To date, my most comprehensive flight experience came on the 8th April 2014 in the form of a lesson in G-BZWG, a Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee. Originally, my wife had purchased a one hour flying experience from Panshanger aerodrome as an anniversary gift, but having already had some time in light aircraft cockpits before, I asked them if the experience could be treated more as a lesson – and they were happy to oblige!
The ‘lesson’ began with a proper pre-flight briefing, followed by a walk out onto the parking area and a pre-flight inspection. An exterior pre-flight inspection involves carrying out a ‘walk around’, during which the outside of the aircraft is inspected for damage and fluid leaks etc. with specific attention given to critical items such as the propeller, landing struts and control surfaces. We also inspected and checked the engine for tell-tale signs of damage or wear. We then pushed the aircraft forward to the fuelbox and topped up the wing tanks. Once inside the cockpit, and interior inspection was carried out to check for free movement of the yoke and pedals and any signs of wear or damage. Then we were ready to begin…
All aircraft have a manual that details their specifications and operating parameters. The manual also has procedures and checklists for the correct startup/shutdown of the aircraft as well as other in-flight operations. Following the startup checklist, I was went through the correct order of instrument and engine startup checks and with a hearty ‘Clear prop!’ shouted from the tiny window, the engine sprung into life. After gaining clearance to taxi (I didn’t carry out any of the radio comms at all by the way) I taxiied the aircraft out to the holding position of runway 29, and engine power checks were made facing into the wind as well as fuel supply tests from both tanks. Those final checks completed, we taxiied onto runway 29 and with clearance given to depart, it was flaps set, throttle to full, footbrakes released and off we went.
I won’t discuss every detail of the flight as many of the same experiences and thoughts will come out in future blog posts I’m sure, but to sum it up, I found the whole lesson challenging, daunting, exciting and amazing all rolled into one. Along with so many things I learned that day, one specific thing has stuck with me since and that is how completely different a real world flying experience is compared to a computer based simulation. Time seemed to move so much faster, especially during the stages of final approach and landing and before I could absorb every feeling and emotion that was coursing through me as my eyes flitted between the altimeter, the airspeed indicator and half a dozen other things on the panel, we had touched down on the grass. I was literally panting!
The most rewarding aspect of the day though was to be told at the end that because the flight experience had been conducted as a ‘pilot under tuition’ lesson, the hour could be entered into a log book and would count towards my flight training hours. This was the moment when I knew i had past the point of no return… my finest (first) hour.