Today began like any other. I got up early and headed down to Hollister. And for the first time I found myself worrying more about the weather the closer I got. Usually the weather in the Bay Area is nasty but it clears up after I get past the Coyote valley.

When I got up this morning, I told myself that I wouldn't solo today. I knew that I needed to work on my landings and that's exactly what I intended to do.

I arrived and sat down with Jim to go over whatever he had in mind. However, after looking over my progress in my log book and in the student checklist he keeps, he decided that we didn't have a lot to discuss. Unfortunately, the tow pilot had gone for fuel so we couldn't fly for a while. So we chatted about benign spirals a bit. We were also keeping an eye on the fog and clouds that were really close to the airport. It was a bit worrisome, but they seemed to be staying clear of the airport.

We got glider six four echo ready to fly and pulled out to runway 31. Jim left the first flight up to me, so we towed up to 2,800 feet where I released. For the first time, I had to release while turning. Once we got up over 1,000 feet, the clouds were close enough that the tow plane really couldn't fly in a straight line for more than a minute.

After release, I just performed a few shallow and medium banked turns to steer clear of the clouds and get comfortable. After dropping about 1,000 feet of altitude, I headed for my entry point, started my landing checklist, and so on.

My first landing wasn't too bad, but I didn't maintain my speed very well and wasn't on the centerline until we were 2 feet off the ground. But it was better than last Sunday.

For the next two flights we went to 2,200 feet and did the same--avoided clouds and flew around a bit. The landings were better. Other than not increasing my speed when I opened the air brakes, I was feeling a bit better about landings.

The clouds where getting a bit closer so Jim asked me to fly left closed traffic for the fourth flight. I informed the tow plane and we were off. We released a bit high, roughly 1,400 feet on downwind. I didn't compensate as soon as I should have when turning base, so I had to run with full brakes almost the whole way down on final. But I flared and landed as planned.

When Jim got out of the glider to hook up the tow rope for the next flight, he did something I didn't expect. He took the back seat cushions out with him and began to secure the belts. It took me a minute to actually look back there and realize what he was doing. When I did, he started explaining "without me in the back seat, the glider will fly a bit differently..."

That's when I knew it was time--my time to fly the glider on my own. I was a little nervous but less than I thought I'd be. Since we had just practiced four landings I felt reasonably confident that I could do another. He told me to fly another closed pattern. I called the tow plane and said, "I'd like left closed traffic again... and this will be a first solo." The tow pilot said something like, "Roger, closed left traffic. And I'll go easy on you. Good luck."

I went thru my checklist and closed the canopy. Jim ran my wing. I was in the air sooner than I expected. He was right. Without someone in the back, it took off a lot sooner. It also wanted to climb a bit faster, so I had to roll the trim all the way forward to keep from climbing past the tow plane. The clouds were even closer and the air was getting a little bumpy so I got tossed around a bit and we had to dodge a cloud or two. I released at 1,200 feet on downwind, announced my position in the pattern, and began my landing checklist, just as I'd always practiced.

The tow pilot exited the pattern and announce his intention to re-enter on a long downwind in a couple minutes. Before I knew it, I was announce my base leg, turning, and asking myself how the approach looked--just like Jim would if he was there. I pulled out the brakes, turned on final, and lined up on the runway. I surprised myself by lining up way better than when Jim is normally watching me. I kept my speed up all the way to my flare and landed.

Jim came over to the glider to shake my hand and congratulate me on my first solo. We chatted for a minute while the tow plane came back over. Jim suggest that I go once more and hooked me up. So I did.

My second solo flight was better. I started out with the trim all the way forward this time and I didn't climb so far. I didn't over-control like I did on the first flight. Again, I released at 1,200 on downwind and did just what I had done last time. The only problem was that I noticed I was only flying 60mph at 20 feet above the runway. I should have been doing 70. Since I didn't want to put the nose down farther while that low, I pushed the brakes in a bit and floated for a while.

After landing, Jim commented that I seemed to be coming in a little hot so I explained what I had done. Made sense to him.

We pulled the glider off the runway and back toward the glider tie down area. Then we had some paperwork to do. I got my picture taken (still need to scan it), shirt cut, and so on.

All in all, it was a very good day. By convincing myself I wasn't going to solo, I managed to keep my mind off screwing up and actually got to solo.


Posted by jzawodn at January 24, 2003 11:41 PM

Reader Comments
# Jonathan Sanderson said:

Geez, for this you get no comments? Sure, you may make it sound like a straightforward, natural progression... but I'm guessing it's all a tad more exciting in retrospect, no?

Big congratulations - and thanks for the blog. It's half a lifetime since I logged a couple of glider hours, and reading things like this remind me that I'll be back, eventually.

on January 26, 2003 03:07 AM
# john said:

I can't even imagine what a thrill this must be - congratulations!

on January 26, 2003 05:04 AM
# Asa Bour said:

Congratuations Jeremy!

on January 26, 2003 11:32 AM
# said:

i would of solo-ed a month ago if the weather hasnt been continually crappy. Congratulations! I actually got a little sweaty and nervous reading your story. Hopefully when the rain stops by next week, I will be able to solo.

on June 19, 2003 12:42 PM
# jallel tabet said:

I would like to try this solo flight
can any body help me with it
waiting to here from you

on September 15, 2003 10:31 AM
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