Today was my third and final "supervised solo" lesson. On a supervised solo lesson, you start off by flying with the instructor in the back seat. He'll have you fly a few takeoffs and landings. And if you don't screw up, you get to drop him off and do a few more on your own.

Citabria N53893 I had done this twice with Dave, my normal instructor. But he was unavailable today, so I flew with Jim. And I also flew in a plane I'd never flown before. It's a Citabria 7ECA like all the others I fly, but N53893 (the Orange Citabria) and I were not yet acquainted. It doesnít seem to matter how many of the same make and model aircraft one flies, they all their own personalities and my orange friend was no different.

We had a 10-20 knot wind blowing (mostly right down runways 13 left/right) and N53893's brakes and rudder felt a little different than I was used to. And the seat is different. So I had a bit of trouble on the ground. In fact, my first takeoff was embarrassing. I was weaving all over the runway like a drunk driver, but once I got in the air it flew very nicely. For some reason it seemed easier to stay coordinated in this plane (or I'm actually improving).

Into the Air

I took off on runway 13 Left, flew a pattern, and did a full stop landing. We then taxied back to runway 13 Left for another takeoff. The second time was much better. I had the feel of the plane, so I managed to mostly stay on the centerline. Again, I flew a left pattern and back to land. This time, however, Jim asked me to perform a touch-and-go, so we were back up in no time.

Just after takeoff, the tower directed me to switch to a right traffic pattern and use runway 13 Right. That turned out to be perfect, since Jim was going to ask them for that anyway. I guess they knew the routine.

We did a touch and go on 13 Right and back around for another landing. This time Jim asked me to turn early so that I could make the runway without having to add power. I had been coming up a little short due to the headwind. So I turned early and got to show off my slipping skills.

I did a full stop landing and Jim asked me to drop him off by the terminal so I could go do a few landings on my own. I taxied over to the terminal, let him out, and headed back to runway 13 Left.


I again took off on runway 13 Left, staying nearly on the centerline, and was climbing like crazy before I knew it. It's always nice to have a bit of weight out of the plane. ;-)

My full-stop landing was good and I taxied back for another go. However, I ended up following a Cessna that was flying a really wide-ass pattern. I did what I could to follow him while staying out of his way but was coming really close to busting San Jose Class C Airspace. The tower noticed and cleared me to land on 13 Right.

I headed toward my new runway and was a little high. After I crossed onto airport property, I again got to demonstrate my ability to slip the plane and burn off altitude. I rounded out over the numbers and proceeded to bounce the plane down the runway.

Nothing broke and I knew how to handle it, but I still felt like a moron.

The tower cleared me to back taxi and takeoff again. I decided that I was going to make up for that landing.

I took off, flew the right pattern, setup for a slightly high final (strong headwind still) and managed to get the height almost perfect. I need only the slightest slip to get on the glide I wanted.

My landing was... one of the best I've ever done! :-)

After a nearly perfect 3 point landing, I decided to call it a day. No sense going for a forth and having to end the day on a less than high note.

I taxied the plane back, shut it down, parked it, and tied everything down.

Now Iím officially allowed to do pattern work on my own, assuming the weather is reasonable. After getting a few more hours under my belt, I should be able to fly to a couple of nearby airports on my own as well. And after that it'll be getting into cross-country time.

Woohoo! The fun continues.

Posted by jzawodn at December 17, 2005 10:25 PM

Reader Comments
# Paul Pencikowski said:

Nice writeup. When I was flying a Citabria, I never had trouble with landings. Takeoffs were another matter, and I too seemed to do mostly "drunk pilot wanderings" down the runway :-(

Over the Holiday's I'll be prepping for my Private Glider (I am Private Power now). Yikes I fear the examiner/oral/ride.

on December 18, 2005 08:33 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Heh. Good luck on the glider checkride.

on December 18, 2005 08:40 PM
# Brandy said:

Mazel tov! That is so exciting.....sometimes you can't appreciate what you've accomplished unless you have a little choas in the beginning.....I always say,"If the dress rehearsal sucks then the performance is a hit." Sounds like you did a great first flight lesson.....i looked like a spinning drunk top not even making way down the was really, now you are past this and on to new adventures.....very, very, very cool!

on December 18, 2005 10:47 PM
# Ian Kennedy said:

I've been listening to the occasional podcast of a Delta pilot getting his wings and it's been fascinating. You and readers of your flying posts might enjoy it.

on December 20, 2005 09:43 AM
# greg said:

I started learning back in aug 2005 and havent looked back, the school I am with have 3 citabrias, they say its like learning to drive a car in a manual instead of an automatic!
have gone through the syllabus and am up to my 4th hour of circuits, I must be getting close to going first solo soon (touch wood), I look back at how bad I was those first few lessons, I couldnt even taxi properly, now takeoff and landing is getting easier and easier, just gotta get that flair at the end right!
cheers all and keep flying!

on January 5, 2006 07:40 PM
# Zdravko Podolski said:

It is interesting having a glider pilot working on adding his powered airplane rating. Quite different from someone starting from scratch. Not sure whether it is easier, or whether previous training in gliders might interfere.

on January 7, 2006 10:03 AM
# Iain said:


Found your site by Googling 'solo citabria' because that's what I hope to do this coming Saturday. Thanks for the preview!

Like others, I seem to have found takeoffs in a Citabria more difficult than the landings - at first I thought I was *never* going to be able to keep straight. Now I can't understand why it was so hard, but I think it was just my brain getting up to speed.

Of course in my forthcoming solo the landing concerns me a lot more than the takeoff!

on April 24, 2006 01:22 AM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.