practice area for some more turns and stuff.
As you can see in that picture the pattern was so full that they were turning planes left and right in the pattern for spacing of arriving planes and had to extend upwind and downwind legs as well as give way to helo flights from the hospital right below the upwind to crosswind left turn. It was busy stuff and I shined on the radio work.

That ended Day One of lessons. On Day two I arrived to a light rain day where it was only IFR due to just a few low clouds that prevented tower from seeing the planes in the pattern. I got there at 10 and stuck around until 3. If it hadnt opened up by 3 I was going to call it a no fly day. Well the air was still and stable after the rain, it was two days before Thanksgiving so being so late in the day, the traffic was light and it was go time. We went up and did pattern work.

One of the pilots who runs a float plane school who is also a check pilot was holding short for what was my last flight before doing my solo and saw my landing. On the tower freq he radioed that I looked ready as we were talking about it around the hangar while we were waiting for the field to go VFR. thats when Mel my instructor keyed the mic to say he was getting out and that was exactly what was happening and thats when I first learned I was about to do solo. I didnt let it get into my head but it was hard not to notice how empty and quiet the plane was once he got out even though he didnt do too much talking in the first place.

I had 15 Dual landing under my belt, 3.4 hours logged up to that point and it was my second day of lessons. All my legs went great just as they had dual and Mel didnt even watch me nor listen to my radio calls. So here are my 3 solo flight tracks.
1st circuit
2nd circuit
3rd circuit

What a great feeling! 

Even logged the Metar for those flights:
WX 2050zulu
Information November 
Rwy 29

I had brought a shirt with the solo purpose to cut the shirt tail of it off for that tradition and this was my second day wearing it as I had no idea when or if it would happen but wanted to do it if I solo'ed. So here is a a photo of that moment:

On my 3rd and last day of lessons we did two circuits and then he got out and I did 3 more solo flights.

After lunch we flew to an uncontrolled field to practice work there with two planes already in the pattern there.

Heres a closer look at my flights at 28J the uncontrolled field with my 45 degree entry into downwind and my departing to the south on Crosswind

After a dinner break it was then off for a night cross country flight at my request. Once again looking to maximize the ability to have access to a plane in an area that has great VFR compared to the winter Northeast area as well as the great C172 wet rental rate of $110 plus the $40 instructor rate totaling $150/hour wet. Lot cheaper than I can get back home.

For this flight I would be flying from basically Daytona up to west of Jacksonville which has an ILS and a 12000' rwy. Navigation was just pilotage off of the Garmin Pilot and I did two touch n' go's while shooting the ILS visually on the 1st approach. So that gave me an additional 3 night landings and a cross country. I wanted to pick up advisories on the ground but my instructor said we would just do it after departure. honestly, I dont think he knew how to do that as I question why he wouldnt at least let me ask for it with Ground. So I also had Approaches and Centers on this flight as well.

Closer look at Cecil KVQQ. 1st pattern was right traffic and I climbed up to TPA before reaching the end of the rwy and after the second pattern I told ATC we would be departing the pattern on Downwind. Since it was so quiet they gave us a cleared on course so I climbed up on downwind to 500 feet above TPA and then turned mid field on course in my climb to 3500.

My instructor Father Mel and the young lady who works at the flight school doing all the desk work.

Now that was suppose to be it. However, I had so much fun doing all of this that I wanted more. So after Thanksgiving I had more vacation to do in Charleston NC so I called up and got an instructor to take me up for another cross country flight this time in daylight. There was an over 10+kt cross wind at both Charleston and Hilton Head SC which was were we went. This was something I needed as I had no xwind flights yet and this was going to be a some bumpy ones with the gust of 24kts. I told the instructor I wanted to do simulated IFR with foggles for the leg down and shoot the LOC approach coming out of the hood at the MAP. I did alright, especially with the wind wanting to weather vein me to the west as the winds alof were 30kts out of the West.and I was traveling Southwest. Also he hadnt used the Navs too much as they have another plane they use for IFR training and we came to conclude on the approach that neither Nav 1 or 2 was representing the LOC well so I just used the Garmin Pilot again for tracking the inbound leg. I busted out to the upwind side of the approach at 500' and had plenty of room to correct and get lined up for an intense xwind touch and go. 

I was going to fly the missed but after that landing decided to just return to Charleston. So KCHS is Class C and while I was a bit more concerned about that on my 4 day of lessons, PE had given me the practice I needed to feel very comfortable. Once again I did all the radio work and at times he wanted to help out but I stopped him as I was paying for the lesson and wanted to fly as much of it in a solo way as I could by doing all the radio switches of freq and dialing in and nav setup as possible. Actually CHS was way easier ground taxi than FIN. At KFIN to get to the active was A,F,G,D,E and cross runway 11 for rwy 6. SafeTaxi paid off once again for help with that.

Instructor Andrew and I coming back from Hilton Head.

I told everyone I could about how PilotEdge was a huge factor in why they were impressed with me because with a sim, one can understand how someone could get okay with the flying skills but having live ATC and being comfortable on the radio is a whole different thing. Heres my overall flight where I flew VFR along the coast on the return leg until Approach assigned me a 030 heading back to CHS.

All said and done, I had a great time with my lessons so far and happy I got some instructors that let me wet my beak into some advance stuff early. I can now focus on just doing the normal stuff towards my private and prepare for my check ride. Remember how I said that one seaplane instructor was also a check pilot, well if things work out right I plan on returning to KFIN to finish my lessons, do my check ride and then get my Seaplane endorsement because its 5 hours of dual, 1 hour of ground and for around $4,000 its all in an Amphib DHC2 Beaver! He also has a Husky for less but to be able to fly a beaver and land on water.....come on!!!

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A great story, mate. 👍
I wish you a lot of happy flights!

Rafal Haczek


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Thanks for sharing the very interesting adventure, and enjoy yourself. Wind under your wings always!

Fr. Bill    

AOPA Member: 07141481 AARP Member: 3209010556

Interests: Gauge Programming - 3d Modeling for Milviz

Many Thanks to All That Donated To Our Server Drive!

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Great story! I soloed on Nantucket in July 1979,in a C-152 N19561.Back then the airplane was $13,and instructor was $10. I reenlisted back in the Navy at Nas South Weymouth,and did 3 solo cross country's in the navy aero clubs Piper 140. I also passed the written,and was ready to take the check ride,when I lost my medical for Heart issues. I still dream of getting my Ppl,and have been watching the numerous U Tube videos on the check ride oral and practical. Good luck!

Jim Driscoll


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That's awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Michael Hutton

i7-6700K 4.0 GHz | ASRock Z170 Fatal1ty Gaming i7 | Kingston HyperX Fury 32GB RAM | EVGA GTX 1080 8GB | Samsung 860 EVO 1TB | Samsung 850 EVO 500GB | 1TB WD Blue | Corsair RM750X 750W | Windows 10 Home 64-bit | Allegiant Virtual Airlines

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That was a great story and congratulations!

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Great story... it looks like you had fun.  brings memories back, thx for sharing... i went solo after 9 hours and was 42 ... congratulations 


henry k

Edited by henry

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