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From Solo to Dual - Zak Wheatley

Date: 15 December 2017

My first ever solo flight was one of the most exciting experiences of my life to date. That moment of sudden realisation that I, and I alone, was in complete control of an aircraft in the air was both terrifying and exhilarating.

Being on the final approach and briefly looking across to my right over the wing to see the sky was a cocktail of reds and purples - I won't ever forget that. The feeling that I had after touching down and taxiing back to the apron was inexplicably amazing – I think I even let out a little squeal following the Tower controller coming onto the radio with “congratulations on your first solo flight”.


From that first solo, the vast majority of flights out here in New Zealand in the following few months have also been solo. It's quite an amazing feeling, navigating and flying myself to stunning places around the North Island. Seeing beaches, lakes and waterfalls from the air is inexplicably fulfilling - especially knowing that I would be miles away from base at Hamilton, yet would still get myself and the aircraft safely back on the ground using recently learned techniques. I remember feeling a similar way when I drove a car for the first time on my own after passing my test, having no one guiding you along with little pointers or conversation, feeling freedom. With flying that feeling is amplified and omnipresent. There is something about writing my own name under the 'Pilot in Command' box in my logbook after a flight that fills me with pride. All being well, I will be writing that again in the future should I become a Captain of an airliner.


That all said, I have now flown my final solo flight, the remainder of my training will be dual flights. This is for an important reason, flying in the professional airline environment will always be multi-crew, where cooperation and working together is crucial. The further I go through training, the greater the emphasis will be on teamwork - so it is important for me to get used to flying alongside another pilot.



The main difference that I have found by flying dual compared to solo has been the ability to constantly and continuously refine my skills, purely by having someone with me to watch how I am operating, offer pointers and methods to improve. At this stage in training that is the most important thing for me - improving standards daily. Other little benefits of flying dual include the relief of having someone else to acknowledge a radio call that I may have missed, or to discuss the best way to address a situation. However, I'm definitely beginning to miss being able to take a plane and myself around the sky.



I'm having a lot of fun with my Instrument Flight Rules Instructor, where flights are constructive and valuable, whilst still having a very fun atmosphere in the cockpit. I think that it is all about finding the right balance of focussed flying time, and being able to have a bit of a laugh when time and tasks allow. Whether flying dual or flying solo, I simply love the fact that I'm flying. I'm very lucky to be able to.



(All photos taken dual and with PIC permission)
Check out Zak's personal blog here