On December 9, 2010, I logged my first flight. Just under one hour, but first logged flight! One of the most exciting moments of my life, and I’ve had a pretty exciting life.
Dale and I had decided last week that either Thursday or Friday I would have my first lesson. The weather was perfect on Thursday, and I waited patiently for the phone call from Dale (yes, I finally gave in and called him asking, “Are we going? Are we going?”. Yes, we’re going!
I met Dale in the instruction room at the Saratoga FBO. First things first, he showed me the curriculum. Very nice. Flipped through the pages and asked for a copy. I need to be prepared. I’m a detail oriented learner. Give me as much as possible! Showed me the books I need to buy. Of course, I forgot to bring a notebook, but I had the iPhone with me, so who needs a notebook! Took photos of the books, noted everything else I needed.
Our first ground meeting covered the parts of the plane. How they work. How air works on the plane. The principles of flight. Demonstrated on a little toy version of the plane we were going to fly. Perfect way to show me.
I asked Dale to teach me as if I know nothing. It’s a hazard sometimes to know a little bit about a subject. I don’t want him to expect that I know things. Treat me like I’m new to all of this. I am. Asked that he please never scare me. If you’re going to stall the plane, let me know. Don’t surprise me. He assured me that he would alert me every time before he tests me on things like that.
And he assured me that he’ll laugh at/with me. I assured him that I’d most likely cry at some point. Yes, something is going to frustrate me to that point. I’m sure. Tells me that he may raise his voice. If he does, it means he NEEDS me to do something. And he’ll give me the opportunity to do it first, before he takes over.
And taking over: when we hand controls back and forth, be clear about it! I’m handing over control of the aircraft. You have control of the aircraft? I have control of the aircraft. That I like. I can do that part for sure.
IMSAFE. Checklist: Illness. Medications. Stress. Alcohol. Fatigue. Emotion. Whew. Make sure all is in check. Yes. IMSAFE.
After our ground school session, we head outside to go over pre-flight. Nice plane. Cessna 172. Seems so big to me, compared to the N7292J. Cold outside, and a little windy, but happy me, I’m learning to fly! Loved going around the plane and feeling, touching, knowing what I’m supposed to be looking for. Now it was me tapping on the wings, lifting, checking bolts.
Checking the gas made me laugh out loud. It’s a high wing. So, you release some gas, and check it, and then throw it out on the ground? It’s like gold to me! Oy!
Completed check of the plane. Learned the parts on this baby and how they move. Good. Now, get in. Yes, in the left seat.
Sitting in the 172 was like sitting in an LTD. Huge compared to the Cherokee. Went over where all the flight intruments were and what they did. I knew most of these, but yes, he treated me like I didn’t. Good. Review everything in the plane. Good. Now, start the engine. Me? Yes, me.
Engine started, and familiar checklists to go through. I’m going to make myself little cards for that plane so I have them. Handy learning aids, my specialty!
Time to taxi. The plane is all mine. Oy. I’m really not good on the ground. The rudders and brakes are new to me. I still want to steer with the yoke. Not wise. I’ll get this. Have to break a few habits learned in over 30 years of steering a car, right?
Holding up before the runway we do the runup. Angled just the right way. Ready to go. And … takeoff.
Yep, I did it. Felt odd, because it’s so different from the N7292J. But I got her in the air. And climbed well. Funny that I had to pull UP more, which I do too much of in the Little Plane. Have to get my perspective right in the high wing now.
Once in the air we went over flying at different airspeeds. Me at the controls the entire time. Turned beautifully (he even said so!), and felt very confident in the air. Really nice style of teaching that Dale has. Really wants me to articulate what I’m learning and why. Why do I need to know how to fly at different speeds? Why do I need to know what it feels like, even from up here. All about landing safely. Feeling it. Yes, I like the way he’s teaching me.
“Can you find your way back to the airport?”, he asks. Proud of myself, I knew I could. And did. Approach was too high so I got to do a 360 turn and did that perfectly. Yes, again, I’m proud of myself. On final for landing, he took over. He knew when to take back control. I’m handing over control of the aircraft. He has the aircraft. Yes. I held on to feel his landing. Once we were on the ground, he said “the aircraft is yours”. Oh, no. Not me again. So I brake, and bring her back to home. He let me play a bit with the rudders to get a better feel for turning. I brought her back. Did it. Session complete.
I asked for stickers for my lesson and he laughed. Yes, Hello Kitty stickers. As long as I bring the stickers, he’ll humor me. Hee hee. And the one thing I didn’t have? A pilot’s log book. So we logged my flight in his log book, and he wrote my entry on a piece of paper that I’ve been carrying in my purse like a treasure since then.
I logged my first flight. And I really like my instructor.
I’m so proud of me. That’s a good thing. And I’m so happy.
I’ve got a lot of reading to do. Ordered my books. Started reading the ones I have. Funny that now on my bedstand are Aviation Weather and the Pilot’s Flight Operations Manual.
Thanks, as usual, to Captain Glickman, for sparking this flame. It’s one hell of a bonfire now for sure. And special thanks to Captain Easter, my instructor.