This is my first post, after staying up all night and this morning reading on here. I love seeing ATC perspectives, and I wanted to share my own tale of being "that guy".
My dad got his license in college and flew F15Es in the Air Force. He became a CFI to teach my brother and me when we were old enough. I've had my license for about a year now (I'm 19). I've noticed many differences in how I fly compared to my friends who learned through a formal college program. In some aspects I have an advantage, but I am much less comfortable on the radio than them. While I have flown with Dad since I was little, I only knew uncontrolled airports until I was studying for my license. I've gotten better, but as a student pilot, I hated flight plans, flight following, flight watch, controlled airspace, and any other radio traffic that wasn't CTAF or an AWOS. Sorry for the long introduction, but I think it helps with context.
My solo was to go from our home airport, Columbus, TX, to Bay City, TX, then Victoria, TX, then home again. Victoria Regional was the only stop with a tower, so Dad said I should do three full-stop landings for the practice. I planned out the flight and wrote out word-for-word what to say to the tower. That day, I adjusted the numbers with the weather briefing and prepared a flight plan and called it in. I felt excited and prepared after the man said I was the first person all day to say everything he needed and in order.
Drive, preflight, taxi, take-off. I noticed at about 50' AGL that I hadn't set my gyro heading indicator, so I quickly fixed it while I was still on the runway heading. After turning to course and climbing a bit, I called the FSS to activate my flight plan. They told me I should contact Houston Center, so I changed over. I didn't feel comfortable with the flight plan to start with, since I'd never done one, even with Dad, so now I felt nervous. I called Houston Center several times with no response. I thought about calling the FSS again, but I didn't want to sound stupid by not knowing how it's supposed to work.
This was too much for me while flying and looking for my first checkpoint, so I went back and landed, discouraged and embarrassed. I called Dad, and he said to stay cool, forget the flight plan, and just fly it. So I did, and I landed in Bay City without issue. I got out, told Dad, drank a soda, and took off. I felt pretty cool.
"Hm... Why can't I see my checkpoint? I guess I missed it, I'll look for landmarks and see where I am. Huh, what's that water up there? Oh, wow, it's big. Oh, wow, that's the Gulf. Crap."
So I'd forgotten to set my DG again. After a thorough self-kicking, I saw a power plant, found it on the chart, drew a new line, fixed the indicator, and went the right way.
On my first call, I informed Victoria Regional's tower that I was a student pilot, which probably helped them understand what was to come. I was cleared for 12R, so I looked at my compass and the field, finding which one lined up that way. It didn't occur to me that 12R is probably next to 12L. I also didn't think it was weird that he'd give me the longest runway by far, with several times what I needed. Oh, and the big 17 that was freshly painted? Yeah, I missed that too. He was nice, and after I sheepishly confirmed it was me, he told me what my clearance was, and I apologized. I was cleared to takeoff again. The field had two runways in an acute V, and I (of course) took off from the wrong one. He nicely told me what I did, and I blushed more. The next landing I did right, though by now, I was told not only what runway, but exactly where it was and all the runways it wasn't. I took off again, with his step-by-step directions to get me where I needed to go. This takeoff and landing were fine, but I still felt shaken, so I parked and stretched my legs. I was cleared for takeoff, and I nailed it (took long enough
You may not believe this. I had forgotten to reset my directional gyro again! I went west of my planned course, and realized it after I was off the Houston sectional (which wasn't too far to go from Victoria). I was pissed at myself by now. Besides, one of the fuel gauges in the Cessna 150 was broken, and with all my exploring, I was worried I would run out of gas. I did a turn to look for anything I recognized, and believe it or not, there was a runway directly below me. I landed as quick as I could. I called Dad, worried about fuel and the closing daylight. I looked around and found a tiny sign saying I was in Yoakum, so he flew over. I flew behind him to Columbus in the dark, telling him everything on the ride home. It had been an exhausting day.
I still get jokes from my immediate and extended family about that trip all the time. As bad as it was, I can say I've never taken off with the wrong DG heading since. Also, I practiced quite a bit, and I haven't had any ATC embarrassments either. I like to tell stories, so I apologize for the length. I hope you enjoyed it.