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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."


Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What It's Like to Solo...

News Flash: Erika Vanvick Solos!

There was nothing normal about February 13, 2011. Erika taxied her plane onto the runway and stared out the window for only a second before she pushed in the throttle for the first time alone....

ERIKA Solos!

I asked Erika what it felt like to fly solo. Her words speak volumes.

"Surreal.  As my instructor was getting out and about to shut the door, a tiny part of me wanted to yell "wait!" -- but it was too late!  The door shut and I was on my own.  I took off to do 2 touch-n-go's and a full stop at PWT.  I felt nervous and unstoppable at the same time. I think I said "Holy shit" about 10 times and laughed like a nutcase.  Hope my finger was off the mike....  

It was strange looking over at an empty right seat, and a little lonely even, but really.....words don't do justice to the feeling of piloting a plane all by yourself. "Pilot in Command" is a very apt term. You're running the show, you know?  There's no pulling over to the side of the road, no freaking out....you just incorporate what you've learned and do whatever it takes to fly the plane.   That's a hundred self-help books rolled into one 15 minute trip around the pattern.  Nothing can compare to what it does to your soul and your self-reliance.  Nothing.  Which, I don't need to point out to you, is immensely powerful for girls and women especially.


Jeez....I didn't get weepy during/after my solo yesterday (think I was too out of it), but I kinda am now!  It's just powerful and wonderful.  And something else?  I realized just a few weeks into my training -- both flight and the self-study on the ground stuff -- that I would do all of this....the investment of time and money and all that....even if it meant I'd never fly after certification.  Of course that's not my preference, but that's how powerful the learning process has been so far.  I don't have kids, but if I did and they had any interest in aviation whatsoever (obviously the desire has to be there), I'd do whatever I had to to foot the bill for them to fly.  Again, it's that powerful a life transformer.  I wish I had done this 20 years ago, but hindsight is what it is."

Tom Gwilym one of our amazing pilots at our Centennial Events, took Erika for her first intro lesson a few months ago. He did count her for the Women's Centennial of Women Pilots, and now she is out there on her own!

----"I'm her "mentor" instructor since she is flying out of a club at Boeing, but I've given her tons of advice "flying" the Starbucks down in our office lobby.  I was hoping on being there for her solo to take photos, but I was flying with a student over Kent and she was at Bremerton, so I just greeted her over the radio."  Tom--- you were there.

Erika's Solo Landing

Erika is having a relationship with her plane...

"I love that little plane.  It's got its quirks....the flap indicator tab broke, so someone took a blue ball point pen and wrote in " 0° "  so we can tell at a glance when the flaps are fully up.  And the left seat door didn't open from the inside for a few flights (had to stick my hand through the window and open from the outside.....it's since been fixed), so I was calling it the Happy Days plane for awhile -- as in Fonzie or Richie Cunningham taking girls on dates and not being able to get the car door open for them.  But of course, all FAA-mandated safe and maintained and all that.  Corroded in spots, dented here and there, and man I love that little thing!  Always pat the cowling a bit after I land.  I can totally see how people have trouble selling planes -- and here I am only having rented one here and there for a couple months!"


3198J

Congratulations Erika! I'm looking forward to seeing you on March 13th~ Women of Aviation Worldwide week Renton Airport event, and I hope you'll take me flying one day. Fly safe. Keep smiling. Don't let this feeling lapse---nobody can ever take it away from you.  Thank you so much for sharing your great experience. And watch out for that "No Fly" zone.


Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene

22 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us! How exhilerating!

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  2. Yay! Great post, thanks for sharing! :)

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  3. Assisted in getting one of the women I flew with hooked (although Erika was easy since she had already made the decision, I just encouraged it) . I just have about 35 more to go, but the younger girls will have to get a little older to see over the panel and reach the rudder pedals. I'll just consider it job security for the upcoming years!
    :-)

    Tom

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  4. Congrats to Erika! Her words are the perfect description of a first solo! Brings back some memories!

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  5. That's how I felt soloing. There really is nothing like it.

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  7. Makes me want to do that, so much! "Nervous and unstoppable at the same time," wow, that has to be a fabulous feeling.

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  8. We have to give credit to Ed Bryce at Altnernate Air flying club. He did the hard work of teaching Erika to land the plane rather than the dreaded and embarrassing "arrival".
    I'm just her bad influence!

    Tom

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  9. Thanks so much for sharing my story, Karlene! (and to Tom for leaking the story to begin with) Indeed I'll see you on March 13th -- wouldn't miss it. :)

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  10. Where have I been today? Writing!

    Thank you all for the great comments and an incredible event.

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  11. 35 more to go Tom? Wow!!! You are an inspiration to all of us! Thank you. A hero among men! So much fun to watch people soar.

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  12. Vic and Christina... ME TOO!!! I remember it so well. A feeling that will never go away.

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  13. Way to go ED!!! You did great work! Looked like a beautiful landing.

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  14. Linda, you are not too old. You should learn to fly! Inspiration... wow.

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  15. Congratulations Erika! Going solo is a feeling I will never forget and I am very impressed that your first solo consisted of two touch and go's! I was more than happy with my solitary take off and landing on my first trip, more so the safe landing! Good luck pursuing your aviation passion further, I wish you all the best with it!

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  16. Thanks for the message Andrew. Soloing is an experience none of us will forget.

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  17. I think I talked Erika (with not too much arm twisting) to show up on the 13th with her C-150 to show.
    I'm sure we'll have a huge load of passengers, but I'll try to work Erika into flying some rides. (I'll be PIC as "copilot" to keep things legal - unless she has her license before then!) :-)

    Tom

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  18. EXCELLENT TOM!!! That would be very cool.

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  19. I can't wait until my 6 year old experiences solo flight!

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  20. Gawd! Another Woman Flyer! And more power to Erika! What a wonderful achievement and personal success. I enjoyed her notes about the airplane and its quirks: This flying woman is paying attention to details -and that's what its all about. My nickle bet says that her pre-flight was the best that the poor little airplane has ever seen. Her pattern routines and T&Gs were probably within a foot of perfect and her pride-in-performace is earned. Go for it, Erika!! The sky is yours and has planty of room for you. So... What is the next objective? I hope we get a report via Karlene. Did I mention "Congratulations?"
    -Craig

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  21. I bet you're right Craig. And I know that little plane has never felt so loved. Yes... you will definitely get a report and an update. I have moles throughout the airport that will report these important events.
    Thanks for your comment!

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  22. Kevin, I can't wait too!!! It won't be long. Trust me, it goes so fast.

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Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!