To Solo or Not to Solo, that is the Question.

What do you do when you think you have what it takes to solo your aircraft but your instructor has not given you the endorsement to do so? I know what most people do and I ashamed to say I was no exception.

I really thought I was ready, I had the 15 hours of Sport Pilot training that the FAA requires to earn the endorsement. That is the minimum number, but I thought that was the norm. Since snow was soon to arrive, training for the year was over and I was grounded for about five months. The Sport Pilot rules had not come into effect yet so as long as I was flying solo in a fat ultralight I decided I would solo my aircraft.

Takeoff was textbook but getting almost any aircraft off the ground is not really the hard part. I had decided to fly touch-and-gos only for this first attempt on my own. Well the first landing wasn't pretty and the rest didn't get any better. During the sixth downwind, the sound of the engine changed dramatically. Having had considerable experience with snowmobile engines in Formula racing cars, I knew this was a very bad sign. I turned the Base Leg and Final Leg much earlier than normal and just as I flew over the Runway Numbers, the engine stopped abruptly. Even though I didn't panic, that landing wasn't any smoother, but the large tundra tires on my Arrowquest Everest absorbed the shock of my poor landing. I was lucky, I wasn't physically injured and neither was the chassis of my aircraft. Later I found out that the engine had seized, apparently a prop strike the previous owner had, finally turned the crankshaft into two pieces.

Well, Spring finally arrived and instead of heading back to my instructor, ten hours from my home, I headed to Missouri where I had purchased a single seat trike on eBay. I guess I hadn't learned my lesson yet that my instructor knew that I wasn't ready for a solo endorsement. The Light Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot rules had now officially taken effect so now I could no longer fly my newly N Numbered two seat trike with a Airworthiness Certificate, but I could fly my newly acquired Jetwing single seater.

Off I went into the wild blue yonder, again to fly touch-and-goes only in my new ultralight trike. My landings had not improved and they couldn't have since nothing had changed accept I now owned a slower lighter weight aircraft. After three bumpy landings that I was not proud of, I returned to the hangar. During post-flight inspection I discovered my poor landings had cracked one of the main landing wheels. Again I was lucky.      and the story continues


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