Today (09-04-2011) I had my first flying lesson. It was a beautiful warm, but breezy day with hazy sunshine and an ideal temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit when I reached my flight school at 2.55 pm ready for my 3.00pm lesson. Upon entering, I saw that Mr. Timothy Wallace was finishing off with another student. I immediately recognized him from the pictures of the instructors on the Thunderbird Aviation website. Mr. Wallace is of average build with relatively short, dark hair and glasses. He’s probably in his early thirties. There was a new person at the front desk whose name was Kevin, and he checked me in and gave me my headphones and the GATS jar fuel sampler. When Mr. Wallace was finished with the other student, it seemed that he recognized me, or that he assumed that I might be his next student and introduced himself to me. My first impression of him was that he seemed very friendly and approachable. He asked me if this was the first lesson or if I was here for an introductory flight. I explained to him that I already had my introductory flight with Mr. Pham and today was going to be my very first lesson. He then asked if my schedule was going to be on the weekends because that was when he was available. This was correct as Mr. Haak had said he had found an instructor that would be able to teach on my weekend schedule. I replied, “Yes”. He then requested my Passport, Driver’s License and my Health Certificate and made photocopies for the school records (and I’m sure as per FAA requirements).
As Mr. Wallace and I continued conversing about my first lesson, Kevin intervened and said, “Here’s his pilots’ kit”, to Mr. Wallace. Mr. Wallace picked up a bag from behind the counter and proceeded to open it and extract the contents. He briefly told me what each one was and what I needed to do e.g. I should install the DVD immediately and go through the exercises. The next item was a book which was the DVD in hard copy and it would be useful when I didn’t have my computer with me. Further, I was to prepare the theory before coming for the practical as they complimented one another. One of the items was also a check list and Mr. Wallace said keep this with you as we’ll need it when we go for our first lesson. Mr. Wallace asked me which plane I would be interested in learning to fly. “Well when I spoke to Mr. Haak I told him that Mr. Pham suggested the Sky Hawk Cessna, the plane in which I had my introductory flight in. Apparently it contains some of the modern features, such a GPS etc.?” I said. “That’s correct, but that’s only useful when you begin to learn instrument training, plus it’s $30 more per lesson. You don’t really need it as the FAA requires that you first learn by observing what’s going on around you and by looking out of the plane. But you’re still welcome to learn in the plane of your choice.”, said Mr. Wallace. I said, “Well if it’s not necessary then I’ll learn in the Warrior and I agree, that it might be better to learn without instruments first because I should know what to do if one of my instruments stopped working. It’s better to know that, rather than learn using the instruments and then learning what to do if a particular instrument broke”.
As we moved out on to the tarmac, the warm breeze of Crystal airport kissed my face, and Mr. Wallace scanned the planes to locate the one we were to use. “Ah! There it is.” and we moved toward it. Immediately he started going through the long list of things we needed to check. There were several more checks on the list than the one I went through with Mr. Pham. This time there were internal and external checks. Then there were pre take-off and pre landing checks also. During the checking process, Mr. Wallace said, “It’s taking us a long time because I’m having to explain everything to you, but once you know, it’ll take you about 4-5 minutes max. The same with the internal check list.” As this was my first lesson, I found it difficult to believe Mr. Wallace as there were so many things to check! But he’s an experienced instructor and has trained many students so I’m sure he’s correct.
Next we were ready to fly, so we untied the ropes that were holding the plane to the tarmac and removed the cones that were on either side of the plane and one in front. We boarded the plane and put our seat belts on. However before we turned the key, Mr. Wallace said we should open the window and always say loudly, “Clear!” This was to make sure that no one was near the plane before we started the propeller. I suppose it’s comparable to saying “Four!” before striking the ball in golf. Having put our headphones on I turned the key to the right and turned the propeller on. Now I must say that there were so many things to remember in this first lesson that I can not remember them all. I haven’t even read my books or installed the DVD yet, but I had to update my blog with what I could remember. The rest of the lesson was as before, taxiing to the run way, preparing for take off, taking off and then executing maneuvers. During flight we came across some rain in the distance and although it wasn’t part of the lesson, my instructor wanted to show me what it’s like to fly in low visibility. So we headed for the rain and the dark clouds. Although we didn’t go right into the rain, it was enough for Mr. Wallace to show me that it was difficult to see ahead and to operate the plane without instruments. Then he asked me to move away from the rain to the left and then took controls to show me what we should do if we lost power, i.e. glide at a speed of about 75-80 knots and land in an open area (such as a field) as soon as possible. Again this wasn’t part of this lesson but he showed me how it would be done, although we did not actually make an emergency landing. It was 5.10pm and my lesson was coming to an end and Mr. Wallace returned the controls to me and said, “Let’s go back”. Approximately 10 miles from the airport Mr. Wallace called the Control Tower and informed them of our approach. At about 5 miles from the airport my instructor took the controls once again to land the plane. After we landed, we stopped and had to request permission from the Control Tower to move the plane to the parking area on the tarmac. Once we were parked and as we were disembarking, my instructor said, “Oh you might want to get a good pair of headphones. The one’s provided by the school do the job but if you have your own, a good pair, you’ll notice the difference in noise reduction and the sound quality during communication”. As we entered the school building, he showed me how to complete my Pilots’ Log book. I thanked him as he left to go home. I finished my registration by paying for my course.
So, in conclusion this first lesson was quite overwhelming but most enjoyable with a great instructor. I was less nervous than the last time which gave me confidence and made me realize that it was only a matter of more practice. Mr. Wallace explained everything very clearly and was able to answer all my questions. We covered lessons 1-3 in the manual which I will have to read and memorize and then prepare for the next lesson which is next Saturday.