In the many flights that I had made over the years, of course many are memorable ones but one that put a big smile on my face was when I completed my first cross country flight into an international airport, one which I had never flown to on my own before.
Planning the flight was a joy as I laid out the 1:500 map and plotted my intended path, measured the distances of the legs and worked out the details for my navlog entries. On the morning of the flight, I filed the flight plan, checked the weather (which was forecasted to be good) and preflighted the aircraft. It had two tanks full of fuel and with one passenger tagging along, had just the right setup for a pleasant flight.
I had over 20 PIC hours by then and confidently flew the flight plan on VFR using the navlog and relating the ground features to the map as we went along. Every inch of the flight was under ATC and I had no problem with that as I switched from station to station on the way. GPS was too expensive then, so concentration was really required to ensure we were always on track by matching the ground features with the corresponding items on the map.
Finally we entered the penultimate leg but just then ATC directed us to a location that was not in my flight plan. Fortunately I could find it on the map. It was a small fishing village on the coast and we tracked towards it using the compass and by looking at the shape of the coastline . That was the only heart stopping event we encountered. We were told to hold over that village as we approached it and so we just circled above it. There was airline traffic around the airport at that time. Eventually we were cleared to descend and join right base for Runway 04. The airport is located on an island and there is a hill that flanks the seaward side of the runway. We therefore had to track across the sea from the mainland while descending to circuit height, join downwind on the other side of the hill from the runway and continue until we could see the runway end before turning base.
We were cleared to land and I touched down just after the piano keys, turned off the runway at the next exit and was told to hold to allow a B737 to pass along the main taxiway in front of me. This was the first time ever that I sat as a pilot in a plane watching a jetliner taxi right in front of my nose at a busy airport. At that instant I imagined myself being at the controls of another B737 just doing my job as an airline pilot. It was a totally different scenario from what I was used to in my earlier flying days as a student pilot where the traffic was mainly GA and some military aircraft.
A SIMILAR SCENE AT ANOTHER AIRPORT
We were cleared to proceed to the ramp near the tower and as we did other jetliners were pushing back for departure. The vista, sounds of jet engines, ground vehicles crawling around and ATC chatter in my headphone were something that gave me a glow of satisfaction, a feeling that I had arrived literally and figuratively into the aviation world. How can I ever forget that wonderful day.