First Solo Flight

Flight Training, Flying

This post highlights my First Solo Flight, I’m late making this post but I wanted to write this post while it’s still fresh on my mind.

The date was August, 28th of 2013 and I had scheduled a normal flying lesson with my Instructor. When I arrived at the Redstone flying club ( during the pre-lesson brief with Craig he asked me what my comfort level was when landing the Cessna 152. I suddenly got a bit nervous, I think I replied something like, “I guess I’m fairly comfortable with it since my previous lesson went pretty good.” But that wasn’t to comforting for him so he suggested that we do some trips around the pattern to practice a few landings and then could discuss a potential Solo attempt. This was very exciting, I knew I was getting close to my solo but it kind of snuck up on me since I was just getting comfortable with the landings.

I did the normal pre-flight inspection of the airplane and we prepped the plane for takeoff. I made all the radio calls to the Redstone traffic and he was pretending to be a passenger to observe my solo capability. Everything went smooth and we taxied onto runway 35 and departed, staying in the “Right Hand” traffic pattern we proceeded to complete 3-4 landings which were good and got my comfort level up a bit. The next time we took off from the runway he told me to make this a good full-stop landing and taxi back to the end of the runway he would hop out and walk back to the flying club. The blood started pumping pretty hard with excitement and anticipation. I had been waiting for this moment for years similarly to my first few flights but this time I would be on my own. I went around the pattern and made a good landing, pushed the brakes firmly to stop and he directed me to back taxi runway 35 back to Taxiway “Alfa” (the flying club ramp). He gathered his flight bag, requested my logbook and gave me the endorsement for a solo at HUA (Redstone Army Airfield) and gave me instructions to do at least 3 touch and goes and bring the airplane back in when I was done. He hopped out of the plane and yelled over the plane noise, “It will take off much quicker without my extra baggage in there.” I took note and chuckled a bit.

He proceeded to walk down Taxiway Alpha back to the flying club and I gathered my courage and started to turn the plane around and lined up and ready for takeoff at the end of runway 35. I did my final checks of the instruments and announced my intentions on the radio. I was finally ready to takeoff, I released the brakes and gave the engine full power. The plane accelerated very quick to rotation speed, about 55 knots and I pulled back on the yoke and it jumped off the ground almost instantly. I had never experienced that fast of climb rate before, then I realized why Craig warned me that it would take off much quicker…

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I continued climbing until I was in the right traffic pattern as usual, everything seemed normal except for an incredible sense of freedom that I had never experienced before. Before I knew it it was time to start my descent for my first solo landing. It seemed like I remembered all of what I had been taught and everything played slowly through my head as I anticipated the next processes and checked things off of my mental checklist, it seemed very natural besides my excitement. I was on the final approach for the runway and everything looked normal I was descending to the runway at around 60 knots and soon was over the end of the runway, I started to flare (see pictures in the gallery above for my landing approaches, compliments of my instructor Craig for taking pictures!) then I felt the wheels touch. The first landing was decent, maybe a bit harder than usual but I was OK with it. So once the wheels touched down I put the flaps to 0 degrees, turned the carb heat off and gave it full throttle and off I went for another touch and go. The next few touch and goes were almost identical I think my second attempt was the best because I waited a little bit longer to flare so it was smoother than the others. I actually logged 4 touch and goes I was having enough fun that I didn’t want to land quite yet.

As the sun was setting on the horizon I came in for my final approach and announced on the radio that I was planning a full stop landing, so it was my last for the day. After I landed I was excited and slowly began to realize that I had accomplished another dream. I couldn’t stop smiling as I taxied back to the flying club ramp to park the airplane, I saw my instructor giving me a thumbs up and directing me to the parking spot. After I shut down the plane I was greeted by Craig with a big congratulations handshake! I had done it, my first Solo flight was official.

I logged .9 hours Solo time with 4 take offs and landings as well as 6 take offs and landings with Craig for a total time that day of 1.4 hours of flight time. This Solo gave me a moral boost and it felt like I was accomplishing what I set out to do when I decided to start taking flying lessons. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to tell my beautiful wife all about my Solo flight!


Childhood Dream Accomplished!

Just after getting my Private Pilot Certificate

Just after getting my Private Pilot Certificate

My flying adventures reached a peak that will not be reached again for a very long time. Its finally done, I received my Private Pilot Certificate today from Mr. Clyde Shelton an FAA DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner). I have been working pretty hard on it since I took my first flight with a great CFI Craig Cruzen on June 8th 2013 at the Redstone Flying Activity.

It took longer than I thought, it was harder than I thought, but I had a ton of fun flying all the flights especially my cross country flights and most of the hundreds of trips around the pattern at Redstone AAF (Army Airfield). I became very familiar with a Cessna 152, N89358, it treated me well and never failed me, except the time the battery was dead on the ground when I arrived and caused me to cancel the lesson for the day.

It took a grand total of 73.4 hours of total flight time, 24.2 hours of Solo time, 45.5 hours of Dual time (with instructor), 205 day landings and 11 night landings (with 4.1 hours of dual instructions night flight).

I will be posting some of my more memorable flights that I had over the course of getting my PPL so stay tuned, I have lots of pictures and a log of most of my flights.

1st Introductory Flight

Cessna 152 N89358 Redstone Arsenal Flying Activity

Cessna 152 N89358
Redstone Arsenal Flying Activity

A Few Years Later…

After making a few degree changes during my first few years of college, I settled on the Aerospace Engineering degree from The University of Alabama in Huntsville. This forced a move to Huntsville AL in the Tennessee Valley which is home to the Redstone Arsenal Flying Activity.

Redstone Arsenal Flying Activity has northern Alabama’s premier Flying Club where those individuals lucky enough to be in the authorized patron category can learn to fly or take their already hard earned rating to a higher level.

I ran across a banner that advertised the Flying Activity Open House, which was offering Introductory Flights for $30. I was very intrigued at the idea of taking an introductory flight and for a relatively cheap price of 30 bucks how could I say no! I waited a few days and it was finally here, on a warm Saturday in the heat of early summer. I had a Saturday class (Dynamics) until noon, and unfortunately a test that day. During the test I was tortured by the sounds of the planes humming over the campus, I wasn’t sure it was the Redstone planes, but by the sounds they were small single engine planes so it had to be them. Luckily I must have studied well enough and was able to finish my test quickly. So I headed straight to the Redstone Flying Club to hopefully get my introductory flight.

I arrived at the Flying Club, there was a ton of people there and it seemed like a plane was taking off every few minutes. I signed up for a flight and grabbed a few slices of Pizza! I was pretty hungry from being in class all morning. I waited while watching the planes takeoff, I was in heaven being so close to the runway as each plane taxied and took off to the south. After 15 or 20 minutes, could have been an hour, time was flying and I was having fun! Then my name was called and it was my turn to fly.

I met the instructor, can’t remember his name unfortunately, I was too nervous with excitement. We walked out to the the plane, it was a Cessna 152, N89358. Little did I know that I would become very familiar with this same aircraft a few years later… After walking around the plane doing a quick preflight we got in the plane, to my surprise I got in the left seat (pilots always fly from the left side). Not sure why I was surprised since it was a training flight after all. The engine was loud! we put our headsets on so we could hear each other and the air traffic. The instructor was great, he explained everything in a very understandable way.

The instructor controlled the plane until we were airborne, then gave me the controls as we climbed away from the runway. We departed the area to the south down to Martin Rd. with the Tennessee river in sight then turned left and followed the Martin to Hwy 231, Memorial Parkway. We were flying around 2500′ altitude. We turned to the north and followed the Parkway up to Alabama A&M University, then we turned back towards the Saturn V rocket at the Space and Rocket Center. We flew directly over UAH where I was taking my Dynamics test earlier in the day and confirmed my thoughts while taking the test. I’m not sure how well I was flying, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the ground looking at everything that I saw everyday from the ground but from the air was totally different and pretty cool too! As we got closer to the Saturn V I could see the Redstone runway. The instructor let me control the plane all the way down to the runway but took over a few hundred feet before we landed. I was pretty glad he took the controls my palms were getting pretty sweaty as the ground edged closer and closer. Finally we landed and taxied back to the Flying Club.

This was an awesome experience and was everything I thought it would be. It confirmed what I had thought on my first flight as a 9 year old. I had to get my Private Pilots License!

The Origin of the flying bug…


First Flight Cirtificate

At a very young age I was intrigued by flight until the day of April 16th 1994 it just clicked… I want to be a pilot!

My sister, Holley who was a grade ahead of me in school was studying airplanes in the 5th grade. Her class was invited to the local airport ( for a demo flight by another classmate’s Grandfather. I tagged along not knowing that I might get a ride. After watching the airplane do a few take-offs and landings my mother told me to go with my sister to fly! I didn’t really know what to expect, I had flown before but only on a few 747s back and forth to Germany a few years prior. This was a much smaller plane, single engine piston, 1957 Mooney M20 (I still remember the musty smell). I was told to hop in the front (right) seat, couldn’t see out the window or the windshield so I curled my feet under me for an extra boost. My sister and another kid got in the back and off we went.

Going off of a 20 year memory, I believe we departed to the north on Runway 3, headed over beautiful Smith Lake. I remember thinking that everything was much faster to get to and was much closer than what I had imagined it would be. We were over the city of Double Springs in a min or less, we had just drove through Double Springs to get to the airport which took us about 5-10 min! Wow, I was mesmerized! Everything looked much different from above (1000-1800 feet altitude) as we went about our brief tour of the area. I tried taking it all in but it seemed like it ended much too soon, where did the time go? Who knows how long we were actually up there, maybe 5-10 min is my best guess but it seemed much quicker at the time at the ripe old age of 9.

After we landed back at the airport all I could think of was How could I get back up in the air… Until it hit me, I could get my pilot’s license and fly on my own!!! So that was it I made my mind up and set that goal without knowing what it might take to accomplish it.