If you are learning to fly, your first flight experience will always be memorable. Just ask any aviator, from glider to airline pilot. If you are thinking about learning to fly or becoming a professional pilot, taking a flying experience is highly recommended to make sure it’s the career for you.
Where to book
The first thing that you need to consider is: where are you going to book your first flight? There are hundreds of flying clubs and schools around - in fact, you’ll probably be able to do a first-time flying experience at an airfield within an hour’s drive from your home, especially in the UK.
Many airfields are open seven days a week, so you can fly any day. However, there are two main prerequisites: it needs to be in daylight and the cloud can’t be too low. If the weather isn’t suitable, most flying clubs will help you to rearrange your flight experience at no extra cost.
How will I handle the height?
If you are having any potential reservations it is important to think them through before you book your flight experience. Many people aren’t comfortable with heights and worry about how they will feel once they are up in the air. However, a fear of heights is very different to fear of flights! Pilots with a fear of heights aren’t uncommon and in fact, the majority of people who are afraid of heights aren’t affected by flying in an aircraft. There is a strong feeling of security when you close the door, and you should feel very comfortable in the hands of an experienced instructor.
What to do on the day
Find out exactly how to get to the airfield for your flight and leave plenty of time. Many airfields are trickier to find than you might imagine with concealed entrances - and it is not always possible to rely on your sat-nav.
When you have arrived at aerodrome, check in with the flying school – you will probably be at the airfield for a few hours to give you enough time for an initial briefing with your instructor as well as the flight itself.
Before you fly
When it is time for your lesson to begin you will be given a briefing, this will include information on the aircraft you are flying in, the route you are going to take and the weather conditions. The instructor will then walk you over to the aircraft and explain how it all works.
Next, you’ll get into the aircraft and sit in the cockpit. You’ll fasten your seatbelt, and then the instructor will start the engine. It can be very loud as the cockpit won’t have any soundproofing, so you’ll be wearing a headset, allowing you to talk to your instructor over the intercom. You’ll then wait a few minutes for the engine to warm up and you can then start taxiing (effectively driving around the airfield) to the runway.
The instructor will take off - it is a very similar to the feeling to that which you get when flying in a commercial airliner, however in the cockpit of this light aircraft you’ll enjoy a much nicer view.
Up in the air
Now that you are up in the air, the instructor will take a few minutes to allow you to get used to the experience. For example, they will usually point out some local landmarks, these will sometimes be used as navigation aids. It is at this time the instructor will offer your first chance to take control of the aeroplane, first showing you how to move the aircraft up/down and left/right. The instructor will take back control when it is time to return to the airfield and land.
After your flight
After a flight, your instructor will give you a debrief, this gives both you and the instructor the opportunity to discuss all aspects of the flight. You could also receive some handy tips if you want to prepare for another flight! If you do take up more lessons, the debrief is very important and great to help you develop your skills and knowledge, you can identify areas that you may need to work on but also acknowledge things you did well.
You’ll be able to log your first flight in a Pilot Logbook, even an experience flight will count towards the hours that lead to your first significant milestone - a Private Pilot’s Licence.
Most pilots never forget this experience and for most, it’s confirmation that this is what they want to do for a career of a lifetime!
If you are interested in training to fly commercially, check out our range of guides for aspiring professional pilots, including Best Pilot Training Schools, Top Airline Cadet Programmes, nine things to do when applying for pilot training and, how to pass a pilot interview.
This article was contributed to Aileron by Chester Avey (Twitter: @Chester15611376). Chester is currently training to get his Private Pilot’s Licence and is sharing his journey and experience through his writing.
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