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Learning To Fly: Flight Lessons

When you first start, everything seems so complicated, but it gets familiar pretty quickly so don't get discouraged.

First, you just concentrate on the most basic control. You learn how to hold the yoke, how to maintain level flight, and how to pitch for airspeed and adjust RPM for altitude. You learn how to stear with your feet for taxi work, and you start learning about the pattern.

Next, you learn basic maneuvres like coordinated turns, climbing and descending turns, and how to line up on the horizon, etc. After that, you'll move on to turns around a fixed point, S-turns accross a road, slow flight, and eventually, stalls. There are basically two kinds -- power off and power on. First, you put the plane into slow flight, then, for power off stalls, you kill the power and pull the nose straight up until it breaks into the stall. The objective is to regain control and return to straight level flight while losing as little altitude as possible. This is a very vulnerable time for the airplane, because it can drop into a spin very easily in this configuration. My first time, it started to fall off to the right, so I stomped on the left rudder pedal and Bingo! into a spin we went. The instructor pulled us right out and I got to see first hand how to perform a spin recovery. The other kind of stall is the power on stall. It is supposed to simulate a take-off stall, but you will practice them at about 2500 feet for safety. This stall is performed much the same as the power off stall, except that the power is advanced to full befor the plane is put into the nose high attitude. The stall is much more violent, and requires the pilot to immediately reduce throttle, and neutralize the controls before pulling out to level flight. You have to be able to do this within 200' of altitude to pass.

You will also be learning how to land. People say that flying is the greatest thrill known to man, but these people are not pilots. Pilots know that flying is the SECOND greatest thrill known to man -- LANDING is the greatest! You'll learn several different techniques to land a plane, You'll learn about flaps, and slipping, and approach altitudes and speeds and more. You will probably fly on at least one cross country with your instructor during this time, and maybe even one at night. I went to Venice at night, and man let me tell you that it gets DARK out over the ocean at night. I went to Sebring for lunch one day with my instructor when we were working on my first cross country.

When I was ready, I planned a trip to Avon Park Municipal, which was about 53 NM away from Peter O'. Time for my first solo cross country. I marked out my landmarks on my chart. I filled in my flight plan, and set my avionics. I never even looked at my VOR the whole way, but relied on dead recconning and pilotage to get there, and came out on the other side within a couple of miles from where I was supposed to. I landed on the short runway and had myself a soda and calmed down for a few minutes before heading back. I was in the 15o, and with the strong headwinds I had all the way back, I figure my ground speed was about 50Mph. It got pretty bumpy on the way back, and the little 150 got tossed around pretty good out there, so I decided to step up to the 172's. I reasoned that it is easier to find a rental 172 anywhere than it is to find a 150/152. It's also harder than you might expect to get people to go up with you in a plane that small.

My next milestone was the long cross country. It has to be at least 150NM and at least one airport on the trip has to be a minimum of 50NM away. Mine went from Peter O' East to Sebring, back accross the state to Venice, then back up to Peter O'. It was a much harder trip, and I was drained afterward. I had trouble with the radio, and found out after I was two thirds of the way through that my compass was wandering. I used ground refferences and pilotage to navigate home.

After some more hood work, which is where you are under a restrictive hood that only allows you to see the gauges and nothing outside, you start prepping for your practical exam. By now your instructor should have identified any trouble areas for you and you should be concentrating on them. You are almost ready at this point.



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