My First Solo

Katherine Moloney

Helicopter pilot Katherine Moloney needed to get into a completely different mindset when learning to fly a fixed-wing.

How did you get into aviation?

Even though aviation has always been in my life, with my dad being a prominent aviator, I had never considered learning to fly. It wasn’t until I got a temporary job at Transair, picking and packing orders in the warehouse, that I developed an interest. When I was offered a trial lesson in an R44, I was hooked from the moment I touched the controls. Having been around airports for years, that flight gave me a new perspective on aviation and I suddenly realised what I was missing out on.

How did your flight training go?

It was an awesome challenge! I love learning something new and was lucky enough to have great instructors, who always made it fun. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about! Learning to fly was even more challenging than I anticipated. It’s a real journey, also on a personal level. Passing each milestone as I progressed in my training was an amazing feeling.

“Solo, the one thing I wasn’t quite prepared for, was the weight difference without an instructor…”

Tell us about your first helicopter solo?

I was unlucky with the run-up to my solo, it kept getting delayed because of bad weather. On the other hand, this meant that when it did happen, on a freezing cold December day, I felt very ready for it. The one thing I wasn’t quite prepared for, was the weight difference without an instructor. Although my instructor put 30lb in the heli to compensate, it’s not the same feeling. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my solo and obtained my PPL(H) at the age of 19.

How’s your transition from helicopter to fixed-wing PPL going?

Great! It’s also been challenging, as I needed to get into a completely different mindset. The greatest difference was having to land at speed on a runway. In helicopters, you don’t need the same forward movement to land. I do also sit down before take-off and have a good think about the type of aircraft I’m in.

Learning to fly a fixed-wing has also improved my helicopter flying. I now have a much better awareness of where fixed-wing aircraft are in the circuit.

My fixed-wing solo, which happened on a lovely summer evening, was also very enjoyable.

Although I already had experience flying a helicopter solo, I was still apprehensive because it was so different. It was like a first solo all over again and it felt absolutely awesome to be up there on my own!

What are your future flying plans?

There are so many different aspects to GA which I want to try after obtaining my PPL (A). I’ve already had a go at tailwheel flying in a Tiger Moth and have tried some aerobatics, which I love, so I’m planning to get these two ratings next. Afterwards, who knows, perhaps try gliding? There’s so much to learn in aviation – I’d love to have a go at everything!

I also want to try and encourage more people to get into GA, especially women. This is something that’s close to my heart. I already use social media to try and spread the word and show how much fun general aviation is. I have just been appointed Aviation Ambassador by the Department for Transport, I will continue to try and encourage others in this role.

What aircraft would you have in your fantasy hangar?

An MD 500E, which is the Ferrari of the helicopter world. It has loads of power and looks like so much fun to fly. I don’t have enough experience yet to decide what fixed-wing aircraft I’d like, but definitely one that can fly upside-down.

What do you love most about flying?

Freedom, adventure and the challenges. Although freedom is such a clichéd answer, you do feel completely free in the air, there’s nothing like it. Through GA, I’ve had some amazing experiences and I’m looking forward to future adventures.

Last, but not least, aviation is a challenge on many levels. You never stop learning and that’s what I enjoy most.

Solo stats

Helicopter and soon to be fixed-wing pilot Katherine Moloney has just been appointed as a UK Aviation Ambassador by the Department for Transport.

When 5 December 2017 (helicopter) / 16 August 2021 (fixed-wing)
Where Shoreham Airport (helicopter) / Shoreham Airport (fixed-wing)
Aircraft R44 (helicopter) / T67 Firefly (fixed-wing)
Hours at solo Approx. 30 (helicopter) / Approx. 11 (fixed-wing)
Hours now Approx. 300 (helicopter) /Approx. 20 (fixed-wing)
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