Today was the day. It was a beautiful evening for flying.
First we went through my pre-solo knowledge test and then my CFI filled out my endorsements in the back of my log book so that I can solo. After that he made copies of all of my documents and license, had me sign a rental agreement, and then it was time to go out and pre-flight the plane. I was glad to see we were in N5800U as that is the one I have spent the most time in and I like it much better than N4132J that I flew last time. Every plane, even the same model, is a little different, and I just like 5800U.
We were the only ones left that were going to be flying, and she was parked in the back of the hanger with three other planes in front. But, while I began pre-flight my CFI started shuffling planes around. I suppose we could have just taken one of the others, but he’s a good guy and moved them so I could be in 5800U.
I finished the pre-flight and climbed in. I was also excited to try out my new headset. I’ve been borrowing them from the school, and they work, but aren’t the nicest. Yesterday, just in time for my flight today, my Quiet Technologies Halo headset showed up in the mail. It’s different than the traditional over the ear headset. It rests on your ears and has foam inserts, like those 99 cent ear plugs, that go in your ears with sound tubes that the speakers send the sound through. I have to say I am in love with the headset. It was much quieter than the others I had used, and I before we even took off I couldn’t even really feel them anymore. The sound quality was excellent.
Anyway, I started us up, tuned into the ATIS information, taxied to the end of the hangers, and contacted Ground for taxi clearance.
Me: “Chino Ground, Cherokee 5800U, at DuBois, request taxi to 26R, we have information Charlie.”
Ground: “Cherokee 5800U, taxi runway 26R via Papa, cross 21, something, something, something….”
(I looked at my CFI, this was not starting out like I had planned, and he said the last part wasn’t for me, so…)
Me: “Taxi 26R via Papa, cross 21, 00Uniform.” (Apparently there was only one person in the tower and she was doing both ground and tower. I couldn’t hear the tower people calling in and what she tacked onto the end of my call was her answer to someone calling the tower.)
We taxied out to the run-up area and went through the run-up. Everything looked good so I rolled out to the hold short line. (I need to back up a couple of blog posts. My CFI had thought that I was going to solo to another airport, but he had misunderstood the memo from the school. The initial solo would be the traditional 3 turns around the pattern with a landing and taxi back each time. Later before the long cross country solo it would be a shorter solo to an airport I hadn’t been to before.)
Me: “Chino tower, Cherokee 5800Uniform, holding short runway 26R, requesting left closed traffic.”
Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, cleared for takeoff, runway 26R, make left closed traffic.”
Me: “Cleared for takeoff, 26R, make left closed traffic, 00Uniform.”
And, just like that we were off. I was nervous. According to my logbook I have 15.6 hours of flight time and 59 take-off/landings. But, I was still nervous. I pulled back a little too much and we rotated off but went nose high a little (stall light didn’t come on but it wasn’t a smooth roll out). I pushed it back over a little to get some speed and we were climbing out. I gave it more right rudder this time than typical (per the CFI that did my check-ride) and that kept a nice smooth, level climb out.
CFI: “You know you don’t have to force it off the runway. If you need a little more speed, let it.” (I filed that away for later, hopefully this time it would stick as he’s told me that before…)
We went around the pattern and were cleared for the option so I did a touch and go. The touch down was pretty good and my CFI asked if I wanted to ask for right closed traffic so he could get out after the next landing. I said no, I wanted one more first so we went around the pattern again. There was a couple of planes in the pattern with us and I was just following the Cessna. The next one was smoother so I asked for right closed traffic and a landing to complete stop. The tower gave it to us and I came around and we were headed on the downwind.
Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, I have a xxxx (I don’t remember what kind of plane it was) on about a 4 mile final. Do you want to take a short final or extend out?”
Me: “We’ll extend out.”
CFI: (To me) “You don’t want to take the short final?”
Me: (To CFI) “Nope, just a little nervous today.”
Tower: “Cherokee 00Uniform, go ahead and turn base, keep it inside the wash (the wash is typically where you turn base for 26L which is the longer runway, basically telling me to keep it a little shorter for final) and you are #1, cleared to land 26R.”
Me: “We’ll keep it inside the wash, cleared to land 26R, 00Uniform.”
This landing was pretty good, just a little slip to get down quicker, and then requested taxi to Flying Tigers to drop my CFI off. He hopped out and I contacted the tower as she had requested me to stay on that frequency, I also identified myself as a student on my solo, just for a little extra eyes on me and help from the tower if needed.
Me: “Chino tower, Cherokee 5800Uniform, Student pilot on first solo, at flying tigers, request taxi runway 26R.”
Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, taxi runway 26R via Delta, Alpha, cross 21, good luck.”
Me: “Taxi 26R via Delta, Alpha, cross 21, 00Uniform.”
This was it! I was all alone in the plane and about to go take off! I got to the hold short line, contacted and received my take-off clearance, and I was rolling down the runway. Two things to note. First, the plane takes off much easier without the extra person. Second, I was no longer nervous at all. Seriously, it was a little strange, but I wasn’t nervous. As I lifted off, all that kept running through my mind was “THIS IS SO COOL!” (I even said it out loud to myself a few times over the next three trips around the pattern.)
I just followed the procedures that I had learned. Keep it at about 80mph on the climb out. At 1,100′ begin my crosswind turn. Watch my position and turn downwind. Level off at 1,400′ (Traffic pattern altitude at KCNO is not the typical 1,000′ AGL as we are sitting under KONT airspace) and power back to about 2,100rpm on the down wind. Abeam the numbers power back to 1,900rpm and 1 notch of flaps. Turn base, power back to 1,800rpm and the second notch of flaps. Turn final and line up, add third notch of flaps, watch airspeed, one hand on the yoke and the other on the throttle. Keep it at 80 mph, nose down/up for speed, a little more power to keep the descent rate at 500’/min, cross the threshold, power out, flare, and touch down. Flaps down, pull back on the yoke to help slow down, brakes, and turning off the runway.
The tower was watching out for me and before I rolled to a stop clear of the runway had given me the clearance to taxi back whenever I was ready. No sense waiting around so I taxied back to the beginning of 26L, and… took a couple pictures while waiting for my take off clearance.
The second time around the pattern was just about like the first. The only difference was the Cessna I was following transitioned to 26R so while I was #2 to land, I got bumped up to #1. The second landing was not quite as good as the first. Just before touching down I got a little slow so it was harder than the first, but still not bad at all. One more time taxiing back and after a short wait for another plane landing I was given take-off clearance and right closed traffic to come around and land on 26R.
The last landing was the best I have ever made. The winds were coming at 240, 13kts, so there was just a little bit of sideslip to hold the center line. I touched down nice and smooth and even felt each wheel as it touched down, left main, right main, nose. It felt soooo good. As I was rolling off the runway the tower contacted me before I contacted her.
Tower: “Cherokee 5800Uniform, do you want a taxi back to Flying Tigers?” (Where my CFI had been standing there watching me and listening in on the radio.)
Me: “Yes, taxi to Flying Tigers.”
Tower: “Taxi to Flying Tigers, cross Alpha, nice job.”
Me: “Thank you much!, Taxi Flying Tigers, cross Alpha.”
I don’t think I could have had a bigger smile on my face than the one when my CFI came walking back over to the plane.
Like I was saying to myself earlier. “THIS IS SO COOL!!!!”