I had my first flying lesson on April 28, 2015. The lesson was a gift from my wife for my 40th birthday…..a priceless gift to be sure. I will be taking lessons at the Wings of Carolina Flying Club located at TTA (a.k.a Raleigh Executive Jetport) in Sanford, NC. My instructor will be Betsy McCracken. She has graduated many of the pilots and even flight instructors at the club and has been an instructor since 2001, accumulating 6500 hours of flight time.
On the first lesson, we took off from TTA and headed for the west practice area. We climbed to 2500 feet with a cruise speed of approx. 95 KIAS. I learned some basic flight skills in this lesson. My instructor demonstrated the “4 finger” technique to determine your attitude with respect to the horizon. Basically, you put four fingers on the top of the instrument panel and if the horizon is below the top of your fingers, your aircraft’s nose is pitched too high and if the horizon is above the four fingers your aircraft’s nose is pitched too low. Another visual reference she showed me was while climbing, the horizon should pass midway between the instrument panel. All this talk about visual references brought back my ground instructor John Hunter’s advice, while VFR flying you should be looking out the cockpit 95% of the time.
Next, Betsy made me do some IFR flying……Hold on, you think to yourself….did you just say IFR flying on your first lesson……that is correct, IFR=”I Follow Roads”. She gave me a chart and asked me to figure out what was the road down there. Highway 64 never looked more beautiful. We followed it west till we reached Siler City.
I must mention here that the day we choose to fly was absolutely gorgeous and the view was breathtaking. I have always maintained that we live in one of the most scenic and beautiful regions of this country, but you haven’t seen anything till you fly and take in the beauty of the region from a small plane. It is a spiritual experience.
During this leg of the flight, Betsy, brave soul that she is, gave me the flight controls. I must admit, I was a little bit dizzy and scared, especially to make turns as it can be a bit intimidating when you are banked about 30 degrees and you press on the rudder to keep “the ball in the cage”, an aviation term used to refer to keeping the ball of the turn co-ordinator in between the two vertical lines to make a coordinated turn.
By this time we had reached the intersection of 64 and 421. I have taken the 421 exit from 64 an uncountable number of times, but this time around taking that exit going south took on a whole new meaning. We followed 421 South till we were close to Sanford, our destination for this hour-long first lesson. We aligned with the down-wind leg, and then base and final…..a perfect touchdown. We debriefed, took some pictures, checked in the flight and scheduled the next lesson.
Lessons learned on the first flight:
While VFR flying, look out 95% of the time. Use visual references, such as location of nose with respect to horizon, for attitude, bank etc and adjust based on these visual references. Look at instruments occasionally to make sure airspeed, engine r.p.m, seem OK. This might seem trivial at first, but I found myself constantly looking at the gauges to make sure I was at altitude or looking at the airspeed or checking that the ball is in the cage. My instructor pointed this out to me when we returned.
At one point my instructor asked me to climb and I promptly pulled back on the yoke. Although the yoke controls the “elevator” , it does not help you to “elevate”. My instructor reminded me, what I had learned in my ground school, that you need to increase power by applying throttle to climb and that the yoke is for speed control. “Pitch for speed and power for altitude” is the mantra.