“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return”
Leonardo da Vinci
After many years of waiting for the right moment, I joined CSA to follow the dream of flying and becoming a glider pilot. I was thrilled, but also anxious and terrified. I was not sure what to expect and not sure where this journey will take me.
I could not wait for the 2016 season to begin so I could start my new adventure. Start learning, start flying and get the pilot’s certificate as soon as possible. Oh boy, I was in for a surprise! It didn’t take me too much time to figure out that the journey may be much longer and much bumpier than I assumed. David eloquently summarized the training of flying: “They [students] discover the pleasure of mastering the trick of the tow, of keeping the yaw string straight, of climbing just a few hundred feet above release height in a weak thermal, and of landing on the center-line with hardly a bump”. For me, in addition to learning the art of flying, I had to work very hard on my patience for how much time it would take to master my flying skills, but also work on my fear of heights and turbulence. Yes! I didn’t like heights or turbulence!!! But, with the support and understanding of our instructors, tow pilots and ground crew, slowly but surely, I was able to overcome the fears. I remember the wise words of my friends saying for example, “aero tow one day will just click” or “you will hit the bump before you will be ready to solo”, or “sometimes two people will have to explain or show you the same thing”, or “just enjoy the learning process” or “when you will be ready Bill will sign you off”. There was a time of happiness after my first take-off and first landing, but also disappointment after an unsuccessful attempt to aero tow or repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Page 3 But I was determined to get over my fears and get closer to solo. I tried to spend a lot of time at the airport and even with the slow progress and setbacks, coming out to LZD to fly and work at the field was like my favorite French author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: “I fly because it releases my mind from tyranny of petty things”.
Sometime in the summer of 2017 I changed my attitude and I accepted the slower progress in my training. Even if I was anxious to solo I focused on enjoying the learning process and spending time at the airport with my friends. My patience was definitely tested when I heard questions like, “So when will you solo” or “Bill, when will you sign her off?”
Around Fall of 2017 I could feel that things were coming and I trusted that when I was ready, Bill would sign me off. We flew on Nov 11, 2017 in pretty cold weather and no decision regarding my soloing was made. We got together on Dec 02, 2017 and I assumed that after 3 weeks of not flying my skills will be rusty. I had four pattern flights with Bill and in each flight I was cutting the base leg. I thought to myself, “How is that even possible? I don’t remember ever cutting base before! That’s just a great way eliminate myself from soloing! Oh well, there is always next year”. . . But I remember very well when Bill turned his head towards me and quietly asked me, “So how you will feel to go up without a noisy instructor in the back?” At that point I was just speechless. I just didn’t believe that I heard him correctly. Is this really happening? Today?
After all the paperwork and preparations, I was signed off and ready to sit in the beautiful Betty all by myself. The plan was to do exactly as I was doing the whole day: take off, climb to 2 or 2.5k, make a pattern entry, and land. So there is my first solo flight plan. Finally, I took off and I thought that we are going straight a little too far, but I have an experienced tow pilot, so we are OK. Until we start to turn left, not right! And at that point my meticulous plan collapsed. OMG!! And what now? For a very long time I was practicing patterns, so 3k altitude wasn’t really what I expected to be doing on first solo. I started to talk on the radio to Scott and he just said in calm voice, that he will just drop on the southwest side of the airport, just don’t release until he tells me. There was a panic mode in my head: and what will I do now; that’s not how I planned my first solo flight! But I just remembered everybody’s words of wisdom that if I was not ready, Bill would not sign me off! So, I’m ready and I can do this! At that point I was still climbing with the Pawnee, so I had time and altitude to come out with a plan B. Plan B was easy: lose altitude and position myself for landing. And you better not screw up, because I will hear about this for years to come! I enjoyed every second of that flight: circling above the swamp, making calls with my shaky voice, coordinated turns to get to final leg and landing…. After landing the sweetest surprise was to see huge smiles on everyone’s face.
All that long time of waiting patiently (or not) to solo was greatly rewarded.