Solo.... Almost dark, raining with winds gusting 25+mph

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — Solo Pattern, 1 Landing — 0.2 hrs

My first Solo. Bitter sweet victory in many ways.

My speedjeans Pugnetto instructor just couldn't drop the obsessive quest for the perfect trim technique for his favorite sprog, and finally gave up saying "oh never mind, it's not gonna get any better than this, so I'll Solo you anyway."

"Well thank you." I replied graciously, gritting my teeth to be polite as I could, my mind quickly calculating the ease with which I might unlatch the door and his harness, and kick his sorry ass right out the plane. Splat!! 

So we land and he asks for my Logbook to enter the endorsement for the Solo, but notices there's no copy of the medical. Of course I have my medical on file, so by the book, he sends me running into the office to grab a copy so I have for the flight (like it really matters for another lousy pattern), of course keeping the engine and Hobbs running all the while. I go rifling thru the file cabinets, papers flying everywhere. I finally find my medical and go running back out to the plane. Legally correct, but friggin ridiculous given the circumstances.

By then it's starting to get more than just a little dark, and it's already raining, WITH winds already gusting to 20-25mph. He asks me if I'm comfortable to Solo in these conditions, to which I of course reply "bet your ASS I'll Solo!" And Solo I did.

And away we go... Reality check: I'm finally alone on my first Solo takeoff roll in these conditions. Oh, yeah, I'm nuts. However, I confess a certain liberation from my instructor finally, which helped. I state in a previous blog; "The price I pay for loneliness is small in comparison to the lunacy I often have to tolerate in the company of others." And this is no exception.

The tower asks me to state my intentions; Although in classic training a first Solo would be few more Touch & Go's, for these obvious reasons I kept it short and sweet; and replied "once around the pattern and land." Which was all I needed to bid farewell to this school anyway.

So I take off... In the almost dark. Raining. Gusting winds. I admit I was just slightly second guessing the wisdom of my decision at first, but by then I was committed and having FAR too much fun to abort. What's the worst that could happen, right?

Crosswind I ordered 3 drinks as I was trained (count about 10 seconds and ensure the runway is at my 45). Downwind I had to discipline my thoughts to run the GUMPS checklist, as I was really enjoying the shear freedom of the ride by this time.

At the turn to Base leg visibility was all but obscured by the heavier rain, AND I got hit with a good gust of wind, knocking the plane off almost 40 degrees. You really feel it, you know? A small plane is like an aluminum garage door with an engine and gas tasks, and gusty wind is truly great practice for adverse condition flying. Still, it was strangely serene and tranquil just at that moment, and time stood still for me as I flew.

Final approach; Fuck perfecting the trim, I had a plane to land with gusting crosswinds. I'm on glideslope, aimpoint in sight, down the centerline, and correct airspeed. All is well.

I flared just perfect, and the gear touched down smooth and soft as a baby's ass. Man, there's nothing like smooth landing to make an eternal sweet memory.

VERY nice job for all conditions considered, if I do say so myself.

I taxi around, pull in and park, and what recognition do I get from my speedjeans Pugnetto instructor? "You landed flat!" Which is NOT true, as I glanced at the Attitude Indicator as I always do, AND the main gear were rolling long before the nosewheel, and I realized then that he would never give my an "attaboy" for anything ever. Just not in his DNA.

Now for the hero's ceremony. Now tradition dictates cutting off the back of my shirt to signify the instructor's trust (that seated in back of me as in the old days, he no longer needs to tug on it to get my attention in flight). But no, the boys opt for finishing the job of the rainy weather, and drenched me in cold water. I almost saw it coming and ducked out the way, but still got the most of it from behind.

Still, a reasonable recognition for a new Solo pilot, as I bid adieu and farewell to HWO, Pugnetto hold-you-back instructor, and Hollywood Florida.

I'm off to get a towel and a well-deserved restaurant dinner.