The first solo is one of the first major milestones in your flight training and remains the most memorable for many pilots. You’re alone in the cockpit, with only that long, straight runway in front of you. EPST’ers Lynn Verkaik, Richard van Haag and Okke Sloots all lived this exciting moment recently. They talk about their first solo flight.
Lynn was ready to go to the airport at 8:00 the morning of her solo, but her session was canceled due to the wind. She spent the whole day at home, waiting for a spot and she had actually already given up hope when she suddenly got the green light at half past six: she was granted a slot between the parachutists. 5 minutes later, Lynn stood on the runway, with a healthy amount of tension. “At lift off, this was actually gone right away,” she says. “It is an unreal feeling to step into the plane alone after all those hours of flying with your instructor. It’s just a matter of minutes and before you know it: you’re back on the ground.”
After the flight, the first solo at EPST is not over yet. “The Dutch tradition after the flight getting your stripes and wing really make it an unforgettable day”, Lynn looks back with satisfaction. And it only gets better. “Now I’m already working on my solo navigation flights and it’s still great to take off alone!”
Richard also did not know when his first solo flight would start. In the morning he was driven to Megara airport by Global Aviation, where he was sent home after a 3 hour wait due to the strong wind and a busy schedule of the Greek Air Force – they also use the airport. Later in the afternoon he was urgently picked up, but again there was no slot available for him. “A disappointment,” he tells, “but it’s part of aviation. The next day I was expected to be ready at 15:00.”
That suddenly got a lot earlier. “At 12:10 I got a call: someone was already on the way to pick me up, because at 12:30 there was a slot for me. Within 20 minutes I was in my uniform, packed a lunch, drove to the airport and did my walk-around and the engine was started for my checkflight.” What was going through my mind? “Actually, I was mainly busy with what to say to the tower. I was on a different taxiway than normal.” And in the air? “The take-off and climb to 500 feet was the same as always. You don’t think about flying without an instructor. The instructor is actually just observing the last flights before your first solo, you already have to do it yourself. At a certain point in my traffic pattern I did look to the right and I realized: yes, I am all alone now.” Was there nothing exciting about that first flight? “I got no response from the tower when I requested permission to land. Another aircraft was also not heard. That was an exciting moment. When I called up the tower again, I luckily got a response: ‘report final 26L’.
The landing went well. It was a bit windy and I had a little more ballooning than I had hoped, but I landed nicely in the middle, on the centerline. My instructors and I were satisfied.” Once on the ground, it was time for the traditions. “I got my wings pinned and my first stripe and luckily was able to take my shoes off just in time before my instructor and a group of EPSTers came running to throw buckets of soap and water over me. Fortunately, I had brought my packed bag with a towel and dry clothes before leaving.”
Okke did not know in the morning that he would go home later with his first solo finished. The last two training flights went very well and he felt confident. After the training, the instructor wanted to talk to him. “He told that with a big smile,” says Okke. “The way he said that, I felt something was up. Once I arrived, the instructor told me I could make a few touch-and-go’s with the head of training, and I was also given a questionnaire. PRE-SOLO TEST was at the top of that form.” The head of training said he would join for the touch-and-gos and then it was time for his first solo. “I asked him at what time we were going to leave,” says Okke. “He responded with: in 5 minutes! So there was no time to think about it, and maybe that’s for the better, haha!”
After the touch-and-gos, it was time for the big moment. “After taking one more deep breath, I asked the tower for line-up clearance and off I went, my first solo. That solo is a short flight, all in all it takes about 5 minutes. I was really focused at that time and didn’t even notice that no one was sitting next to me. It was only after landing and the after landing checklist that it dawned on me. An indescribable and bizarre feeling, after all, I had been looking forward to this all my life.” Back in the parking lot, Okke saw classmates eagerly waiting with buckets of water and soap. “But first I got my stripe and wing pinned and some pictures were taken. Then everyone emptied their buckets over me. It was really a fantastic and unforgettable moment, I would do it again in a heartbeat!”