Monday, October 31, 2005

My Familiarization Flight

A familiarization flight is offered by most flight schools as a way of exposing potentially new customers (students) to the experience of flying. During this flight the school's flight instructor will briefly go over the airplane with you, pointing out it's various systems, describing how each works. At some point during the actual flight itself, the instructor will let you take over the controls and do some of the flying. This is the point where some of us get hopelessly hooked.

I've done a lot of flying commercially, but never in something as small as a Cessna 172, so when I registered for ground school back in August I also booked a fam flight for the following Saturday as well. I basically wanted to be sure that this was going to be what I expected. I didn't realize it at the time but the day I booked this flight for was also my birthday.

On the morning of my fam flight I went to the airport and met with my instructor, her name's Paula. She answered a few of my questions and then took me out to the airplane where she walked me through the pre-flight inspection, this inspection is done prior to every flight. During the preflight you basically go over the whole airplane to ensure that it's flight ready. You check things like the tires and brakes, wings, flaps and control surfaces for proper movement, you also check things like the oil and fuel levels, etc.

After we finished outside we continued with the preflight inspection inside the plane, making sure that all of the control surfaces moved properly. I noticed that she used a laminated sheet of paper with various checklists written on it. While she went through this list she took the time to briefly explain everything she was doing as she checked it. She then started the engine, switched the fuel selector to the left tank and checked for oil pressure. Then she cycled the mag from left to right, set the altimeter and went through the gauges with me, then we put on our belts and did a engine run-up, switched the fuel selector over to the right tank and called for taxi instructions.

Surprisingly, she let me taxi us to the runway, while she handled the throttle I manned the pedals. In reading about other blogger's experiences doing this I basically knew what to expect, and for the most part got us to the hold line without too much weaving back and forth. At slow speeds the rudder is only effective up to a certain point, after that you have to press on the top of the rudder pedal to activate the brake on that side of the aircraft. We received clearance to enter the runway, then she checked a few more things and off we went.

I was surprised at how quickly we gained speed, within what seemed like only a few seconds we rotated and lifted off. What a feeling... everyone has to experience this sensation at least once in their lifetime. We cleared the "zone" and she levelled us off at about 1,700 feet or so and said now you fly... she pointed with her finger and told me to go that way. I took the yoke and with a gentle turn headed into the direction she indicated. After a few minutes she let me do some turns and some gentle descents and climbs..... it was great, I don't think that I stopped smiling the whole time.

With her assistance, I managed to "navigate" our way back to the airport, it didn't exactly jump out at me so she had to point it out. Paula took over the controls again as we approached the downwind. I was surprised at how slow a Cessna 172 can fly and still stay in the air, I roughly knew the stall speed, but from 500 feet up it feels like your crawling. Paula made, as expected, a great landing and taxied us back to our apron. It was over all too soon.

I'm hooked... damn if I'm not completely hooked.

Why did I wait so long to do this...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

And so it begins...

Ever since I can remember I've always wanted to become a pilot, up until a few months ago it was still only a dream. After reading about another blogger's experiences with his pilot training, I finally asked myself why was I still only dreaming about it, why wasn't I actually doing something about it.

This fellow blogger and I had a lot in common, we're both Canadian, nearly the same age, with a wife and kids, mortgage etc.... The only difference was, he was doing something about fulfilling his dream, and I wasn't. This gave me the motivation I needed.

The next morning while I was sipping on a coffee and reading the newspaper, I told my wife that I was thinking about going out to the local airport to see if there was any flight training available, she's always known of my desire to become a pilot and agreed that I should go check it out. I then flipped to the next page in the newspaper, and right smack dab in the middle of the page was an add for a local flight school... was that a sign or what?

After I finished the paper, I went to the airport that beautiful August morning, spoke with the flight instructor of the school and signed up for ground school.

And so it begins...

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