First solo: Bill Lyons

We recently asked pilots on our Facebook page to share the story of their first solos. Here’s Bill Lyon’s story: I soloed at 7 or 8 hours instruction, from a then grass and gravel strip at Farmville Virginia, 68 years ago. My instructor, one Jesse Edwards, was substantially overweight; I was a 120 pound stripling. The aircraft was a 65 hp Piper Cub.

Jesse instructed from the front seat, as I recall, and his person substantially obliterated the horizon all around. One day without warning he got out and said “It’s all yours.” Gulp!

Advancing the throttle, within a second nothing was the same; there was no roll; the tail was up; I could see straight ahead; the airplane was 20 feet off the ground, loud, rattling, climbing, flying without my input, it seemed. My instant sense was that something was wrong and I moved the controls with some trepidation. I was at pattern altitude before I took a breath, it seemed. Throttling back restored some semblance of sanity to the situation.

I remember to this day thinking that if Jesse thought I could do it I’d go land on the first trip around the pattern. The landing was a smooth 3 pointer. I was ecstatic — have been ever since. The first solo was so memorable because of the marked difference in flying characteristics with the heavyweight instructor out for the first time.

Bill Lyons, Maryland Airport (2W5)

Want to tell the story of your first solo? Send it to, put First Solo in the subject line.

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