Goal 80 – “…and there you will always long to return.”

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

Leonardo da Vinci

This morning was beautiful, and the winds were light, but as I waited for my fourth flying lesson, the winds picked up a little, and were blowing across the main runway.

Gerhard had had me do a few circuits around the main airport, then happy that I seemed to be doing okay, we detoured onto a much wider circuit, and headed for the coast. Gerhard took the controls, and dived towards the sea, levelling out just above the surface, then handed control back to me.

We flew along at around fifty feet, just skimming along above the surface of the sea, and Gerhard let me pick my own route, following the coast line closely, passing over rocky shores and breaking waves. At the lighthouse at Africa’s most south-easterly point, we banked round to the right, and continued along the coast. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and exactly what I had hoped flying would be like. I think I am hooked!

The cross wind was a bit strong to allow mw to fly solo, so we agreed to meet again in the early evening to see if conditions had improved. At around 6pm the winds were much lighter, and we went out and did three circuits, after which Gerhard had me land to a complete stop, and we taxied in off the runway. Gerhard climbed out, and with a last few words of advice, it was the moment of truth!

I called the tower and headed back out onto the taxiway, and lined up on the runway. The takeoff went without a hitch, and the plane climbed much faster with just one person aboard. I turned right and levelled out at 1,200 feet, and turned onto the downwind leg and made my radio call. One more turn onto base leg, some flaps and get the nose down to maintain 70 mile per hour. A last turn onto final approach, more flaps, another radio call, and then concentrate on throttle, speed, distance, and approach. All went very smoothly, just as I had been taught, and I rounded out nicely, touched down with a bit of a bump, and taxied back off the runway.

I hadn’t really had much time to enjoy the view, but it had been a beautiful evening, with the sun setting to the west, and a full moon rising to the east. I was too busy furiously concentrating on what I needed to do to get around the circuit and back down safely!

What a truly fantastic feeling. What a huge thrill, and what a proud achievement. I had gone solo at around five hours of flying time, and I was extremely pleased with myself. Gerhard and his wife Yvette seemed almost as thrilled as I was, and Yvette had made a wonderful certificate for me.

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This has certainly been one of the highlights of the 80 goals achieved so far, and I owe huge, HUGE thanks to Gerhard for making this happen in such a short time frame. I think we have both equally enjoyed the challenge though. Thanks to Yvette too, and also John and his staff a Helicharter Backpackers.

I don’t think this one is over yet, I suspect I might be back here one day soon to finish what I have started! I am definitely hooked!

For anyone thinking of flying lessons, I can almost guarantee that it will be cheaper to come down to South Africa for a few weeks and learn at Madiba Bay School of Flight than it will be to do lessons wherever you live! It cost me under US $1,000 to go solo! Fantastic!!

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