Flight School:Waterloo Wellington Flight Center
Flight Instructor:Ying Kong (Joseph) Pang
Comment:My first solo was an interesting experience. I say this because although I took off with a simple task to complete, it was not under simple circumstances.
On July 27, 2016, I waited for nearly 15 minutes holding short of runway 26 in Region of Waterloo International Airport due to heavy traffic. I waited for my clearance, and my heartbeat raced faster and faster with every extra moment. In my mind, I had the vision of the previous day’s occurrences on repeat like a broken record: Less than 24 hours before my first solo, I witnessed just how severe the consequences of poor aviation could be.
During a training flight landing at uncontrolled Guelph Airpark, I came upon the sight of a mustard yellow plane with its tail in the air and its nose stuck in the parking lot fence. A substantial crew of emergency response vehicles surrounded the site, and a man bandaged from head to toe sat in the middle of the flashing lights. Neither man nor plane were in good condition. I’d just received a sobering reminder that though flight may be exhilarating, its dangers are very real.
My first and only circuit progressed with little incidence. I noted that my crosswind leg was a little close to the runway, I realized midway that my transponder was placed on “Standby”, but I stayed in constant contact with ATC, and they made no indication that anything was wrong. I followed my instructions and landed smoothly, unknowingly executed a standard short field landing, and exited onto the nearest taxiway. The usual commemorative photos were taken, and I was struck with the intense feeling of relief – It appeared that I would live to see another day.
It was after my feet were planted firmly on the ground however that the worrying comments came flooding in. My instructors and staff had seen another aircraft cut in below me as I made my approach for landing, too close to my own position beneath me for me to see. Fortunately, it did not further attempt to compete with me as I landed. The other aircraft turned away from my path, and I was able to touchdown happily oblivious of the close encounter. In addition to the close call with another plane, ATC radar had been turned off during my flight. The controllers had to rely upon their own vision to track each individual aircraft, and they told another aircraft that they were unable to discern my position with accuracy. Radio contact became the only method of separation in the circuit.
Regardless of the circumstances, I made it back to earth safe. I realize that I am extremely lucky to be where I am today. Not only was I able to rely upon ATC help to guide me during what could have been a disastrous flight, I am also a member of an exceptionally privileged group of youth free of monetary responsibility. I am an Air Cadet. This year, I am part of an accelerated 7-week scholarship program in hopes of earning my wings as a power pilot. The truth is, I am only a recent high school graduate amongst an extraordinary, brilliant group of young people. Unlike the vast majority of my peers, I am not a glider pilot, and I don’t even have a driver’s license. All I have is a crazy childhood dream of one-day flying of into the big blue sky.
My journey to my first solo was not easy, and I know the road ahead will only continue to get harder and harder. I know that across Canada, there are many others young and old, men and women, that are also walking the same grueling road, almost fueled more by fantasy than reality. To all of them, keep going, stay strong; the rewards are sure to be well worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
A Shout out to all my fellow cadet pilot hopefuls: You’re all awesome. Don’t give up, I’m sure you’ll make it. And no matter what happens, keep cruising!