My first solo flight

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
5 min read

Am I ready? Yes. Am I scared? Yes. Am I nervous? Yes. Did I know all my co-workers were watching me? Yes.

I am talking about the day of my first solo flight, March 28, 2024. It was a beautiful day for flying and my instructor and I had been training for months now to sharpen my skills to one day be a Private pilot. But my first mission was to solo the airplane. We had battled the unpredictable Ohio weather, stage checks, and business travel to finally get to this point. Leading up to this lesson, I knew that this day would be the day. We had carefully planned and practiced up to the anticipated first solo day, so I knew we would be going up together for a few practice laps in the pattern and then he would kick me out to be on my own.

first solo

FIRST SOLO! I could not help but smile and be proud of myself.

My lesson was scheduled for 8am. I was ready and determined to knock this out of the park. Everything was in order:  I had my Flight Gear iPad Bag stocked up with my David Clark headset, logbook, student pilot’s license, driver’s license, medical certificate, and my first solo endorsement. It was clear I was ready. Besides that, my instructor said I was ready and I trusted him implicitly. I arrived at the airport (I69) ready to get this over with before the work day started at Sporty’s when I got the text from my instructor, “Our plane has frost. Hoping it clears off.” This can’t be happening. I am ready and I am supposed to do this today when nobody is here so nobody can make a big deal out of the event.

An hour and a half later, during the middle of the work day, it was go time. I jumped up from my desk and walked out to my airplane, the Cessna 172S Skyhawk. I knocked out a few practice laps with my instructor as I imagined, and then it was time to get the GoPros and audio cables connected to capture this defining moment. Okay, now we are ready…almost.

It’s time to start the airplane which I have done dozens of times by now, but every start up until this point had been a cold start. Well, now it was hot after my instructor and I took a few practice laps. The airplane just kept turning over and never would catch. “Great,” I thought to myself, “everyone at Sporty’s is inside eating this up.” Finally, with a little advice from my instructor, I got the airplane to turn over and it was ready to go.

“Clermont County Traffic, Skyhawk 2135 Sierra is departing runway 22, Clermont.” Well, here goes nothing. Full throttle, airspeed is alive, rotation at 55 knots and climb out at 74 knots. I turn crosswind, then downwind, and base. My turn to final is a little wide so I corrected back onto the extended centerline for runway 22 for a descent, but safe landing. I did it! FIRST SOLO! I could not help but smile and be proud of myself. What a rush! The feeling is incredible.

After another lap in the pattern, it was time to celebrate. Working at Sporty’s, I know what that entails. We have all of our office employees come out to our atrium to celebrate with the student pilot for a round of applause and to shake hands with the newest member of the solo club. Something that happened to be one of the best, and most exhilarating experiences of my life, was actually something I was dreading (I did not want the attention). These people who came to celebrate, whom I know, recognize, work beside, and consider friends, have all come out to celebrate me and to show me recognition of my dedication and commitment to flight training. They made me feel like an all-star and a million bucks.


My custom shirttail to commemorate my first solo.

The celebration was not over. Unbeknownst to me there was a little ceremony after the great recognition. Our flight school executive team presented me with multiple tokens of accomplishment and a little history lesson. I was given a challenge coin to mark the occasion, first solo t-shirt, and certificate for my first solo flight. Also, my flight instructor performed the ceremonial shirttail cutting, which I was informed was to pay homage to early aviation before there were intercoms, when the only way for the instructor to communicate with the student was to pull on the student’s shirttail. So, being the student in this case, I demonstrated to my CFI that I was able to operate an aircraft solo, and I no longer “needed” my shirttail.

After my shirttail was cut off, my instructor decorated it and we have since hung it up in our flight school for all of the customers and fellow pilots to see. After that, it will get professionally framed for me to keep, and to pay me a reminder of that very special spring day.

My advice for all student pilots who are just starting, or who are going to solo soon:  embrace it. Have fun, be prepared, and do not stress—your CFI would not have issued you an endorsement if they thought you could not do it. Lastly, celebrate! Invite your friends, family, and co-workers. They will all be excited to make a trip out to the airport to share your big day. It is a huge accomplishment that most people never get to experience. Take pictures! Record it! Simply put, make it a big deal because it is a big deal!

Russell Hartley
Latest posts by Russell Hartley (see all)