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about things that interest me.

A tale of the first Solo flight

The airplane involved was a beautiful twin of the one below.

PIPER COLT

PA-22-108  Piper Colt  Specifications:

The airplane is a two-place, high wing, single engine airplane equipped with tricycle landing gear, constructed of welded steel tubing covered with Grade “A” fabric and finished with fire resistant butyrate dope.
This airplane is certified in the normal and utility category. In the normal category all aerobatic maneuvers including spins are prohibited. See the aircraft’s P.O.H. for approved maneuvers when in the utility category. The airplane is approved for day and night VFR/IFR operations when equipped in accordance with F.A.R. 91 or F.A.R 135.

The aircraft is powered by a Lycoming O-235-C1B or C1 and is rated at 108 horsepower. It is a four cylinder, normally aspirated, direct drive, air cooled, horizontally opposed, carburetor equipped engine.

The fuel for the Colt is carried in an 18-gallon fuel tank located in the inboard end of the left wing. As optional equipment, an auxiliary tank, located in the right wing, provides an additional 18 gallons of fuel. The auxiliary tank must be used in level flight only. An electric fuel gauge for each tank is located on the instrument panel.

Electrical power for the Colt is supplied by a 12 volt, direct current system. For all normal operations, power is provided by a 12 volt, 25-ampere generator. A 12-volt, 24 ampere battery is used in the system to furnish power for starting as a reserve power source.

_____________________________________________________________

So begins the tale;

In early 1968 I was station at the U.S.Navy Base at Subic Bay, Philippines and decided that learning to fly was an interesting talent to pursue. There was a flying club at the adjoining Cubi Point Naval Air Station that provided aircraft and instruction to members, so I joined.  The club had two PA-22s for our training use, two  T-34s for more advanced use, as well as certificated instructors that were available to hire for the members.

After 10 hours of ground school, the flight training began. My instructor, a former Alaskan Bush Pilot.   After filing a flight plan with  air operations we pre-flight the airplane, kick the tires, check the fuel, untie the airplane from it’s anchors and fire up the engine, Cool!  Call up uniflight for taxi instructions to the flight line and then call up the tower. Identify ourselves, We are ready for take off.

The Navy of that time felt that it was a good idea to have semi trained pilots available to act as co-pilots with real Naval Pilots in case of an emergency need to move all of their airplanes during a pilot shortage. At least that was the excuse that was used to justify our use of military facilities for “Private club” use. At times we helped with the on the job training of the new tower controllers under much slower conditions then existed during Jet operations. It was kind of cool to be flying a brightly colored, rag covered, powered box kite among the heavy jets dressed in their somber warpaint. Just need to, NOT get in their way.

After clearance to take off, we depart the area toward the north over Subic City to an old, out of the way dirt strip, 20 miles out in the jungle, to practice flight maneuvers as well as touch & go, landing / takeoffs. After several of these we return to the base pattern and land after 2-1/2 to 3 hours of flight time.

After one of these touch & goes during the third day of instruction the instructor asked me to land and stop on the end of the dirt strip. He opened his door, hopped out, and said “Take her around on your own”.  OMG! ,,,,,Er ok. After 7 hours of total flight time I’m not so sure I am ready for this.

Well, I sped up the engine, taxi to the down wind of the runway, turned into the breeze, fire walled the throttle and with 200lbs less weight in the airplane it quickly took off, almost jumped into the air and quickly rose to 3,000 feet!  I flew a nice square pattern and soon found myself lined up with the down wind end of the runway.  Time to begin the decent back to the GROUND. I set up the aircraft trim for landing, throttled back, carburetor heat on to prevent ice buildup inside the carburetor and add a click of flaps to improve slow speed lift and slow the decent speed. This is not so bad, good glide slope, lined up with the runway. Everything looks good.

Just as I flare out to touch down, a hard cross wind hits, the airplane is floating off of the runway and over the 6 foot tall elephant grass.

OH CRAP!  I am nursing the aircraft controls to keep it on the ground effect bubble to keep the wheels out of the tall grass. Get rid of the power robbing carb-heat, smoothly adding throttle so the engine speeds up without stalling, and soon it all works. Air speed increases, I’m flying again! Slowly I get rid of flaps, gain airspeed and altitude.

I’m up in the air with airspeed and altitude, life is good, but the instructor is still standing on the end of the runway, 20 miles out in the jungle.

Back into the landing pattern I go. Now! how do I land in a stiff cross wind? Well I do remember hearing this discussed by other pilots. Maybe even mentioned during ground school instruction.

As I approach the end of the runway the plane is crabbed a good 30 degrees into the wind to move inline with the center of the runway. The trick is to fly in as slow as possible with some power and some flaps and as the wheels touch the ground, rotate the airplane into the runway centerline, get rid of flaps and power, push the nose down and apply the brakes.

Wow! it worked, not even a bounce.

 

I slowly taxied up to the instructor, he opened the door and got in.

Didn’t say a word, just sat there. The engine just kicking over in a slow idle  …………  …………..  ……….  ………….  …………  ………..  ……….  ……….  ……….  ……….  ……….

er, How did I do?

“Well,” he says, “You took off just fine, flew a nice square pattern, lined up a clean glide slope, flared out to land, just then that cross wind hit you. Off the runway you went into the elephant grass.  I was sure that I would have to walk back to the base, through 20 miles of jungle and explain to the base executive officer how I lost a pilot and plane.

You got it flying again! As you went by I figured you would just fly back to the base and land. This was not so bad, I would just have to hike those 20 miles back to the base and explain why my pilot came home alone.

Then, you went back into the pattern and tried to land into that cross wind. Again, I was sure that I would have to hike back to the base and explain how I lost a plane and pilot. And you landed it just like you knew what you were doing.”

“I will sign off on your logbook, you are cleared to fly solo!”

After that, an airplane just felt like an extension of me. Flying was as natural as walking or riding a bike.  😎   pg

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3 responses to “A tale of the first Solo flight

  1. p.g.sharrow February 14, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    A couple of days ago my grandson and I was conversing over our computer text link and I mentioned an adventure learning to fly. He was interested, so I said I would type it up and post it here so he could read it. After 5 hours of work yesterday, I got it up. Add another hour tonight to polish it up, done! Man! I am slow at writing at a keyboard. You should have seen me back in the good old days. Paper and pencil, would have taken me several days. Maybe even never.
    After 60 years, I might even become a writer! I’ve had more adventures the Jack London and Samuel Clements combined. Just way too many things to do to ever retire… 😎 ..pg

  2. Adolfo Rios Pita Giurfa February 15, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Congratulations! Jack London 🙂

  3. p.g.sharrow February 15, 2016 at 8:54 am

    @Adolfo; we shall see if I can gather enough nerve and time to do another 😎 …pg

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