Multiple ‘First Solo’ Flights – Plane & Pilot Magazine | Aviation

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When we talk about flying solo, we’re usually speaking of doing so as the only occupant of an aircraft. And when we talk in a capitalized quote of “My First Solo,” we generally mean the first time we were ever aloft by ourselves. Whatever the occasion, being alone in the cockpit always gives us cause for reflection and a little extra time to count our blessings. Foremost among those is the ability to be a pilot in a great country for aviation.

That said, you have lots of opportunities for making “first solo” flights, including ones taken not by choice but by necessity. Some are the ones we make in single-seat airplanes. Taking off in an airplane with no way to “get some dual,” or even to ride along to observe, is an awesome experience. It can not be undertaken without preparation, because you have to get it right the first time. Once you’re in the air, there’s no way to get help.

I well remember my first experience in this regard. The airplane was a Stits Playboy, a sporty low-wing homebuilt with an O-290 Lycoming up front. Before I took off, the previous pilot leaned over the side of the canopied cockpit and pointed out the relevant controls and switches, told me a safe speed to use on final, and turned me loose to learn on my own. I had plenty of experience with control sticks and tailwheels, so I just filled in the new blanks presented by the little Stits.

During World War II the 200-hour wonders who strapped themselves into single-seat fighters were prepared about as well as they could be. They were products of a system that saw them begin with plenty of dual in tandem primary trainers, followed by advancing into more powerful basic trainers and then progressing into challenging advanced trainers. All of these machines had the student sitting in the center of a cockpit set up for one person, with a joystick in the right hand and throttle in the left, a tailwheel rolling along behind. The one-seat P-40s they eventually flew on…

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