We’ve had plenty to celebrate at Holladay Aviation this month! Those of you who follow us on Facebook have probably noticed that we’ve been posting lots of pictures of students proudly standing next to an airplane after their first solo flight. These special moments are as meaningful to us as they are to our customers, because even though we’ve been flying for many years and have taught dozens of people how to fly, Dana and I each still remember our own first solos like they were yesterday.
For those of you who are new to aviation and might be wondering what it means to solo, let me explain. The Federal Aviation Regulations require student pilots to log a minimum of 40 hours of flight time before they can apply to take the practical test or check ride to earn a private pilot certificate. Of those 40 hours, a least 10 must be solo. That means the student is flying alone, without an instructor onboard — sort of like a learner’s permit for pilots. Before we’re allowed to send a student up solo, he or she must be able to take off and land without any assistance, and must demonstrate good general aviation knowledge, and proficiency in handling tasks like radio communications, following a checklist, evaluating the weather, and handling emergency situations. The student’s first solo is a big deal because without the instructor onboard, the student is acting as pilot in command, and therefore assuming all the responsibility for getting themselves and the airplane back on the ground safely.
However, this doesn’t mean that once a student flies solo, they know everything there is to know about flying. In fact, a good pilot will continue learning and developing their knowledge and skills well beyond the check ride! All student solos are supervised by an instructor, meaning that we carefully monitor their progress to ensure that they are not likely to get themselves into any trouble. The main purpose of the required solo time is to allow students to develop the confidence and decision making skills they’ll need when they’re truly out there on their own as private pilots, without an instructor watching over them.
In the early days of flight training, when airplanes didn’t have radios and most were configured with tandem seating, the instructor would tug on the back of the student’s shirt to get his attention during a lesson. To celebrate the student’s first solo, the instructor would cut the back of the shirt to symbolize that he would no longer be there tugging on his shirt. This tradition is still alive and well at many flight schools including ours, and provides the student with a lasting symbol of his or her achievement. That, and a modern digital photo of course!
Congratulations to Joe (above), Drew (left) and all the other Holladay Aviation student pilots who are working so hard to achieve their goals! Keep up the good work, and as always, keep having fun. You’ve earned it!