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Your First Flight

So you’ve decided that flying seems like a great idea and you’d like to give it a go, but where to start? Well aside of finding this website, the first thing most people would recommend to the budding aviator is the trial flight.

Using our directory of schools, you’ve found somewhere that looks ideal for your needs. Most flying schools provide these trial lessons as they’re a perfect way to get a taste of what piloting your own aircraft is like, without having to sign up for any courses, do medicals or own a single bit of aviation gear such as a headset.

Trial lessons normally last between 30 minutes and an hour, any more can be quite tiring for your first flight, so we don’t recommend booking more than this time. 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 instructors will have a pre-set route that they take which gives you the best feeling of everything being a pilot has to offer, but if you want to do something particularly, just ask, most are more than happy to accommodate.

Don’t forget to take a camera too, you’ll see some breathtaking views whilst you’re up there!

 

Arriving at the airfield

It’s always best to arrive at the airfield a little earlier than your lesson is planned. Sit down, have a cup of tea and soak in the atmosphere, there’s always a lot going on at an airfield that will get you a better feel as to what is coming up. You’ll also nearly always find that there will be others around who will be more than happy to talk planes with you, or give advice and experience.

There will most likely be some paperwork to fill in when you get there too, 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. Aeroplanes are quite noisy environments and a headset is required to communicate between you and your instructor, as well as protect your hearing.

Meeting your instructor

The next step will most likely to meet your pilot for the day. Instructors come in all varieties, from people who just love to fly and want to share their passion with the next generation of pilots, to experienced airline captains who wish to get some real hand flying experience in after hours of flying with the autopilot on.

Instructors work hard and depending how busy their day is (read; how sunny it is!) means they may be able to sit down and have a chat first, or perhaps you’ll head straight out to the aircraft.

This is the point where you can ask any questions you’ve thought up in the time leading up to your flight, though never be afraid of asking questions in flight, it’s all a big learning experience!

The instructor will most likely need to do what is known as a “walkaround”, where they inspect the aircraft’s exterior to ensure it is safe to fly after the previous flight. Don’t be too alarmed to see the instructor paying close attention to the control surfaces of the aircraft and the engine bay.

Take this time to get comfortable in the aircraft, have a look around the cockpit, but it’s recommended not to touch any of the controls, switches or levers until your instructor is back in the cockpit with you.

The Aircraft

Schools usually focus on just one or two types of aircraft to learn in, you can find out some information about common teaching aircraft here.

You may notice when you get to stand next to the aircraft how small it is compared to aeroplanes you’ve seen before. With only two seats on board they are a lot smaller than your usual Ryanair 737 that you take on your holidays!

Weight is the biggest enemy of an aeroplane. Heavy aeroplanes need lots of power to fly, so the smaller and therefore lighter the aircraft the better it will fly.

Light aircraft normally come in two types of configuration, high wing (like a Cessna 152) or low wing (like a Piper PA-28). Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but almost all of them are easy to fly, stable and perfect for your first adventures in the sky.

Take Off!

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. Always 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.

Next point you’ll find yourself sitting at the end of a long runway, you’ll get an increase of RPM from the engine and within seconds you’ll find yourself hopping into the sky, climbing away from the ground.

Flying

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely yes! Depending on flight schools policies you’ll have control from the top of climb to top of decent normally, giving you plenty of time to get a feel of the aircraft.

This varies from school to school and instructor to instructor. Some are fine with it where as others do not allow. Bring one along and ask your instructor before you fly, especially if you plan to fly close to sights you’d like to see!

You’ll be surprised how often this gets asked, but usually the answer is no. Unless you’ve booked an aerobatics trial, you’ll most likely spend 100% of the flight the right way up.

Again, of course, you’re the customer! Sometimes flying can be tiring, so let your instructor know you want a break and enjoy the beautiful views. From “normal” heights light aircraft fly (around 2000ft) you get a great view of the surrounding area, but you’re also not too high that you cant see the detail on the ground like when you fly in an airliner.

Turbulence is a fact of flying, it doesn’t matter if your aircraft is a small two seater or a 450 seat Airbus A380, turbulence can affect your flight. Some days you would be surprised how still it can be, where as some will be quite uncomfortable. Your instructor will have a good idea about the weather, and normally you wouldn’t fly poor conditions, especially not for your first lesson! If you’re concerned about turbulence just let your instructor know, they’re excellent at seeking calmer air and it may just mean taking a slightly different route to make your flight more enjoyable. Don’t try and be brave and stay quiet if you’re not happy, as there is usually ways to make you more comfortable.

The vast majority of people never have any problems in the air. If you’re prone to travel sickness there are plenty of good medicines over the counter which may help you enjoy your flight more. If you keep your eyes outside and your mind on flying, it’s rare to feel unwell.