First solo: Jim Craig

We recently asked pilots on our Facebook page to share the story of their first solos. Here’s our first entry from reader Jim Craig of Goose Creek, S.C.: My solo was a pleasant affair, very successful, but it presented me with some problems I had not seen in my limited flying — my instructor was a large man and even with my slim figure at the time, I suspect we were over gross often in the C-150.

Our dual patterns that summer consisted of a slow liftoff, a slow climb on upwind, continued grinding climb on base and continued slow climb onto downwind, where we would hit the magic 800 foot AGL pattern altitude just in time to pull the carb heat, reduce power and begin the landing descent.

On that exciting day I soloed, the plane leaped into the air, rocketed up to pattern altitude when still over the runway on upwind and left me totally baffled as I tried to make it level off and fly LEVEL across crosswind and most of the downwind. Then it didn’t want to land either, stretching my patience in waiting for it to want to come on down for the touch and goes. I managed to tame the beast and complete my three circuits of the pattern, but my training had not properly prepared me for the increased performance of flying solo.

I soloed at Sparta, Illinois (SAR) back in July 1970 — called Hunter Field after the famous Hunter Brothers who were aviation pioneers in early barnstorming, inflight refueling to set endurance flight records, and associates with Lindbergh.

I went on to be an Air Force pilot and flew the C-141 Starlifter for many years in active and reserve units and flew charter and corporate aircraft until my retirement two years ago, logging over 20,000 hours. I still fly a Mooney recreationally.

How about your first solo? Send your story to with First Solo in the subject line for possible posting on our website.


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