The first passenger

Funny that winter is supposed to be upon us. The weather was fantastic flying weather with clear skies, 50km forecast visibility and winds variable at 3 knots. Looked like a perfect time to take up my first passenger, the long suffering Susan. I had already flown that morning as I've started working on getting a rating in the Archers because I could do it without needing my license as the flights are all dual.

I wanted to take Susan up in WAM, but it was booked so I got JGP instead. Being a 172N of 1970's vintage it got the obligatory "gee this plane is old" comment but after I showed her the tech log and assured her it was properly serviced she strapped herself in. I fussed over her to the point of being patronising, in hindsight I guess it was because it was the first time I have ever been PIC with a total non flier in the seat next to me and the fact gnawed at my subconscious the whole time.

After some time spent on the ground checking and double checking everything, we got airborne. I had planned to take her on a flight to one of the places I want to fly over, a stretch of western coast line running between Raglan and Kawhia harbours. I had the plane booked for two hours but we burnt most of the first hour getting preflighted. I decided to turn back to Hamilton at 25 past the hour as the plane was booked and I wanted to make absolutely sure that we'd be on the ground in time. The 20 knot winds at 2000 feet got us back to Hamilton a lot faster than I had planned so I detoured around the Hamilton control zone so that we could fly overhead our house on the way back to the airport.

Susan is an experienced light plane passenger and in fact is less squeamish than I am. I made a couple of silly mistakes, only one caused her any alarm. The first was I was too busy pointing out places of interest and didn't notice I had busted airspace until I was 100 feet high. I firmly lowered the nose and told Susan what I had done and she was fine. The second mistake was not actually a flying error. I simply neglected to tell her that I was reducing power for the approach. Being used to flying with a bunch of pilots meant I wasn't ready for the "the plane will fall out of the sky with no engine" mentality. I had to hastily apologise and tell her what I was doing and she was fine.

I made a very good landing and we taxied back to the Aero Club with just over 10 minutes remaining on the booking. Susan was very happy and said she really enjoyed the flight. Mission accomplished.

On a personal level, taking a non pilot flying adds to your stress a fair bit. At least 100 little decisions flew through my mind during the flight that she never got wise to. I made decisions deliberately to lower my own stress levels and in my opinion they helped me a great deal. Mentally I was able to stay a long way ahead of the plane and think about things in the future and plan accordingly. Despite this, I don't think I really enjoyed the flight as much as other flights I have been on because I refused to allow myself to relax and enjoy it. I also learnt about the difference between pilots and non fliers and their expectations. It was as big a lesson to learn as any of my other flights and I've taken a great deal out of it.