Going Solo


This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time.

As a ten year veteran at ThoughtWorks, I’ve been able to take advantage of a three month sabbatical to really focus on the flying. Trying to learn a new thing is pretty tiring. I’ve spent my days both going flying and studying the ground school, and by the end of the day I’m knackered! The good news is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—I’ve finished ground school and practice exams and I “just” need to take the real exam now.

About a week ago I got frustrated with progress. I was practicing landings in the circuit, but wasn’t very consistent. I’d have a session where my first landing of the day was awesome, and then they would be really variable. Took a ride with a senior instructor and he told me the secret—any pilot telling you they “greased it” three times in a row is fibbing—no-one is that consistent, everyone has good landings and bad landings. The key is to make sure they’re all safe. Maybe this was the dose of reality I needed, but my landings have been a lot better since then. Not 100% consistent, but some really good ones in there with those that are the “safe but not perfect” variety.

I’ve been held up for about ten days waiting for my Transport Canada medical paperwork. This is required to have a student pilot permit, which enables you to solo. Very frustrating to be stuck waiting on paperwork, but it finally came through. I went up and did some circuits with my instructor, and to be brutally honest the day started off pretty badly! Took me a long time to get warmed up and comfortable, but eventually I got to do one on my own.


Springbank Air Training College has a tradition of “bucketing” students who successfully solo — the picture above is me getting dunked. It was very nerve wracking to be up in the sky on my own, knowing that I’m the person who has to get this thing back on the ground safely. But I made it, and with a pretty decent landing too. I’d give myself 8/10!

I shot some video of the solo, more for my benefit than anyone else’s. It doesn’t seem that fast when you’re coming in to land and looking forward, but this view makes it look really fast. I guess a landing is around 75 MPH.

This is a big step in my training and things will hopefully progress rapidly from here. I’ve got about a month left before I have to get back to my real job, so fingers crossed the weather holds and I can become a real pilot!

First solo thumbnail

1 Comment »

mike on September 3rd 2013 in Flying

One Response to “Going Solo”

  1. Rodney responded on 03 Sep 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Great post Mike! It’s really cool that you were able to pick up a new hobby and take to it so quickly. The picture where your being “initiated” is priceless!

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