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One last bit of training this morning with Jason and I’m good to start building Pilot in Command(PIC) hours. There’s a few differences between N7308C and N291HA, not so much in how it flies, but the layout of the instruments and controls. I guess it was prudent to do a couple of T&Gs with Jason, certainly the elevator trim being on the ceiling was interesting to get used to.

N291HA dash, a great picture that manages to show none of the difference I'm talk about.

N291HA dash, a great picture that manages to show none of the difference I’m talk about.

Once he knew I was comfortable, we brushed up on the final bit of air law and he double checked that I understood the US maps, before he signed me off good to go. I know from my previous experience with Ahart that this was a more stringent check than what other schools might expect and I guess some may even see it as trying to milk a bit of cash out of you. But, I’m certainly happy for them to put a bit of extra rigour into the checkout. It was actually good to get some decent instruction from a very knowledgeable pilot, as having a down to earth guy to fly with. Top guy and instructor.

As soon as the logbook entry was made, I went down to book the aircraft again to get started on the solo flying. Previous to coming out I had done a bit of research on what were good airfields to visit. One that popped up a few times was Ryan airfield outside Tucson(which of course is pronounced too-son) for lunch at Todds. I figured this was a perfect first solo run as it was approximately an hour away with reasonably simplistic airspace. A nice one to get me started and more importantly, I was hungry!

I prepared the fight, filed the flight plan and headed off. It’s a pretty simple procedure, but slightly different than Europe. Once airborne and tower gives you a frequency change you call up FSS, or Flight Service Station, to open your flight plan, then you switch across to approach where you can get flight following. Flight following provides some piece of mind, basically they’re watching you on their radar and will warn you of anything that may affect your flight. As well as making sure your not doing anything stupid, like flying into restricted airspace. The last thing I need is a F16 up my six.

The flight went pretty uneventful, perfectly still air most of the route and some impressive scenery to take in. Some of the ATC instructions are maybe a bit hard to get at times due to strong accents and talking at a hundred miles per hour, even when there’s nothing else happening on frequency. But, I’m not exactly one to complain about people who talk fast in a strong accent.

Southern Arizona

Southern Arizona

After landing at Ryan, the friendly controller directed me straight ahead for Todds. Once the ship was shored I headed into what is a proper old school American diner. Well it was definitely the best burger I’ve had in a long time and definitely worth the trip down. A great way to get the solo hours ticking over.

That's Todds in the background. Top spot for a burger.

That’s Todds in the background. Great spot for a burger.

Once again a pretty uneventful flight back, on the way down I had been advised clear of Pinal airfield due to parachuting in progress but that had finished up by the time I was en-route home, so I was able to get a closer look at the many aircraft that were parked up. Since the air was so smooth that the plane was practically flying itself at this stage, I was even able to get the camera out to snap a few shots.

Aircraft graveyard at Pinal

Aircraft graveyard at Pinal

Tomorrow I plan for Big Bear Lake, which is 4 season resort just outside L.A. The plan is to fly early in the cool, smooth air and then to spend a day and night. It seems to be a really cool place to go and it should be a bit cooler, although, still pretty warm conditions. It also promises to make for another beautiful approach, as the airfield is surrounded by high ground.
Wednesday morning I set off again and instead of heading straight back, I plan on routing back via Lake Havasu. This will just be a quick pit stop, a bite to eat and then back into Chandler for around lunchtime.

That’s basically it, it’s been a long one, so time to get some sleep for an early start.

See you tomorrow!

See you tomorrow!