Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Introductory Flight School

Introductory Flight Checklist:
Cost: $0
Total Cost: $0
Hours Logged: 0.6

Flight School Instructor
Flight School Instructor
In the days leading up to the intro flight, I looked online to get some basic information about flying. I confirmed that I knew what the ailerons, rudder and elevator were. I looked up the satellite images of the airport where I would be training and the surrounding area on Google maps. I also read a few blogs about what to expect. Look up Airplane Watch if you like too. I already had a rough idea of the cost; I was planning on spending around $5,000.00 so estimates in the $7,000 to $8,000 range were not too surprising.

In general, I am terrified of heights, so I didn’t want to spend a horrible amount of time thinking about the situation I was about to put myself in. I figured that bridge was best to cross when I came to it.

On the day of my flight, I arrived at the FBO, which stands for fixed base operation which is more of less a highway truck stop for airplanes. They offer charters, training, had a small shop, and a few airplanes. There I meet the flight instructor who run the flight school and would be taking me up and he immediately grabbed a loaner headset and we headed over to the plane. He mentioned that he just flew the plane and thus we could skip the pre-flight inspection. Although this might have added a bit more airtime it left me a little disappointed.

Before I knew it, I had started the plane following his instructions and he prepped me to communicate with ATC (air traffic control).

It took me a couple practice tries and I radioed to ATC “Timmerman Control, 2476, Golf, Tango, Ready to Taxi, Information X-Ray”. We had got the confirmation from ATC and we taxied the aircraft to the runway.

When taxing the aircraft we used rudder controls to guide the aircraft, the Cessna 172 that we were about to fly has differential braking which we also used to take sharper and slower turns. We stopped just short of the runway and he showed me how the elevator and ailerons are controlled. By pushing the control in the nose drops and by pulling back the nose lifts.

We waited a few moments for another aircraft to land and before I knew it we were full throttle heading down the runway. He told me to slowly pull back, the nose lifted and we were in the air. It is quite amazing to think that 10 minutes ago I was driving to my introductory flight lesson and now I am in the air in an aircraft that I am flying. He told be to keep the horizon at a certain level in the dashboard as we climbed which I had done with varying success.

Luckily, I was so overwhelmed with all that was happening I didn’t even notice my fear of heights. We banked the Cessna 172 to head north and I was instantly hit with the feeling that I need to be a pilot. From all of the experiences in my short life the sensation of banking an aircraft was like no other. Just imagine a rollercoaster with no tracks and nearly infinite possibility.

While in the air he demonstrated the use of the elevator trim by allowing the plane to drop or rise suddenly from its improper adjustment. The elevator trim is the default setting of the elevator which, when you let go of the controls, determines the pitch. He showed me how to properly adjust the trim aligning the pitch of the aircraft with a certain level of the horizon.

He then showed me how to turn using the ailerons in conjunction with the rudder. After the turn I took the controls to try one of my own. I was having a hard time conceptualizing the impact of the rudder on the turn; I felt that the more left rudder I gave in the left turn the more I was pushed to the right of the aircraft. The less left rudder I gave the more I was pushed towards the left side of the aircraft. I now understand why that occurred. Although it felt like the airplane had a much steeper bank then it actually did the rudder was acting more in the horizontal plane the vertical. This basically meant the rudder was controlling the radius of the turn. By feeding more left rudder in the left turn I was decreasing the radius. This pushed me to the right of the aircraft. By feeding less left rudder in the left turn I was increasing the radius. This allowed gravity to overpower the centripetal acceleration and thus a greater pull to the left side of the aircraft.

Almost as quickly as it began, it had ended. He told me to turn in the direction of the airport to land. He took over controls and landed us quite gently on the snow covered tarmac. I taxied the plane back to our spot making sure to keep focus on a central point in the distance as I used the rudder to steer.

Be sure to check out how it goes!
  1. Introduction Flight School
  2. Introductory Flight School
  3. Ground School and Pre-Flight Checks 
  4. First Flight Lessons

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