Lesson 1. Effects of Controls - 9am, June 5 2004

Well, I guess you have to start somewhere. It was a rather surreal experience, and for some strange reason I wasn’t apprehensive or scared in any way. Met the CFI Roger and he seemed like a nice guy. In fact, everyone at the Waikato Aero Club are nice. The lesson briefing went past fairly quickly – knowing everything in advance (conceit aside, I know a lot about basic flight mechanics) was good because I could clarify points and ask interest questions which were always politely answered. Roger went through the syllabus at a pace that he felt I was keeping up with. Went out onto the apron and there was ZK-EJZ (a Cessna 152 2 seat plane), my classroom for the next 30 minutes Roger did the pre-flight and I just hung around keeping an eye on him while Susan took a couple of pics. I wasn’t really taking it in at the time but afterwards when I reflect on things he was very very thorough. I got to prime and start the engine (it was a blast to say “Avionics Master on, magneto switch to both” – kind of felt like I was really flying and we hadn’t left the ground). Then Roger did all the pre taxi checks and checked in with ATC (air traffic control). Taxing out, he did a brief pre-take off check before getting clearance to take off.

As he opened the throttle to full (and holding us on course as if by magic – well I just haven’t mastered the fine art of rudder control just yet) he noted the effects of controls, after all this is what the lesson was about. The elevators were quite sensitive but the ailerons had no effect at all. The next thing we were at 55KIAS (knots indicated air speed) and Roger got the nose in the air and we were off. Climbing out, we overflew the nearby Mormon Temple (a great navigation point as it is almost more distinctive from the air than it is from the ground) and Roger notified ATC that we were out of controlled airspace and into the training area. Then he proceeded to show me what pitch, roll and yaw meant in the real world of 1500 feet, and what happens if you let them get outside "normal" flight parameters. The overbank was fun, but the excessive yaw got a bit frightening as the plane decided to add in some roll and pitch to the exercise and the plane started to enter a spin (not really a spin, but it felt like it!!). Roger had us out of it and back to straight and level in a couple of seconds but the sensation for someone not used to it was not very pleasant. Then it was my turn and I freely admit I was rather timid on the controls. I think this surprised Roger who seeing my size might have thought I would be a bit hamfisted. But planes like to fly themselves (when trimmed properly you can take your hands off the controls) and only light inputs are needed under normal conditions to make it go where you want.

Then I got to fly the plane back to the airport as we got clearance to approach downwind. My only brief was to keep the plane about 1200feet AMSL (at mean sea level) and on a steady heading while Roger did all the checks. I flew right up to the base turn when Roger took controls and had me follow them (basically keep my hands and feet on the controls but follow his movements) as he lined up the runway with a near perfect approach (as far as a novice like me could tell) and put us lightly down on the grass. After doing the ‘after landing checks’ (flaps to 0 degrees, landing light off, transponder to standby), I got to taxi back to the apron, and I thought I did pretty well (OK, I turned the control stick once instead of the rudders – doh) but I got us back to the spot we left. He did the shutdown checks and I got out. After a short debriefing where he gave me some great advice, my first flight lesson was over and Susan was there to talk about the experience with on the way home.