"Austin was up early on Wednesday, 30th May 1917 for this was the day he had dreamed of since joining the Royal Naval Air Service some four months previously ... the day he was going to fly solo.
At the time, he was based at RNAS Chingford and the plane he was going to fly was Grahame White 8785, the type of bread and butter machine used by the RNAS for the first-time trainee pilots.
|Austin Robinson around 1917|
|A Grahame White trainer aircraft of around 1916|
Austin had first reported for training as a pilot officer at RNAS Crystal Palace on 4th Feburary 1917 and after three weeks of induction training moved on to RNAS Chingford to be taught to fly.
|RNAS Crystal Palace which gave basic training on the|
naval air service and the rudiments of flying
|RNAS Chingford around 1916|
His big day, Wednesday 30th May, began at 5.15 am when he practised straight hops on his own. In his pilot's log, see below, he wrote '... rather bad drift. Landing very poor.' He had another practice at 5.55 am and remarked '... lost prop which could not be started' ... perhaps meaning that he had dug the propeller into the grass. There was then a gap, maybe to sort out the damage, till another practise at 7.46 pm after which he remarked '... much better. With F.C. Jackson for 1/2 circuit before solo'.
Everything was now ready and at 8.00 pm he took off solo and flew for 50 minutes (by far the longest time he had ever been in the air) and getting up to 2500 feet (more than twice the height he had every experienced before).
He must have been totally elated but his log book remarks are typically Austin, analytical and reflective 'First solo. Bumpy till 1500 feet. Rather rough on controls.'
17th April 2017