The first solo flight is not only a very responsible step in the whole pilot‘s career but also a very bright moment of life which will stay imprinted on the pilot’s mind forever.
Newbie pilots, as well as students after school graduation, are extremely eager to hear nice congratulations that would lead them throughout their whole career; however, the way they receive them seems to be anything but perfect. Traditions following the first soloing have truly deep roots. Let’s see, why they are that special!
To wear or not to wear a favorite shirt when going for the first solo flight?
It is widely believed that the oldest soloing tradition, which sometimes is even turned into an entertaining legend, developed in the USA. This custom is about cutting off the back of a student-pilot’s shirt that is supposed to mark the instructor’s confidence in his student after the successfully performed first solo flight.
The legend tells that many years ago, when there were no radio communication between a student-pilot and his instructor, they both tended to sit in a tandem aircraft: the student occupied the front seat while the instructor was located behind him. As long as there appeared to be a huge noise inside the aircraft, the instructor was forced to tug on the student’s shirt tail in order to get his attention. As a successful first solo flight indicated that a student was ready to fly without any escort it also meant that the shirt tail was no longer needed. Consequently, the tradition, although slightly modified, was pursued.
On the whole, this tradition has been in an active use until now not only in the USA; although slightly different versions of this exit in different countries
In some parts of the world an instructor cuts the back of the shirt and puts down his signature, the date or registration of the aircraft. Afterwards, this piece of the remarkable fabric might be placed on the wall of the institution that provided training. It is a very nice way of congratulating students on the completion of their first soloing, isn’t it?
Therefore, some people prefer just to take a photo with their instructors and carry this torn shred of the shirt home. There are also cases when the whole shirt is cut into big wings and displayed as a trophy.
However, this tradition is not the only one. Different countries have either adapted this ritual or managed to come up with something different
“Ice bucket challenge” – the idea stolen from the aviation world
There exists one more tradition that is very popular among many flight schools all around the world. This one is about drenching students with water after their soloing.
However, apart from throwing a bucket of water on a lucky student, there also exists an option of being thrown into a pool. Which one would you prefer?
Congratulations! Now turn your back on…
Some countries, cities or even separate educational institutions got used to one more extraordinary tradition. For example, in Lithuania, the Czech Republic and some other European countries a student-pilot often gets a good kick in the bottom. Sometimes a pilot is congratulated this way not only by his instructor but by his groupmates as well, who have already had their solos, too.
Thus, Germans stick to this tradition as well; although their methodology differs slightly from the one described above! When a student completes his solo and gets out of the plane, he is bent over a wing of his plane and has the backside hit with a flat hand by all the people involved! It is believed that this ritual contributes to the improvement of the “seat-of-the-pants” feeling… It seems to be a very modern philosophy, doesn’t it? However, recently it has been noted that this tradition is becoming less popular due to a growing number of female pilots in order to avoid sexual harassment claims.
From the air back to the air
If we take Russia, in some places one more interesting tradition is retained the first solo flight. Sometimes a happy student gets tossed in the air by his classmates. Usually the one even has no time to step out of the plane onto the ground, that is, he gets from the air to the air.
Furthermore, a student is supposed to take care of some treats for everyone! Would you like to go through such experience?
Already a pilot! But the photo first…
However, there are flight schools that do not follow any of the traditions mentioned above and simply take photos of their students after the solo. The only detail that makes the whole process more extraordinary is putting up these photos in unusual places: on the window, on the wall, in the aircraft… Everything depends on how vivid the imagination is!
Those are the most common traditions existing within the aviation world. Therefore, there is no doubt that there are many more outstanding rituals pursued by various flight schools around the whole world. Hey pilots, do you remember your first solo flight?