First flight in the US

posted: 18 Sep 2007

Following my move to San Francisco and with Ginny beginning to do more farmers markets in the run up to halloween, Thanks Giving and Christmas, I thought it time to embrace a desire I have had for a while and take a good look at getting my private pilots licence.

So I searched the web, made a call and booked an intro lesson with AirWard, based at Gnoss Airfield in Novato. The instructor, Dwight, was very cool and introduced me to the various aspects of the plane, a 4 seater Cessna C-172. We walked around it, checking the fuel, flaps, aelarons (sp), rudder and general fabric integrity of the aircraft. With everything checked it was time to start.

I'd heard about pre-flight checks, but I never thought they would be quite like they were. For such a small aircraft there were a whole bunch. Some before you get in, some when you sit down, some before starting the engine. And then once it's running you do a load more before taxi and another load off the runway before take off. Finally, Dwight was happy and I signalled to the tower and other aircraft and I pulled the plane onto the runway.

I'd never imagined I'd be the one to actually steer the plane down the runway, but sure enough, it was my feet on the rudder pedals and my hands on the wheel pulling back to begin our climb into the sky.

The first 1000 feet were vwry bumpy, I think, due to the wind around the nearby hills. Climbing to 2000 ft seemed to reduce the impact of the hills and we settled down to level flight, adjusting trim and turning and using the rudder and going into the initial stages of a stall.

Before returning to terra firma, Dwight decided we should do a little astronaut training. He gave me his pen to hold out in my hand, over the dashboard and put the plane into a moderate climb. The on pushing the wheel forward, put us into a parabolic arc, and I watched the pen floated right up into the air (along with the contents of my stomach). It was very cool, kinda weird and somewhat sickening all at the same timem hehe.

By now, time was running out so we concluded with a quick fly over the runway (not quite buzzing the tower) and then came in for our proper landing. I would have done this but didn't quite manage to keep everything in line and so Dwight had to do the last little bit.