So you’ve decided what course you’d like to pursue and using our directory, you’ve found the school that suits your needs. The next thing to do is go take a visit, or if you want to jump right in, book a trial lesson! Trial lessons normally last between 30 minutes and an hour, any more can be quite tiring for your first flight. A first flight normally consists of a very basic overview of the controls, how the plane flies, plus a little bit of sight seeing. Remember to talk to your instructor about what you want to gain from the flight, if you want to treat it as lesson one or perhaps you just want to see a bit of the surrounding countryside (or your house!) then ask, most are more than happy to accommodate. Don’t forget to take a camera too, you’ll see some beautiful views whilst you’re up there.
Arriving at the airfield
I’d always recommend arriving a little early to the airport. Sit down, have a cup of tea and soak in the atmosphere. You’ll nearly always find that there will be others around who will be more than happy to talk planes with you, or give advice if you want. There will most likely be some paperwork to fill in when you get there, usually to cover you for insurance, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to deal with that. Normally the flying school will lend you a headset at this point too, this will help you communicate in the cockpit, plus block out a lot of noise.
Meeting your instructor
Next thing will most likely be meeting your pilot for the day. Instructors work hard and depending how busy their day is, they may be able to sit down and chat for a bit, or you’ll get straight out to the aircraft. This is the best time to ask questions which you’d like to find out prior to flying (you can always ask more during the flight). They’ll most likely need to do a “walkaround” of the aircraft, checking that its safe to fly, but spend your time getting comfortable and taking a good look around.
Schools usually focus on one type of aircraft to learn in, you can find out some information about common teaching aircraft here. Many people are a little put off by the size of the aircraft, or perhaps it’s apparent age. Don’t worry about these points, most light aircraft are quite small as it makes them lighter (which in turn makes them fly better, usually), and whilst aircraft often look old, maintenance is key for anything in aviation and it’s almost certainly very, very safe to fly.
Your instructor will often give you a brief chat about what controls do what and what instruments you can see in front of yourself. After this you’ll hear them chatting on the ATC to get clearance. This might sound complex, but don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than it seems. Then it’s off to the runway to go fly! A lot of people can feel very nervous at this point, but try your best not to be. Flying is not a natural thing for humans to be participating in, we simply weren’t designed to fly, so it’s quite normal to be apprehensive, but remember the pilot next to you could have thousands of hours of experience, so you’ll be in safe hands. Perhaps let him or her know you’re nervous, honesty is best here, as they’ll be able to do everything they can to make your flight comfortable.
Once you’re in the air your pilot will most likely run you thorough the basic controls of the aircraft. This page isn’t a “how to fly” guide, we’ll leave that to your instructor, but the best thing for you to do is just enjoy yourself! If you feel like trying something, or have a question about what a certain button/switch does, just ask. This is your time to learn if this is something you want to invest in.
Back to Earth
After flying around enjoying yourself, time will come to get back on the ground. This is the hardest part of flying and it’s very likely your pilot will take control of the aircraft in the last 5 minutes of your flight as you re-enter busy airspace around the airport. He or she will often recommend you to “follow through” on the controls, this just means keep your hands on the controls, feeling what’s happening, but not such a grip to interfere. Your pilot will then fly the aircraft, slow it down and prepare it for landing, followed by a short taxi back to parking.
After your flight
As your instructor turns off the engine, remove your headset as it’ll be much quieter now and you can talk freely. Normally you’ll jump out the aircraft and walk back to the school with your instructor, so have a little review of your flight at this time. Don’t forget to take a picture next to the aircraft too to prove you’ve taken that first step into aviation! Congratulations, you’ve now piloted a plane for the first time. Some schools give a certificate, some do not, but if you’re looking to carry on with training make sure you get a logbook (these don’t cost too much and most schools sell them) to log your first flight and the start of your journey to become a pilot.