Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Did It!

First solo in the Cessna Skycatcher LSA

As of this writing, I’ve logged 63.5 hours of dual. Of those, 32 hours have been cross-country with Kirby positioning the plane for air shows to help Cessna. I made the trip down and back to Florida for the LSA show and then back to Florida to display it at Sun ’n Fun. While those trips were very educational, I didn’t get many takeoffs and landings accomplished.

As with most disciplines, flight training takes persistence, and as time went on, the challenges emerged—the Kansas wind, Kirby’s availability, my travel schedule, my emotions...and did I mention the Kansas wind? I was finally ready to attempt my solo flight. We had practiced takeoffs and landings for three straight days. I was completely confident by day three to solo, but the winds were a bit gusty. On the fourth day, after the third touch-and-go, Kirby got out of the airplane, closed the door and waved me on.

I was ready and talked to myself during the entire flight. I radioed, “Stearman traffic, N450RP departing on runway 17.” I took a deep breath and pushed the throttle in. I remembered, “Okay, look down the runway and stay on the centerline. Rotate at about 50 and hold at 10 degrees of pitch.” Great, I’m in the air, flying all by myself! The pattern for runway 17 is right traffic, and I focused on my next task. “Right turn onto crosswind leg and level out at 2,200 feet.”

I radioed again, “Stearman traffic, N450RP on downwind for runway 17.” So far, so good. As I came abeam the numbers, I said to myself, “Pull the carb heat out, pull the throttle to idle and set flaps to 10 degrees.” Almost there.

I made a right turn onto my base leg and heard, “500,” from the Garmin G300. Good, I was at the right altitude and set the flaps to 25 degrees. I radioed again, “Stearman traffic, N450RP on final for runway 17.” It seemed to get quieter as I approached the runway. I continued to talk myself through it: “Okay, focus on the numbers, a little power to get over the tree line. Good. Past the trees, slowly pull back power. On the numbers, look out at the end of the runway, hold the centerline and gently pull back on the stick.”

Touchdown! I did it! I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be.” I had put so much pressure on myself.

As I taxied back, I picked up Kirby and saw that Jack was there. He had been hiding behind a truck so I wouldn’t know he was there. I was so excited. We headed for the Stearman Field Bar & Grill to sign off my logbook and have breakfast. Kirby started the ceremonial cutting of the back of my shirt but we had a little trouble with the scissors, so my friend, Dwayne Clemens, assisted. My shirttail is proudly displayed at the Grill.

I was on cloud nine all day, replaying my solo in my head and telling everyone I saw, “I soloed my airplane today!” It was an amazing day that I will vividly remember for a long, long time.

Rose Pelton purchased the first production Cessna Skycatcher in December 2009. She soloed in October 2010 and is on track to earn her private pilot license by the end of 2011. Then she and Rosebud intend to enjoy all of what the midwestern skies have to offer.


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