Last August, my girlfriend got me a voucher for a 1 hour flying lesson in Weston airport. It expired at the end of January so i made sure to pencil in a date rather than let it go to waste. On Saturday, i finally took to the skies and flew an airplane for the first time…
Set for departure
My lesson was at 3pm and it was in a Cessna 172N which wikipedia tells me is the most popular aircraft ever built. Here’s the one i flew in;
Not quite in the same league as the F/A 18 Super Hornet’s i’m used to flying in Battlefield 3 but they both have wings in common. After a quick briefing by Jim (my instructor) on basic controls, physics and the flight plan for the day ahead, all that was left to do was to wait until the plane landed (it seemed to be kept busy all day long).
After a 2 second walk through security (metal detector which wasn’t switched on) we were set for departure and strolled out to our temporary home for the next hour which was in the process of having 102 litres of fuel pumped in to it. I was told that lasts for about 4 hours.
Upon climbing in to the plane, you’re greeted by a dashboard of dials and toggle switches. I couldn’t help but think to myself there has to be a better way of simplifying the dashboard. Playstation controls are the way forward… two pedals on the floor weren’t for accelerating / braking, they were both brakes. One left, one right. The ‘accelerator’ was a throttle knob – push in to speed up, push out to slow down.
I didn’t do a whole pile on the ground only assist with throttle and check the instruments were all working, but it was a lot take in and i was looking forward to getting off the ground.
Take off was pretty smooth. People think that light plane = flintstone car but it’s more like a solid boat cutting through waves. Wobbly, sure… but no more so than driving on some of our roads. Take off just felt like a normal take off on a passenger jet. It should be noted though that my position in the cockpit was one of luxury in comparison to when i went skydiving in another small aircraft. I think i just had a bench to sit on for that, squashed in amongst other people. This time i had a seat, with leg room.
Once we were up, i was told to ‘ghost’ the steering wheel (i’m making that word up because it sounds good) which basically meant grabbing it and getting a feel for what turning & movement felt like. Soon after i was given the take of steering towards certain objects… e.g. a green field in the distance which stood out because the sun was shining on it… or some tower in the distance. After a few tips and demos i was getting the hang of it… turning whilst not letting the nose drop… turning quicker, turning more aggressively.
All the while, Jim was keeping in contact with traffic control and directing me on what direction we should be heading. We went as far as Kells (about 60km’s away) and ‘The Spire of Lloyd’ which i circled around and found interesting.. it’s a ‘mock’ lighthouse in the middle of a field build in the late 1790′s.
I surrendered controls as we were approaching Maynooth and that’s when we started descending and preparing to land. We had to circle before coming in to land but just like take off, the landing was pretty smooth. All in all, a good day out and something i’d happily do again.