Week Fifteen: Training Area Solo

I ventured out for my first Training Area Solo and a Diamond DA62 stopped by. The weather wasn’t so great for a few days but I managed to get up for my first solo in the Training Area on Thursday. It was a really nice day with only a few clouds, a light breeze and about 8kts of crosswind. I did up my weight and balance, preflight inspection, had a quick brief with Jack, submitted the flight notification and headed out. All my ground operations went really well and I taxied out towards Runway 14, completed the run up checks and lined up. With full power in the trusty Cessna 172 it started rolling and in no time I was airborne, climbing up to 1500′ with a right turn direct into the Gold Coast Training Area, which spans from roughly the airport down to Byron Bay.

The first thing I noticed was it was a bit bumpy, although I always say that, you certainly do feel everything in light aircraft. The winds were also a bit stronger than I anticipated, nothing crazy but combined with the fact I was all alone it does linger in the back of your mind that you and only you are going to be the one to land this thing. I kept my cool though and once I was clear of controlled airspace I climbed up to 2500′ and practiced a forced landing at Tyagarah, which wasn’t the best as I was pretty high coming down final, I used the coastline as a rough reference for the base leg and noticed that there was quite a bit of wind up as I crabbed along. I performed a go around at 500′ as the strip was pretty wet from the previous days rain. I then went down around the Byron Bay lighthouse for the first time which was really cool, then climbed back up and did some steep turns which went well. I checked out the Splendour in the Grass festival site too which was cool, would like to see it from above when it’s in full swing.

I kept an eye on the time and made my way towards Hastings Point and did my inbound call to Gold Coast Tower, I was cleared over water so I headed back home. The realisation I was going to have to land was ever present, with the wind feeling like it had picked up during my flight and thus the crosswind, which the ATIS confirmed it was now at 12kts. I stuck to the procedures and the training, with Jack’s voice in the back of my head. By keeping calm, drinking water throughout the flight and making sure to breathe, which may sound silly but a good couple of deep breaths really helps keep me focused, I came in and made a pretty decent landing. It was pretty good I thought, with the crosswind and everything else considered. I taxied back and parked up, all in all a good flight which I certainly won’t forget with some good points to revise, there is always something to learn.

Earlier in the week we had a Diamond DA62 stop by as part of a national tour, what a beautiful plane. I loved the colour and the craftsmanship on the luxury stitched interior looked superb. It seats up to seven people, but I think most will remove the third row in place of baggage, making it more comfortable and practical for getaways. There is an oxygen system allowing you to get up to 20,000′ if you wish and a top speed of 201kts or 372km/h. From my limited experience it looked like a pretty nice plane and I’d certainly love to fly it, just need to find a spare 1.6 million for this optioned out model.

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