I got my pilot’s license at Van Nuys airport back on April 3, 2000. If you like flying, have ever thought about getting a license, or just like really good film-making, you should check out this new DVD:

One-six right refers to the long runway (8,001 feet) at Van Nuys airport–the runway from which I made most of my takeoffs (most of my landings were on the shorter 16L). The video looks awesome and I’m ordering a copy today. Thanks to kevnyc for pointing it out to me. (kevnyc was one of the first people to fly with me after I got my license.) Check out the scenes from the video that they have on the web site.

Watching and listening to the “look ma, no hands” video, about the first time you fly solo as a student, brought back a lot of memories and emotions I had on the day that I did my first solo flight in September 1999.

It had been raining–in fact, some thunderstorms had passed through and I wasn’t sure we were even going to be able to fly that day. But the cells passed by and through the sky was gray, the conditions were good enough for flying. My instructor and I climbed into the Cessna 152 I was flying at the time (N25573) and I did four or five touch-and-gos. After the last one, he said to pull over. He called the tower, told them that I was going to solo, and he got out of the plane. It was a weird day. Normally, Van Nuys is a very busy airport. At this time (it must have been around 3 PM) it was dead. Not a plane in the sky. Also, you normally take off to the sound on either 16R or 16L. However, the winds were blowing from the north so I took off on 34R. I taxied to the runway by myself, holding short just off the runway. I knew that I was ready, but I was nervous. I got on the radio and called the tower.

“Van Nuys, Cessna 25573 at 34R, student, solo. Ready to go.”

“Cessna 573, 34R, cleared for takeoff.”

I eased the throttle forward and pulled onto the runway, lining up with the centerline. And then I gave the plane full power, a little right rudder and I started rolling down the runway. My instructor taught me to say things outloud to make sure I do them. So, even though no one else was in the plane, I said, “Engine gauge green. Airspeed alive.” At the plane hit 55 knots, I pulled back on the yoke and eased the plane off the runway, giving a little more right rudder during the climb. I watched the airport fall off behind me. And I screamed, “Whoo-hoo!” I climbed out at best rate, followed the runway heading until I reached Nordhoff Blvd. at which point I turned crosswind, east. I continued my turn onto the downwind leg, right smack over the 405 freeway, heading south. I leveled off at 1,800 ft, which is the pattern altitude for Van Nuys airport. I throttled back to pattern speed, trimmed the airplane and just watched. I was flying! That’s when it started to rain.

I’d never flown in rain before, and the plane I was flying did not have wipers, but it wasn’t raining too hard. I wasn’t too worried as long as the rain didn’t get any harder. The clouds were still several thousand feet above me. As I came abeam the tower, I got back on the radio. “Van Nuys, 573 downwind, abeam, for full-stop.” My instructor had asked that I make the first landing a full-stop so that I could talk to him and see how things went. Throttled back, turned on the carb heat, and started my decent. Just before turning base, I put in 10 degrees of flaps, checked that my seatbelt was fastened, and my shoulder harness was in place, make sure the fuel was set to “both”, and went through the normal landing checklist. I turned base just north of the 101 freeway.

“Cessna 573, 34R, cleared to land.”

I turned from base to final, added flaps and I was totally focused at this point. I picked the spot on the runway where I wanted to touch down, just past the numbers. I nailed my 65 knot approach and had the plane trimmed so well, that I didn’t even need my hands on the controls. I continued to add flaps until they were fully deployed. I passed over the runway threshold and started to pull back on the yoke just a little, then I idled the throttle. The plane rotated, the speed bled away, and I touched down just as the plane stalled. It was one of my best landings ever!

I taxied back to my instructor. He said I did a great job. I needed to do at least 2 more landings for it to count as an official solo. So back I went. I ended up doing 4 more touch and gos, all of them on the long runway, 34L.

Afterward, my instructor tore off my shirt tail and illustrated it with markers. I had done it. I had flown a plane by myself! I was completely elated!

Cool video. Good memories.


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