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Flying - You CAN Get That Pilot's License!
Into the Wild Blue Yonder - Let's Go Flying!
Yes, it's time to take to the skies. I've been making lenses about things I like to do for hobby, sport and recreation so it's about time I take you on a journey into the wild blue yonder.
I learned to fly years ago and I have to tell you, there is nothing like the feeling you get when you leave the runway and climb out at the controls of a small aircraft. It's like nothing else and it's certainly not anything like flying in a commercial airliner. When you're flying in a large commercial jet, it feels more like being aboard a flying bus. You get herded from a building into a large metal tube, take a seat and after a while you end up somewhere else where you're herded back into a big building. That's not flying.
Flying is about using ones skill to take a small machine and slip the surly bonds of earth, into the blue skies to literally get a bird's eye view of the world around us. I grew up on a farm in the country west of Ann Arbor Michigan and in all those years I spent on that farm and driving down those country roads, I never saw everything that was around me until I saw it from the air. I literally saw things I didn't know were there, topography that can't be seen from any road. It was enlightening.
So come on along, lets take a trip into the world of general aviation and hopefully, you can get a feel for what it's like to fly like flying is meant to be.
First Flight - The Wright Stuff
Off We Go...
I learned to fly at a small municipal, general aviation airport in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in the early 1980s at an FBO called J & J Aviation. They are long out of business now but Ann Arbor Airport is still there with other FBOs still going strong.
For those of you new to general aviation, FBO stands for Fixed Base Operator which is an aviation service business, located at an airport that provides aviation services including aviation fuel, oil, aircraft parking, tie downs or hangar space, access to restrooms and phones. Some will also provide aircraft maintenance, air charter and most times flight training and aircraft rental. An FBO is where you go to learn to fly.
The Trainers - These aircraft are commonly used for flight training.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Taking Wing - Ride along with a flight instructor and student as they take wing.
My First Lesson
When I started flight training, I really had no idea what would transpire as I started. I assumed that we would start out with a lot of ground instruction and book learning and then after being well versed in the principles of flight, we would finally get to step into an airplane.
Boy, was I surprised! I showed up for my first lesson and the first thing we did was head out to the flight line. The first thing I learned was how to do a pre-flight check on the aircraft. It basically consists of doing a walk around, hands-on inspection of the aircraft to make sure that it's fit and ready to fly.
Once that was done, we climbed in with me, the student, in the pilot's (left) seat and the flight instructor in the right seat. We taxied out and did the pre-flight run-up and checks, then we took the runway and away we went. The flight instructor had me handle the yoke (wheel) and throttle and she (yes I had a female flight instructor) handled the rudder and radio. I started at the controls flying with my very first lesson and when we got back on the ground all I could say was, "WOW." Yes, I loved it. It was the most exciting thing I had ever done in my life. I can't think of anything else in my life that has given me the same feeling as taking that plane off for the first time. If you've ever had any inclination to learn to fly, I highly recommend you take that first flight. You'll be hooked.
By the way, the picture above is an aerial photo of Ann Arbor Airport where I took that first flight.
Learning To Land
It’s been said that flying is the second greatest experience known to man. Landing is the first. And in my opinion, that statement holds true.
When you take off, the airplane is transitioning from it’s unnatural state (the ground) to it’s natural state (the air) so it’s an easy transition to make as the aircraft is going to where it’s designed to operate.
On the other hand, when you land, you are forcing the airplane out of it’s natural state and forcing it to where it doesn’t want to go, back on the ground. And believe me, sometimes you have to force it!
Actually, I’m only half kidding when I say that. It really is a lot harder to land than it is to take off. There is a lot to do when you are entering and flying the pattern, doing your approach to land and making a successful landing. It takes several lessons before the average student can execute everything properly and at a sufficient skill level that the instructor feels comfortable not touching the controls.
Once you reach that point, you have arrived at the first major milestone of any student pilot – the first solo.
Landing An Aircraft
Every student knows it's coming, but they don't always know when. As you're learning to fly, you're also learning to land and once you master the art of landing, you're ready for your first solo. Now, the student can think he's ready to solo but that doesn't matter. It's totally up to the instructor to let you loose to fly on your own.
Most instructors won't tell you ahead of time when they are going to do it and my instructor was no different. I knew I was ready and I came in for a lesson like any other and as I recall, we went up as usual but she said we were going to stay in the pattern (not leave the airport traffic pattern) and practice takeoffs and landings. I think we did one or two touch and goes (immediately taking off again right after touchdown) when she told me to make a full stop landing and exit the runway.
Once we were clear, she had me drop her off and she said it was time for me to solo. She gave me instructions to do 3 complete takeoffs and landings (not touch and goes) and she sent me on my way. She stood outside and watched me the whole way of course. It was quite a feeling taxiing out alone to fly.
Can you remember the feeling you had when you drove a car on the street for the very first time all by yourself? Well, multiply the feeling by about 100 and you'll get the idea of how it feels to solo an airplane for the first time.
I remember that even though I was nervous, my training kicked in and I did my takeoffs and landings just as I had learned. Everything went off without a hitch and I triumphantly taxied back to the ramp. I think I had that smile on my face for hours.
Tradition has it that when you get back after your fist solo, your instructor will cut off your shirttail and record the time, place and the N number of the plane on it, then hang it on the wall for all to see. That's my instructor cutting my shirt in the photo above and I still have that raggedy piece of cloth to this day.
Feel free to sign my guestbook and share your flying experiences or let me know if you like this hub.