I arrived for my flight lesson today (02/11/2012) 10 minutes late on a very cold breezy but bright sunny day. I immediately checked-in, greeted Tim who was sitting watching TV and as I left to do the pre-flight check, Tim said “You’ll have to do it really quickly as it’s very cold out there!” I greed and smilingly said, “Will do”. The plain was located in an outside, unheated hangar and the breeze made it especially cold. I don’t remember the temperature but I believe it was around -14 C, but by the time I was finished with the pre-flight check my fingers were practically frozen. I returned to the school building and Tim said, “Ready to go?” “No, let’s wait until my hands warm up a bit”. Tim laughed and said, “Yes, let’s wait until you get the feeling back in your hands!” and we both laughed.
After my hands were warm Tim and I boarded the plane and were ready to go out and do some maneuvers and some takeoffs and landings. As I put my hands on the yoke to take off, it was freezing cold and I wished I had gloves as I would need to hold the yoke to manage the plane. The yoke continued to remain cold even though the plane gradually became warm after Tim had switched on the heating. Due to the cold weather the plane performance was excellent and we rapidly ascended into the air up to 3,000 ft. Tim suggested that we continue up to 9,000 feet. As we ascended Tim began asking me questions about Airspace and gave me a map and asked questions such as, “Which airspace are we in now? What are the limitations of this airspace?” etc. Then Tim asked, “What would constitute an emergency?” “Err, a fire or if you had a passenger who maybe suffering a heart-attack or some similar emergency?” I replied. Tim agreed and then said, “Suppose you had a fire, this is how you would make an emergency descent”. He pushed the yoke and we went down very quickly and then he said we would now look for a place to land. He then pulled the yoke and we went back up. “We’re near Princeton, so let’s go up to 10,000 ft and then land there as if we had an emergency. Okay, your plane.” I took the plane and we ascended to 10,000ft and Tim said, “Okay now do the emergency landing”. I did as Tim had demonstrated and at first it was great going down so fast, but as we rapidly descended, the change in air pressure caused my ears to pop and I had extreme pain, and as we were about 100 ft or so above the runway, Tim said, “Oh let’s go back up. I feel as if my left eye is going to pop out”. He took the yoke and we rapidly ascended again and returned to about 8,000 feet and the pressure change relieved the pain for both of us, but not completely.
We then continued on to practice some other maneuvers before heading off back to Crystal airport. On our way back we discussed our experiences during the rapid descent and laughed. I’ve had this experience before when I’ve flown as a passenger on major airlines, and it has taken me sometimes up to two days to return to normal. During that time I would experience ear ache as the ears adjusted to the pressure by popping without warning! And that’s horrible as each pop results in some pain. However, in this case my ears were fine by early the next day when I had my small but final pop. Tim said that this is why airplanes were pressurized so that you didn’t feel the pressure changes as much but more importantly because there’s less oxygen available as you go further up in to the atmosphere.