There are a number of “key moments” when you’re learning how to fly an aircraft, like the first time you take off, or the first time you land without assistance from your instructor. Following this there’s your first solo circuit and then it’s your first solo navigation… which is a biggie. It’s the first time you fly to a location on your own and back again. Imagine it as a right of passage, an achievement earned. It’s the first time you’ve been allowed to head off into the world, away from the comfort of the airfield and its fenced back garden, or in aviation terms, the circuit. It’s a bit like the first time you were allowed to walk, alone and without your mum the 300 yards to the corner shop to buy some sweets with your pocket money.
The weather today was not looking great, whatever the METAR and TAF’s were saying, the weather in Old Sarum was doing the opposite, with only 1000ft cloud base it wasn’t looking promising, so rather than waste my day, I nailed another hour of circuits (which I still love doing) and cracked out some revision for my NAV exam over lunch.
Around 5pm, while doing my last circuit, there was for just a brief moment a smattering of acceptable (perfect) weather so not one to look at gift-horse in the mouth I took the opportunity and headed off, after a briefing for my greatest aviation adventure yet… an epic 16 mile round trip to Fordingbridge and back.
Despite a few small errors, like forgetting the 1000ft check and a bit of a wobble in altitude towards the end, it was almost text book… I’m really very pleased. This was quite possibly the longest 16 miles I have ever travelled… but 16 of the most fun and rewarding. Every time I fly now, I not only learn from my instructors, but teach myself something too, I figure out a technique or a manoeuvre drops neatly into place… it’s brilliant.
My next personal challenge is the last three exams, NAV, Communication and then finally Planning… NAV and Planning are quite mathematical and although there are methods in place to help and you’re allowed a flight computer, I struggle to get my head round some of it… this could be the biggest hurdle yet.
For now though, here it is. My first SOLO nav film: