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December 02, 2022
The first milestone in your flight training journey is your first flight, either a discovery flight or your first lesson where you take the controls and feel the aircraft move.
As you progress in your flight training, at some point you will reach the next, significant, exhilarating milestone: your first solo flight.
This first solo aviation flight is a rite of passage event and is so significant, it even has its own wikipedia page detailing its rich history and first solo flight traditions.
Solo flights are a momentous occasion that most pilots will likely remember forever; the tail number of your airplane and the airport name are forever etched in a pilot’s mind. Successfully completing your first solo is an achievement to be immensely proud of.
Before you can ever take your place in history with pilots like Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Orville, and Wilbur Wright, and Sully Sullenberger, you must complete your first solo flight.
Below are five tips to be prepared for your first solo and beyond! If you are prepared, this will be an easy and fun day for you.
Think about the traffic pattern and how you’ll fly.
Break this down into actions at the:
You can also practice your radio communications on the ground before your first solo to make sure that you have the confidence you need while on that first flight. By making comms a second nature skill, you will be able to actually enjoy your flight and let instincts take over on the radio.
PlaneEnglish can help you with this. Our sophisticated app analyzes your speech rate and offers phraseology corrections as well as a radio proficiency scoring. It is the perfect simple and effective way to get the rust out of your radio skills without even leaving the house.
If you’re too fast, too high, and way outside the pattern, you are going to spend your final approach doing all kinds of corrections, that you may not be familiar with (definitely not something you want to do the first time you’re landing by yourself).
As soon as you take off, think about how you need to be flying, particularly in regard to:
Don’t forget to make your calls for crosswind, downwind, base, and final turns (including runway number), or talk to ATC if at a towered airport. You can identify yourself as a student pilot if you like.
Standard traffic pattern is 1,000 feet above the airport field elevation (check your local chart for your airport). Level off smoothly and reduce power, so you don’t go right “through” this altitude and keep climbing.
This will vary depending on your altitude. In a Cessna 172, your downwind leg will be 90 knots.
When you’re abeam the touchdown point, you’ll want to smoothly proceed with your next steps. This may vary for your aircraft, but will generally be reducing power to about 1500 RPM, starting a 500 feet per minute descent, and putting in 10 degrees of flaps (check your speed first!).
As you practice landings in the initial stages of your flight training, the traffic pattern will become more and more familiar. You’ll likely know exactly where to make your turns based on visual points on the ground.
While these reference points can be helpful, focus on the stages of each leg in the traffic pattern, and your position related to the airport and runway. That will allow you to fly to any airport, not just your home airport where you know where to turn based on roads, hills, water towers, and corner gas stations on the ground.
It’s normal to be nervous about your first solo.
Your instructor might not set a specific date for your first solo or a certain number of flight hours required to solo, but you will likely know that it’s coming soon. If you’re anxious about it, talk to your instructor. Focus on why you are anxious and what you need to do to curb that anxiety.
If you are too high, too fast, or too uncoordinated, just go around. A go-around is always preferable to a bad or dangerous landing. Be familiar with and proficient on the go-around procedures.
If all else fails, remember the one simple rule: fly the airplane first. Although your instructor shouldn’t sign you off until they feel you are well prepared, it’s important to still take your first solo seriously.
In fact, 47% of pilot-related general aviation accidents happen in the landing phases of flight. Understand where things can go wrong, particularly with the critical, accident-wrought, base-to-final turn. With preparation and a good night of sleep before your flight, your first solo will be a positive experience and wonderful memory.
September 22, 2023
You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last, but knowing that you’re not alone probably does little to help you feel any less nauseous as you reach for the infamous “barf bag” mid-flight.
We’re sorry you’re suffering from airsickness, but it is not hopeless - far from it. Let’s talk about airsickness & motion sickness in pilot training.
June 21, 2023
When you close your eyes and imagine the career of your dreams, what does that life look like?
For many pilots, the perfect job is sliding behind the controls as a pilot in command of a scheduled airline flight or charter.
March 22, 2023
You’ve made the bold leap and are chasing your dream of becoming a pilot. Congratulations – we know how it feels to count down the days to earning your wings.
Today we’re talking about the timeline from starting training to earning your certification, plus ways to shave time off that journey while maximizing learning. So, how hard is it to become a pilot? Read on to find out.
Are you ready? Let’s get you up in the air!
PlaneEnglish created this blog to provide aspiring and current pilots a resource for all things related to aviation radio communication.
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