Along the way to reaching a goal there are milestones that must be achieved. I recently took on the goal of becoming a private pilot and I am happy to say I just hit one of those milestones. At some point if you want to swim you have to jump in the water, or if you want to snow ski at some point you must head down the mountain. If you want to fly there comes a time when you need to do it unassisted, without a flight instructor to tell you what to do, and sometimes more importantly, what not to do. That point happened for me this past month.
The first thing I told Joe Justice, my instructor, when we started this process was that I was not in a hurry to hot-rod around the skies. I wanted to take whatever time necessary to reach a level of proficiency that made my first foray above the earth a safe one. That day happened on February 18th. Keeping in mind the aviator’s motto that flying is the second most satisfying experience in the world and LANDING is first. The only inkling I had that the day’s lesson might be different is that Joe made sure I had my log book and picture ID onboard the plane.
Off we went for a couple of loops around the airport, landing and taking off again without stopping. After our second landing he asked me to come to a complete stop because… he wanted to get out of the plane. The moment was here. The moment I had long anticipated. After 42.9 hours of supervised flight time he at least felt I was prepared to fly alone. It was time to solo. Even with butterflies, I felt ready as well.
Alone in the cockpit for the first time, I contacted Ground Control then taxied and held short of the runway. Next I contacted the Control Tower, received clearance for take off and everything I had learned came together. What an exhilarating experience.
Pleasantly, in place of fear, I found the flight around the airport challenging, and rewarding. My smooth and successful landing proved that I had indeed achieved a milestone that comes with the understanding that there are many more to come.
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