It’s been a minute. How are you?
Me? I’ve had a crazy bit of time since I last posted.
For starters, my sister got married. Then my whole family, except for my wife and I, got COVID. Everyone was totally okay, but my parents got hit hard. My mom was hospitalized for about a week and my dad was on constant oxygen at home for a couple of days with my sister taking care of him.
We, as a family, were pretty scared for them. My dad was even giving my sister a basic overview of his will and how to access all my parents’ insurance information.
So, stressful would be an understatement.
Then, I did my first official flight lesson, but then I got COVID myself!
When I got it, it was like having a really bad cold or a very mild strain of the flu. This made me not want to write at all, so I only wrote for my freelance gigs for the sake of making side cash.
But now I’m feeling amazing. My side gig is kind of dying down, so I started doing Favor delivery (a service similar to Uber Eats but for more than just food) for some extra side money to help pay for flight school because it’s not cheap.
Now, you are all caught up with my life. I want to divulge what my first official lesson was like.
On my first flight with my instructor, we just delivered an airplane to a different airport to get paint touch-ups.
So, here is a rundown of what it was like for my first official lesson!
First Lesson: Preflight Brief
My first time flying with my instructor at Harbour Aviation was really me learning from a friend. We just were delivering a plane, so I didn’t do any maneuvers or anything like that. Instead, I did some work on straight and level flight as well as changing headings. We were avoiding flying in specific airspace and had to fly below some lower clouds. It was actually really fun, but we didn’t do a proper brief for a lesson beforehand. He just gave me a basic rundown before getting in the plane and leaving.
For my actual lesson, we did a true preflight brief for a lesson.
The biggest difference here is the intention behind the brief.
We met outside but went to the instructor’s office to do the brief. Here we sat down and mapped out a basic lesson for the day. The plan was to do a slow walkthrough of how to properly preflight an airplane (he did it himself the first flight since it wasn’t a lesson), then he would show me how to do a correct run-up, taxi, and take-off. Once in the air, I would do 2 ground reference maneuvers: S-turns and turns around a point. We would practice those, then come back in, and he would do the landing, but I would keep my hands on the yoke to feel what it’s like to do a proper landing.
First Lesson: Preflight, Run-up, Taxi, and Takeoff
For the sake of time, I won’t walk you through the preflight and run-up right now. I’ll save those for posts all to themselves.
But after doing the brief, we had to move some airplanes blocking the one we wanted to take for the day. There were a couple of larger airplanes that came in the night before that were parked in front of us in the hanger. So, I got extra experience towing some airplanes!
After getting the airplane out of the hangar, we started the checks. There was a checklist in the pocket that my instructor walked me through to make sure the aircraft was ready for our lesson.
This was a very interesting experience because I have always heard that there is a checklist for everything, but there is also an acronym for everything. Anytime we would do a check, my instructor had some tips to help me remember how to do it correctly.
Couple that with the fact that I have a book in my pilots kit that is a bullet point walkthrough of everything and I can chair fly all the time to help when I can’t make it out to actually fly…such as when I had COVID or when I work as a flight attendant.
We did have to add some gas, but ultimately, the airplane was great so we hopped inside!
In the airplane, we did the internal walkthrough of the preflight checks then started it up and did my new favorite thing of yelling, “CLEAR PROP!” before starting it up.
I don’t know why, but I loved just yelling at the top of my lungs. It’s also extremely important because the propeller hitting someone can kill them, so it’s extremely important to be very loud and make sure everyone and everything is out of the way.
We then moved the aircraft to the run-up area. I got to feel the p-factor that pulls the airplane to left and did a much better job controlling the airplane this time than I did for my first flight.
We pulled off to the side next to do the run-up and make sure the engine was working properly. This is also incredibly important because you need to make sure that everything is going to be working properly in the air. You don’t want any surprises inflight that could result in injury or death.
After guaranteeing everything was going to run perfectly, we taxied to the other end of the runway. I again got to practice keeping the airplane straight.
Taxiing is something that was really difficult for me to get, but after going for a bit I got the hang of it. Driving with your feet is a bit different than normal driving with a steering wheel.
In fact, I did such a bad job my instructor said, “Try to keep the airplane on centerline….No…Not like that…Professionals use the centerline…”
Don’t worry, it was all jokes. We both laughed at it.
Finally, though, we made it to the other end, double-checked that the airspace was clear since we last checked on the other end of the runway.
It was, so we took off (another article will cover this too!).
First Lesson: S-turns and Turns Around a Point
Now, we get to the fun part.
Once in the air, my instructor felt I had a good grasp on headings and straight and level flight, so we found a reference to do S-turns.
An S-turn is when you find a reference point on the ground and use it to make an “S.” The reference point must be perpendicular to the direction of the wind. You will enter downwind, with it pushing you forward, and then bank to the left. You use the wind to your advantage and have it help you make the turn to where you are straight and level again once you cross back over your reference before banking to the right and doing it in the opposite direction.
This maneuver helps you learn how to use the wind to help you turn. It also helps you to learn to use outside references instead of the instruments to fly and maintain your heading. This is massively important when working toward your private pilot license.
It’s also worth noting that you must work on applying back pressure to maintain the correct altitude throughout the maneuver.
After S-turns, we found a water tower to use as the reference point for turns around a point.
The way you do turns around a point is that you find a reference outside the aircraft then uses that as a visual reference to turn in a complete 360 degree turn around that point.
When doing this maneuver you have to keep the object directly off your shoulder. So, if you’re doing a left turn, then you keep the object lined up with your left shoulder. To do this, you have to learn how to manage your bank. If you have too much bank, you will turn too fast and the reference point will move in front of your shoulder. Too little bank and the object will move behind your shoulder.
For my lesson, we did this to the left first. Then to the right two times, the left once again, and one last time on the right because it’s typically harder to go to the right than the left because the pilot-in-command usually sits on the left side.
I’m going to brag a bit and say that I impressed my instructor because I did this so well on my first try. I also maintained my altitude within 50 feet throughout the entirety of the lesson, which is a big deal for such a new pilot.
First Lesson: Return to Airport, Landing, and Post-flight Brief
For the sake of this article not being a million paragraphs long, I’m wrapping these all into one.
After doing those maneuvers, my instructor decided we had done enough should head back to the airport.
Harbour Aviation (my flight school) is at an untowered airport (Bourland Field 50F), so I got a unique experience in having another airplane take off as we headed back got to talk to him on the headset so that we could maintain visual with each other and make sure we were safe.
It wasn’t a big deal, but I thought it was so cool to see another airplane take off as we were working back into the pattern.
For the landing, I didn’t do it myself (though I secretly feel confident in my ability to land even though I’ve only done it on X-Plane for my iPhone), but I got to keep my hands on the controls to see what it feels like.
It was really neat to see my instructor land because I felt like everything came up really quick, but he calmly talked his way through everything as he was doing it.
After landing, we taxied off the runway and parked the aircraft.
My instructor had another lesson after that, so we did not put it back in the hangar.
We went back to his office and did the post-flight brief.
Here he told me I did really well for someone with so little actual flight time. I’m not going to lie, I felt like I was on cloud 9 after that. It stroked my ego just enough for me to want to keep flying all day if I was able. Sadly, I wasn’t able to though because I have things to do.
He also gave me some points to work on and homework for my next lesson. I was told to read about stalls and slow flight. I also got a ton of youtube video recommendations to watch as study material.
Lastly, I was told to keep chair flying and use my iPhone simulator to continue practicing. It’s not 100% accurate, but it does work well to teach the basics.
I’m now beyond stoked for my next flight. I had to reschedule two times now because I first got sick with COVID, then the wind was way too strong for me to handle.
I, finally, have it set up and the weather looks good. The worst part is that it’s supposed to be cold.
And I hate the cold.
But nothing can bring me down. I am so excited about this journey. Flying is super fun and I love that I’m always learning while doing it.