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Alex McGee is our youngest student pilot to go first solo

Alexander McGee has done us proud being the youngest student pilot to go first solo in HDFC's 59 years history. Here's an article from Alex about his first solo experience.

Alex McGee, youngest student pilot to go first solo

During the last Christmas holidays I began flying lessons with Ray Lind. After approximately 11 hours of flight time Ray advised me I was ready to go solo. How excited I was at the thought of flying solo. Being 14 at the time I couldn't go solo until my 15th birthday, on the 18th of May 2016 which seemed to be the longest few months of my life. When it finally got to my 15th birthday I woke up early to check the weather and the sky was blue and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

I was going flying before school, hopefully to go solo. As my parents were driving me out to the airport, I checked the Port Macquarie AWIS to see if the winds would be in my favour. As the phone finished dialling the first thing I heard was “Winds, Calm” and the feeling I got was just indescribable, just hearing those two simple words just made my day so great knowing that if my skills were up to solo standard and today I would hopefully be going solo on my birthday. I went though my preflight checks as usual and started to pull the plane out of the hanger and felt the cool morning sea breeze. After we finished doing our runups and Pre Takeoff checks we did our F.I.S.T. checks and we were ready to roll.

As we started doing a few circuits, we both noticed the weather was perfect; winds were low and clouds were high. I couldn't have been happier with the conditions and very low traffic around. As we were doing another one of our circuits and just after touching down, Ray said “That will do Alex, just taxi back to the holding point and you can go and do one by yourself”. From that moment it was really happening, I was really going up there, one thousand feet, by myself. At the time there were a fair few emotions running through me, mostly excitement and a slight bit of nervousness. As Ray finished packing his headset and straightening the belts, he got out, waved and walked off, very casually I must add.

All my training with Ray has really brought me up to this moment as I knew if in the rare situation that something went wrong that Ray had prepared me for any situation that could have arisen (lucky none did). As I finished my run up checks I started taxiing for holding point Alpha and had a look out for any other aircraft on finals for either runway. It was then I realised that I most likely had the whole strip to myself. As I started rolling, I felt the plane kick up off the ground after only a few seconds of rolling. It’s remarkable how fast the Foxbat gets off the ground with only one less person in it and it was then that I felt like I was really doing it. I was flying solo. When I looked over at the empty seat, I could see right down to the ground on the other side. It’s just a remarkable feeling that you get when you have worked up to something and you finally achieve it.

As I continued with my flight and turned downwind I did hear a Q-Link plane come over the radio that they were inbound 10 miles south, so they were out of the way. As I kept going and started to turn base that was when the ‘fun’ started to happen. The slight coastal breeze started to roll in and I could just feel the breeze starting to move the Foxbat just the tiniest bit and when I turned and started to line up for the runway the wind just completely died off for the approach. As I lined up for the runway centre line, “Outside, Outside, Inside” and kept going like that for the next few hundred metres until I got above the the “Piano keys” and cut the power right back down to idle and started to hold off till the aircraft stalled right above the runway.

The landing was a little harder than what I was used to but the nose was quite high and overall, it was probably my favourite landing, to know that I had completed my first solo on my 15th Birthday. I started to back track and got back to the fuel bowser where Ray was there waiting with a smile on his face ready to greet and congratulate me on my First Solo.

This day is one that I will never forget and I must say it has been the best day of my life to date. I achieved my dream birthday first solo thanks to Ray Lind, CFI, HDFC. I find Ray a terrific flying instructor. His professional way of teaching and his patience when you are learning something new is just great, he explains everything so well that I got it after no time. Since I have begun learning to fly and completed my first solo flight I feel I have gained a lot of confidence to deal with everyday life and I know that flying is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

- Alexander McGee

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