Same as First Solo Flight?
I had my first solo flight on the same day as my first navigation flight. The navigation flight took place in quite poor visibility and had just opened a totally new field of serious concerns in my mind.
Full of impressions, thinking about something totally different in combination with self-confidence and that we had properly trained for the solo flight helped a lot. I had almost forgotten about the first solo flight, it came out of the blue and, before I could really think about it, I was already flying. I enjoyed it and, straight after landing, I couldn’t help but think that this was not the real challenge. The real challenge was to come, my first solo navigation flight.
This will be the full program. Reading the chart, talking to different radio stations, pick up and set pressure & transponder squawk. Far enough to get lost and not get home, long enough for warning lights to show up, etc. A Long list of basically everything that could potentially go wrong.
We have flown three more navigation flights since then and today’s the day, the flight of the DEEP CONCERNS has arrived.
The most amazing achievement – Overcoming deep Concerns
My feelings before taking off?
We have planned and discussed the flight very carefully. I have visualised the flight in my inner eye before. I slept very well and as usual, I am very focused and calm. So, that’s all the same but what about my other concerns?
During the last navigation flight, I started to have a basic idea of the area, but I am still a total stranger. If I get more than 10 miles from my course, I have absolutely no clue where I am. I had started to find my line on the chart but still somehow managed to constantly turn around the chart on my knee and hold it in the wrong direction or upside down etc.
I started to understand and talk on the radio but still on every flight the instructor had to take over some parts, usually because I did not understand them or my reaction was to slow.
I did not feel unprepared, but, I had already justified to myself that if I didn’t find my way back home that was because I am a stranger to the area or because English is not my first language. I estimated my chances to find my way back home at 70:30.
If I am lucky it’s all fine and, if not, I just land somewhere & call my instructor. I go anyway. I am extremely curious to see what happens and I don’t want to wait any longer. It’s ‘the day’ and it will always be frightening.
Don’t look so long – Where are we now – Don’t wait so long
I climb out of Goodwood, I can’t believe the view over the shining sea still blows my mind. I continue towards my starting point, which I can see without even checking the chart. That’s already calming. I am happy, in a good mood, and say to myself “this will be a very good flight.”
From here, something happens that I had not expected. I realise that I am not on a solo flight at all. Just after passing my first checkpoint, I want to check my position on the chart and I hear my instructor saying: “Don’t look so long”.
Only some minutes later he asks me: “Where are we now?” – “Have you prepared the frequency for the next station to talk?”. As soon as the radar service gives me my squawk code I talkback on the radio at rocket fire speed, just to prevent my instructor from saying “Don’t wait so long”.
It’s really scary and very calming at the same time. He is sitting there as an invisible ghost and continues to talk to me all the time. At some point, I literally try to touch him to make sure I am not again dreaming of this flight.
However, as he just continues talking, I start to talk with him as well. I comment on what I see, where we are, what I will do next, and even ask him to take a picture of the amazing view. We see an Army helicopter. I never struggled with directions, it couldn’t be any better.
Trust your heading
When I turn into my last leg heading back to Goodwood, flying towards the hills the visibility turns into the haze and the sun blurs my sight. The picture in front of me looks totally different, actually wrong. For one or two minutes I am very confused and almost sure that I am flying at least 100° degrees in the wrong direction. This moment is really frightening.
I wondered how I managed to finally get lost exactly at the stage at which I had the impression nothing could go wrong anymore. Of course, I try to find myself on the chart but there are only a few features that I cannot recognize anywhere.
Trying to keep calm, but obviously terrified, I think I should completely change my direction, but right on time, my instructor is back again: “Trust your heading”. We have a short discussion as to why I think I am wrong and why I should not let myself become distracted just because it looks different.
The next few minutes feel like ages, I follow my heading. The further I get, the more I am convinced I am flying in the wrong direction. But, all of sudden I cross some hills, the views look totally different again and I can see an outstanding feature that I have never seen before. It brings back the certainty that the direction is absolutely perfect. A huge relief.
Welcome Back Home
As soon as I fly over the last hills, I recognize the nose-like half islands that point into the sea. Now I know that I have finally made it. With a large smile on my face, I switch back to the home base frequency of Goodwood and call the tower.
A warm and soft voice replies: “Good afternoon – G-OAVA – Welcome back – Runway in use ….”.
“wow …. !??! Is this the same black box that terrified me for so long? I am speechless. I have liked Goodwood since my first day but now I liked it even more. My new home & sort of love. A fantastic feeling, the flight of my life.
On the way towards PPL(H) there are many steps that are very satisfying but this step was for sure one of the most important.