Hey Hey everyone! Happy February!
Let's talk about some "first solo preparation" today from both the student and instructor side.
As of yesterday, I soloed my first student and let me just say it was the most fun, yet most nerve-wracking thing EVER. I crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's making sure he was ready and yet, when I hopped out of the plane and gave him a thumbs-up, I think I was more nervous than him! It went well though because I made sure he was prepared and that he felt confident in flying the plane. Here's how:
First: we went thoroughly through everything that 14 CFR 61.87 requires us to do. Remember the FAR AIM is the pilot's bible! I obviously studied that section during CFI training but I didn't memorize it, so as it was getting closer to solo time and I wanted to be sure we were covering everything, I looked at the regs to double-check I was doing this the right way.
I didn't just do the bare minimum either when covering those maneuvers, like power off and on stalls for example. We went out to practice them multiple times and while I didn't make sure they were "check ride material", I did make him talk me through them every time and perform a proper recognition and recovery consistently.
We did the same thing for landings as well. We practiced normal landings but also emergency scenarios including how to abort a takeoff, engine failure after takeoff, engine failure and electrical failure in the traffic pattern, slips, and crosswind techniques. While it's scary to think about and rarely ever happens, the pilot in command should always be ready for these scenarios and react quickly to keep the flight safe.
Okay, that's how to prepare for a solo. But when you actually go out to solo, there are several things to consider there as well.
Number one: is the person who's about to solo comfortable with that airport? If you, the student, aren't comfortable with the runway length, airspace, etc. then tell your instructor! Most instructors will ask their students 500 times that day if they're sure they're ready to solo and won't pressure them into it until the time is right. However, we know it does happen here and there so just remember from the student side, as the pilot in command, you have every right to turn something down.
Number two: as the instructor, where are you going to go once you hop out of the plane? As you can see in the picture above, I just hopped out and stood on the side of the runway where I could get some good pictures and videos. Somewhere a safe distance away but close is normally good.
Number three: for both students and instructors here, how will you communicate once you're no longer in the plane together? Easy, invest in a handheld mic! Seriously the best invention ever. I had one and it came in handy because the student accidentally leaned his mixture too much for taxi and shut the plane down (it happens, mixture sometimes gets the best of us). So, I was able to talk to him and keep his nerves down while he restarted it on the taxiway. CFI's, you know what I'm talking about when I say we're the momma ducks and these are our ducklings. I would've hated not to have that mic and know that I couldn't talk to him from the ground!
Remember, if you're looking for a good airport nearby to go solo at, Globalair.com has an awesome Airport Search and Information Tool to help you get prepared!
I hope everyone has blue skies and tailwinds this month and for anyone about to solo/solo a student feel free to leave comments or questions to add to this post! We always appreciate everyone's input.