Learning to fly, or thinking of learning? Post your questions, comments and experiences here

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By dgahlawat
Hi all,

I have been reading this forum for quite some time and finally the time has come for me to introduce myself to you wonderful bunch.
Based in south east London, I am about to reach 40 and thinking that I have good 20 years left to enjoy flying. My aim is to get PPL for pleasure flying. I am in full time work so will mainly be learning over the weekends and aiming to get PPL in next 1.5 years enjoying the learning journey rather than setting PPL as a target.

I had this on/off feeling for learning to fly for quite some time now and realised recently that life isn't going to slow down so if I have to do something there is no better time than now. Hence I took the trial lesson last month and felt quite happy about especially the fact that I wasn't scared of heights and being in a tiny aircraft. I did have control of Yoke most of the flight but did not touch rudder pedals/throttle at all as I was overwhelmed with so many things like views/instruments/ailerone and elevator control.

I did read a lot of this forum to select the flying school but settled for North Weald mainly because aircraft/instructors availability over there and their no push attitude which I admire the most. I can do a lot of work/study myself but the moment someone starts selling me something I have hard time trusting they can be fair.

So my first lesson is booked for tomorrow and looking forward to get the feel of all controls. I am not a very active writer but will try to post the most of my journey.

Would love to hear back if anyone is in similar state for sharing tips/tricks and North Weald student will be a bonus.
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By Rob P
No special preparation is required. Eat a normal breakfast or lunch if it is an afternoon flight, pay close attention to the instructor, if you don't understand anything ask.

Remember to enjoy yourself.

Report back here and let us know how it went.

Welcome. :D

Rob P
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By T6Harvard
Welcome @dgahlawat . This 'learning to fly' experience is absolutely amazing, as you about to find out :mrgreen:

I second the advice to eat before you fly. Seems counter-intuitive but it is necessary to settle the stomach.

Personally I read some of the Pooley's textbook on Principles of Flight to get my head round the effects of controls before my first lesson. There is a lot going on in a lesson so any bits of knowledge you have or can easily acquire from the syllabus or recommended reading all helps. Your Instructor will tell you which specific lesson to read up each week.

Feel free to ask here for advice as you progress. You will have seen a raft of helpful replies given to Students, along with encouragement when one of us has a rough lesson, as we inevitably do.

It's always good to read reports from fellow students so please do post and let us know what happens tomorrow!
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By tcc1000
You don't need to do anything in particular. You might want (ideally non-polarising) sunglasses if it is sunny. Remember that you can give feedback to the instructor about what you want to do (or don't want to do) as you go along, so if it gets too complicated, say so and they will roll back. You can read up the theory beforehand in Pooley's book 1 (other books are available) which is useful. I found it easier not to read too far ahead, so you could reinforce theory with practical.

Tip for N Weald - watch out for the market. If it is on and very busy, traffic can add up to 20 minutes to get on to the airfield if mid-morning. Are you at NW flight training (where I did my PPL) or Academy Aviation (where I was yesterday)?
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By dgahlawat
Thanks T6Harvard and tcc1000 for helpful tips. I have already finished Pooley's book 1 and looked through Cessna 152 POH. Its a lot of information but just wanted to skim through these to get the feeling of what I am getting into and will revise the relevant section before each lesson.

I will report back as soon as I can and hoping to write a positive story but fingers crossed.
@tcc1000 I am starting at NW flight training. Would be glad if you can share anything I need to look out for at NW flight training based on your experience.
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By johnm
The very fact that you want to do your homework is an excellent sign :thumright:

Just don't overthink things, you'll quickly begin to engage with manuals and checklists and follow flight planning procedures such as checking route and putting it on a chart and Pilot Log (plog) and checking weather and Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) but all of this will be introduced as the course progresses.
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By tcc1000
Not much really and most of this applies to other flight schools too. If you are doing weekends, book several lessons (maybe 5-6 weeks ahead). You won't need more than a single slot for the first 20 hours or so. I'd probably recommend against a back to back double slot at this stage (although some people do 2 lessons in a day with a gap in between). In general, stay with the same instructor (this should happen anyway), but you can book with others if you like. Everyone has a different style (and I've only flown with a few who are still there), so some may work better for you or perhaps a different perspective. Talk to you primary instructor first so they can brief them. This is probably better later in your training (i.e. stick with the same one to start with) unless you find you don't get on with them as a teacher. You may find yourself in a different aircraft each week, but they are all pretty similar.
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By dgahlawat
Thanks all for your valuable suggestions. As promised here is an update, apologies if its too long will try to improve this over time.

I was keeping an eye on forecast for almost a week now and it was such a glorious day that I didn't even feel the need to call school in the morning to see if flights are going ahead. As suggested had a good meal before starting. Reached the school around 30 minutes earlier to find out that instructor assigned to me was running around 30 minutes late today. Utilised first 30 minutes to setup my accounts/signing various forms etc. Then waited outside looking at various air crafts taking off and landing.
After waiting for around 40 minutes heard someone call my name and it was my instructor whom I was meeting for the first time. Did the usual elbow handshake and he was quite apologetic about running late and having to make me wait this long. Although I am getting at age where little things like this can annoy a lot but I wasn't a tiny bit unhappy about this and the acknowledgement from instructor made me completely forget about it and was looking forward to learn.
He did quickly enquire what I have done so far and told him about the trial lesson and reading the first book. He praised me for reading the book and explained that this will save me significant time and help me move quickly through the learning. Then he explained me that we will be going through primary and secondary effects of controls today while handing me the checklist which I will have to use starting today. He also explained that I can ask any questions anytime and let him know if I ever feel that I am not able to keep pace with him.

I got in the aircraft, adjusted the seats, he did a walk around aircraft and checked fuel etc. Then I was reading checklist and he was explaining everything one by one. Having read all these things beforehand helped me a lot as I knew what almost everything did however it was still a challenge to locate instrument exactly. After going through many things we fired up and were ready to go.
I was really glad to know that he will allow me to taxi as having learned that taxying takes a while to get used to and starting early means getting one more thing out of way. Started with getting the feel of taxi/brakes and then rolled on towards the runway. I was deliberately trying to give all my attention to what is happening in aircraft and almost completely ignoring what was happening in radio calls. The taxi was quite hard very close to what i anticipated however keeping power/speed low helped as you get more time to correct the course. Reached at the end of runway did power/pre take off checks and I aligned the aircraft to runway. I am pretty sure that instructor was helping me all the way while taxying but its really good to build confidence.
As we were about to take off we were made to wait as two Spitfires (I think) made a pass above us. Then he instructed me to put full power and try to keep the aircraft in centre of runway with very little back pressure on control. The moment we crossed 70 kt a little more back pressure and we were off ground. Once we were at good height he asked me to turn right and I started turning left confidently and he said very politely "I meant the other right" :).

Then we headed a bit far and he made me feel all the controls in slow speed, high speed, slipstream effects and then the secondary effects of controls. Overall very clear instruction. The he showed me the spin recovery where once the speed gets close to 100 kt we reduce the throttle, gets the aircraft straight and increase throttle again. As it was my turn to try as soon as the speed was close to 100 kt I pushed the throttle instead of pulling it, he corrected it immediately but before he did that door on my side opened. I felt the door opening but didn't worry much as harness was making me feel very secure and kept on focusing on control. Once the aircraft was straight he closed the door and told me that it does happen occasionally and I did very well by not worrying/panicking.
Just that he checked the time and we were already 40 minutes in (felt like 10 minutes or so) and we prepared to head back. He explained many things on our way back which are registered in me and will process those over few days. While landing we joined circuit at 1100ft QNH and he told me when to turn and what heading to maintain. I also got a chance to say xxx crosswind, xxx downwind, xxx final on radio. Then told me to aim for the centre of runway. I was naturally not letting the aircraft descend too quickly and he kept telling me to push back on control and few hundred feet above he took control and landed very smoothly and then he taxied back the aircraft. Gave me few notes and chapters to read, told me about the books I should buy etc.
Also he told me that I did very well for first official lesson and shouldn't have any problem getting my license. I was really glad to hear that.

So overall a great experience and glad that I can see myself getting along very well with the instructor. I will try to post more as I progress through lessons. Any feedback about the post itself is welcome to improve my posts in future.
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By T6Harvard
Excellent! Clearly a great start and a great post, too.

I appreciate all the effort fellow students put into their lesson reports so my feedback is 'keep up the good work'!

I'm glad you had a thorough briefing , good clear instruction and lots of hands on experience. It is amazing, isn't it?!

Do you write a personal journal as an aide memoire and so you can look back and see progress*?
I have found mine really useful. I had forgotten how much I did in the early lessons, partly because of the breaks due to lockdowns, but also because every lesson is so full on, then the next, then the next!
* and I include a few more duff bits that I daren't confess to on here so it's a real warts 'n' all account :lol: :lol:

I've had the door come open, too. First time I got a ticking off for not checking it was secure before TO (I was only 90% certain I had because surely I'd have found out at the time if I'd checked properly.....), second time I had exaggerated the check and I knew for certain it had been fine. Cause was a 60° bank angle flown by my instructor as a demo, and the usual faulty catch. Hmmmph, the injustice :lol:
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