It may not be my first actual flying lesson, but since my first taster session was over ten years ago and my last lesson was also just a trial, this morning is the first one to count as a real lesson.
If there’s one thing I wasn’t prepared for it was how much pre-flight briefing there was, especially since this was a first lesson. From start to finish the entire “one hour lesson” lasted three hours, with only the last hour being in the air. The start was running through the theory of the controls and all the things I’d need to buy: logbook, PPL course books etc etc (and £tc £tc £tc).
Next was the pre-flight checklist. Obviously my first time is going to be ridiculously slow, since I wouldn’t know what half the things on the list were. As someone who is mechanically inept it’s reassuring to have a process to go through to check a plane is air-worthy, rather than relying on my own judgement. It was extremely worthwhile time not only to start to get the process of the check in place, but also to see parts of the plane close-up and have a better idea of how what I’m doing in the cockpit affects what’s outside.
Then, we refuelled. Or we did once the plane started, and after I’d done some more checks. G-BNUTS (which is easier to remember than most of the other plane codes I saw) didn’t want to start, so the instructor did plenty of pulling and pushing of throttle and fuel mix and eventually it got going.
Refuelling involved a taxi close to the pumps up behind the plane that was refuelling, engines, off, and then pulling the plane into position to refuel.
Finally, we pushed away from the pumps, pointed ourselves away from anything that might get upset by the props starting, and started up again. This time it fired up first time and the instructor taxied us down to the runway and into the air.
And then – drama! Or minor drama as my door sprung open. “Sprung” is slightly melodramatic as the air over the plane meant it only opened a crack. It had been difficult to close and doesn’t seem to be in quite as good shape as the rest of the plane – it almost looks like it’s been hit from the side, so it doesn’t really sit flat even when closed. Once we were higher the instructor slowed the plane so I could push it open and then slam it shut again. The drama was indeed minimal, as the harness is always in place, but it’s a reminder not to trust the catches!
The perfect-day-from-the-ground was still a good-day-from-the-air, but there were a lot of thermals and a bit of a crosswind. There were a couple of substantial bumps which seemed to be generated from no discernable feature whatsoever.
The lesson was mostly basic: here’s what roll does/look how it rolls, but still getting a feeling for the controls is good. Plus I’ve never really used a rudder before so trying to work that out to balance the plane towards the end was a challenge. We also did some trimming and since it didn’t prove too difficult I’m now in charge of keeping the plane in trim when I have controls.
There was some comparisons of handling at different speeds, and also at different RPM settings to try to get a feel for how control responsiveness changes.
Finally we dropped into the circuit (“we” meaning “not me”) and I got to fly some of the approach. It felt like we were heading straight towards the hedgerow at the front of the airfield but I wasn’t in charge of power and all went well. As with the trial lesson last week, I was surprised at how much we seemed to be pointing down on the approach and then pulling the nose up at the last minute. Once I come to landing I can see myself wanting to keep the nose too high.
The debrief was minimal and I booked in for two more lessons, and then it was off to the aviation shop to spend (yet more) money on a logbook, fuel tester, fuel gauge (stick thing), a copy of the checklist book for myself, and finally a couple of course books. It all adds up, and the pile of reading is stacking up already.
It felt like good progress, though, and apparently we’d covered most of what is supposed to be lessons one and two. Onto flaps next time, and hopefully the weather will stay as good.