Jan. 19, 7 a.m.: I soloed.
To say that leaves me speechless. But I did it.
After a rough start Wednesday morning that left me feeling like crying from disappointment, my instructor, Martin Fass, took us out of Skyport and the San Marcos airport for lunch and gave us a ride in his BMW convertible. It gave me a chance to think about the mistakes made during the morning and how to fix them. So after lunch we returned to the airport and I did my preflight checks. Off we went back into the sky for traffic pattern and landings again. I did five landings, which was great.
After my last landing, Marty asked me for my log book. As I was unplugging the headset and packing my equipment, he said: "You don't need to pack your stuff. You can leave it all in the airplane. You're going to be coming back to solo."
I had the biggest grin on my face and could not believe what he had told me. So I headed back inside to refresh myself. When I headed out for preflight, the winds had picked up. After practicing in the simulators with Marty, we got word that the wind had died down a bit. I walked out to 170RB, my favorite airplane and the same one Franklin Pillcorema soloed in. I began my engine start and went over my checklist carefully. Ryan Barren, also from Vaughn, was so excited for his flight he was racing on the taxiway to get to the runway. I was more cautious and took my time, thinking, "well, I finally am leaving Skyport."
Erika Barcenes with instructor Marty Fass
I remember my taxi instructions: "170RB taxi to runway 17 via A,B cross runway 08, and continue on Juliet and hold short of runway 17." My heart dropped I was so excited. When I pulled that yoke and the airplane flew off the runway I couldn't believe I was in the air by myself. I was so full of joy; my dream finally happened, at least a part of it, and a new chapter began in my life.
When I came around my first landing I was a little nervous. I didn't want to break the airplane. I was precise with what I was doing, and as I touched down my heart was speeding. As I landed, I said: "That was incredible. Let's do this again, two more landings to go."
On my last landing I taxied back to Skyport and received a beautiful compliment from the air traffic controller. Marty and Roger Sharp, another instructor, pulled me out of the plane with a huge hug and congratulations. I wanted to break into tears. I still could not believe that I did it.
After my solo, Ryan, Frankin, Marty and I did a two-hour, night cross-country flight to Gillespie, Texas and back. My experience here has been incredible. It is a skill and a gift to be able to fly and I have so much respect for all professional pilots.