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Student Journal


At the end of April 1999,  I started getting serious about my intentions to fly.  I started by surfing the internet for aviation related materials, and eventually found several student web sites.  I also went down to the local Barnes and Noble, and Borders bookstores and fount their Aviation areas.  

I immediately picked up a book entitled "How to become a pilot: A step by step guide to flying" from B&N and started reading.  It was decent as far as books go, but it was way to cryptic when it came to the chapter on weather.  The book lost me at attempting to decipher the weather report messages.  

Discovery Flight

I decided that I knew enough from reading the book so as not to sound like an idiot when talking to an instructor, and scheduled a "Discovery Flight" at a company located at my airport for the following Sunday.

It was memorial day weekend, and I drove a couple of blocks to the local airport, Thun Field,  and found one of the companies I knew that existed from the internet listings for my airport.  SpanaFlight had a business office right next to the runway, and arrived 30 minutes early so that I could watch the planes take off and land.  

Apparently, pilots in my parts don't get up too early, cause I sat around for 15 minutes or so and no planes made their way down the runway.  I did, however, watch a plane re-fuel and taxi around a bit.  

About 15 minutes before my scheduled flight, I walked into the office, and met who I believe was the owner of the establishment, and another student.  My instructor came in precisely on time, and we did the obligatory chit-chat.  The plane was ready for us, so we went right out and started the preflight. It was a Cessna 172 (I am not sure the year).

The preflight was just as I read it should be, and the instructor was patient and answered all of my questions  Unfortunately, we both tended to be talkers, and the preflight took a long time.  After about 45 minutes of introducing me to the aircraft, the instructor was warned to take me up immediately, so as to allow them to give the plane to another customer who was scheduled at 10:30.  He apologized and we quickly finished the pre-flight inspection without the narrative.  

I entered the airplane on the pilots side, fastened my seatbelts, and plugged in my headset.  The instructor had me to a quick test of the controls from inside the plane, and had me hold the toe brakes while he started the engine.  He fiddled with the throttle and mixture controls, and a few others that I didn't make out, and started the engine.  The plane started right up, and it's a good thing I held onto the toe brakes, as there was quite a pull on the plane right off.  

The Arrow PhotoWe started to taxi to the runway, and my instructor said for me to steer the plane.  Like many students, my first instinct was to grab the hand controls, and promptly turn left.  I had just read not more than 2 days ago about the foot steering and in the excitement of it all, I completely forgot.  Thankfully, my instructor was forgiving, and had me place my hands in my lap.  

It's a good thing there wasn't a highway patrol around, as I am sure I would have been pulled over for my driving.  I was weaving back and forth over the centerline.  Amazing how difficult it was to steer that plane at first.  I think since it was somewhat a windy out, that made it more difficult than it needed to.  

Nearing the runway, the instructor took the controls, and steered us into a circle on the pavement, and finished pre-flight checks.  We then proceeded to taxi onto the runway and set up for takeoff.  The instructor made a couple of quick radio announcements that were a little too fast for me to make out.  I actually replied to him, not realizing that he was talking on the radio.  

We started the takeoff, with my hands on the wheel.  He pushed the throttle all the way in and we started quickly rolling down the runway.  I pulled back on the stick at about 60 knots and we started to bank and rise.  The instructor then took his hands off the wheel and I was flying the plane for the first time.  We continued up to about 3500 feet, and turned south.  

Since I had been reading a little about maneuvers, particularly about coordinated turns,  I wanted to try a couple.  The instructor approved, and told me what to look for.  We tried a couple of non-coordinated and some coordinated turns.  Not much difference really, except that the nose didn't drop as much when I banked when it was done right.  

Mostly we flew south though.  Saw a spectacular view of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens as well as a few others that I didn't know were there.  we were only in the air for about 20 minutes or so.  Kind of a bummer when you consider that we had a 45 minute pre-flight.

The instructor did one thing interesting though,  he had me turn the plane northeast and asked me where the airport was.  I had my bearing fairly well, and was able to tell him right about where it was, even though I couldn't see it at the time.  We turned toward the airport and descended to 1500 feet in preparation for landing. 

We had to enter the pattern from the northwest side of the airport and did so, the instructor driving the airplane now.  We turned a couple of times and lined up for landing.  The next 30 seconds or so was interesting.  It appeared to be fairly windy, and the plane was turned at an angle flying toward the runway.  We turned at the last minute and raised the nose of the plane.  The instructor bounced the plane twice, cursed, and apologized for a bad landing.  As far as I am concerned, any landing I can walk away from is a good one.  Either way, I was a lot less frightened by the landing than I was for the earlier taxiing.

We had to have the plane refueled and parked it next to a gas pump on the runway.  We then got out, and went back to the office.  I got some more literature about the costs, and chit-chatted a little before paying the instructor and leaving.  All in all, a good day.  

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Last Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2000


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