Discovery Flight Experience

My Discovery Flight
Posted by JoshWhit

Since getting into aviation, being a pilot has always been on my mind to some degree. So I would often ask pilots about what it’s like in the flight deck instead of the cabin. The number recommendation when I mentioned flight school to anyone was, “Well, have you taken a Discovery/Intro Flight?”

Of course, I had no clue what that was. But I’m also too prideful to ask before trying to find the answer myself. So, I would just say, “Not yet. I’ve mainly been trying to find flight schools around me first and find good prices before I do anything.”

Finally, my wife and I decided I should do a discovery flight and see if I even like general aviation flying. I already knew I enjoyed airline flying from all my time as a flight attendant. 

I know it’s different being a flight attendant than a pilot, but I think I’ve spent enough time in the flight deck from the times the pilot’s go to the bathroom and I get to go hang out in there. I also have had plenty of pilots show me how to operate the aircraft because I asked. Of course, I would just do what they told me, so it wasn’t truly flying. But it counts in my book.

Flight School Research

A picture from the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
[Image from the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge]

After I did just a little bit of research, I found out that even the Discovery Flight isn’t the cheapest thing to do. I saw it going anywhere from $99-$199 depending on where you go and how long it lasts. 

That means I didn’t want to start with a discovery flight without having visited and checked out all the schools first. I expect that I will be in flight school for a minimum of 2 years to get my CFI, so I wanted to make sure I’m working with people I actually enjoy being around. 

I started looking at all the schools close by, within an hour drive, before I decided to expand my horizons and call schools a little further away.

The biggest problem with this idea is that I live in the DFW area and there are like 700 million and 3 different flight schools in the area. So, this whole process took quite a long time. 

After narrowing it down a little more, I decided to visit a few airports and figure out where I wanted to go. 

I ended up visiting the three different flight schools at Spinks airport in Burleson, TX to get a feel for the people there. 

I’m not going to dig into too specific of what each place offered, but I decided to set up my Discovery Flight at Horizon Aerial Instruction. I felt that because the operation was so small, I would be able to get the most 1-on-1 experience through this school. 

So, I scheduled my Discovery Flight.

Discovery Flight Experience

Wearing a mask inside the Aeronca Champ

To start things off, I want to describe the point of a Discovery Flight. 

The whole reason people do one and suggest others do one is because it is a totally different experience than being a passenger on an airline flight. It’s totally different from being a flight attendant. It’s even different from being an airline pilot. 

The Discovery Flight gives you a look at what it’s like to be a pilot in general aviation. It also makes sure you get a taste of being a pilot with the safety of a certified flight instructor in the seat next to you to guarantee safety. That means that it is nearly impossible to have an incident during your Discovery Flight.

Now, my experience I think is a bit unique. 

When I first woke up that day, I checked the weather and it was supposed to be pretty and sunny all day. But it was crazy windy. And if it’s too windy, it’s impossible to fly.

So, I finally got to the airport and was all ready to fly. But I walked up and the main instructors are working on the Cessna 172 that I thought we were going to be taking up that day. The owner and head instructor really got me worried when he said, “Hey I was going to call you today to maybe reschedule because it’s too windy, but I couldn’t find your number.”

I was pretty upset and figured I could at least learn about the airplane a bit and ask some more questions before I went back home. 

They quickly informed me they were changing the oil and fixing a small leak in the aircraft before they could take up again. 

Thank goodness for the second CFI that was there. He kept checking the wind and it finally died down just enough for us to take up the other aircraft, an 1942 Aeronca Champ. It’s some people’s holy grail aircraft. This particular aircraft was used by the National Guard during WWII to help train pilots for war. Which is a super cool fun fact. 

The 1942 Aeronca Champ

Because of its age, we had to have help to get the propeller going. That was really neat to see firsthand. It’s also really cool because the Champ is a tailwheel, which is totally different from the typical nose wheel Cessna. 

It changes the center of balance and makes the propeller pull the aircraft to the left when on the ground. 

Last big difference is that it was a stick instead of the more modern yoke that looks similar to a steering wheel in a car. 

Nonetheless, we took the aircraft up with the CFI doing the actual take off and landing because you need a specific tailwheel endorsement to be allowed to operate a tailwheel aircraft. 

Once in the air, we got up to pattern height then pulled off to the west to allow me to try some maneuvers and get a feel for actually flying. 

This is where I had the most fun. He showed me how to fly basically. I mean, turn the stick to the left and the aircraft rolls left. Then add some rudder and you can get a good quick turn. Vice versa for the right. He kind of let me get a feel for flying and try to notice the things like how turns typically make you want to tilt the nose down a bit and how to maintain level flight while turning. 

He didn’t let me do anything crazy, but after almost an hour in flight, we had to go back to make sure we could land before it got too dark. We beat nightfall by only a few minutes at that. 

All in all, I had an absolute blast and found where I think God has been leading me. 

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