Three years ago today, Dan stood in the cockpit of a Cessna 152. An instructor was with him, of course. But once they were airborne, the instructor turned over the controls. For the first time in his life, Dan was flying a plane on his own. The instructor coached him through his maneuvers. But Dan was pilot-in-command. He remembers thinking how smooth and stable the little plane felt. At one point he asked the instructor to take over so he could look around and enjoy the view from 1,200 feet up . Then it was back to practice landings , approaches , and takeoffs -- all under solo conditions . At some point he realized that he was having fun .
The following is an account of that flight, as told by Dan himself:
An instructor was with him, of course.
At least one of the instructors who was with him in his Cessna 150 that day was also in a plane. They were near enough to shout instructions over the radio, but not close enough for physical contact. While that may seem like a reasonable alternative to having an instructor sitting next to you, it's actually much more dangerous than having someone next to you: if something goes wrong and your plane crashes into the ground at 50 miles per hour, there's no guarantee that any instructor will be able to get out safely before being crushed under the wreckage along with you—and even if they did survive, they wouldn't be able to help anyone else unless they were wearing flame-resistant gear.
But once they were airborne, the instructor turned over the controls.
Once airborne, the instructor turned over control of the aircraft to you. You were now in charge of getting our plane back on the ground safely.
This was a big moment for you; it’s something that all pilots have to do at some point in their careers: fly an airplane solo for the first time!
As you took control of our plane, I was there coaching you along every step of the way—picking up speed and making small adjustments here and there—and keeping everything safe so we could land successfully.
For the first time in his life, Dan was flying a plane on his own.
For the first time in his life, Dan was flying a plane on his own. He had been nervous during the pre-flight check and takeoff, but now that he was flying over the city and out into the country, he felt a sense of responsibility.
He was doing something important: fulfilling his father’s wish to see Yellowstone National Park from above before he passed away; helping his friend fulfill her lifelong dream of visiting Phoenix; delivering an important package across the country; delivering enough food for thousands of people who were starving...
The list went on and on—and although it may seem silly to think about these things when you are flying solo for the first time in your life, each mission felt like it would change someone’s life forever.
The instructor coached him through his maneuvers.
The instructor coached him through his maneuvers. “Now, gently pull back on the stick and let the nose come up. That’s it—gently! You’re doing great! Now level out and turn to the right. No, no—don’t roll over first! You want to turn before you roll, otherwise you won’t be able to see where you are going. And remember: never look at your instruments when you are flying; keep your eyes outside so that if something happens, you will see it in time to correct for it... good... okay now let go of the stick for a second while I check your gyros... perfect! Now push forward gently until we get some speed built up then pull back smoothly onto a 45 degree angle of bank… hold on tight now… don't slip into an inverted dive!"
But Dan was pilot-in-command.
You may be wondering what a “pilot-in-command” is. The answer is simple: it’s the person who has control of an aircraft. In Dan’s case, he was the pilot-in-command because his instructor was in the back seat as a backseat pilot, not as a fully qualified flight instructor.
The flight instructors at Flight Safety International are highly trained and experienced professionals who can help you learn new skills and hone your existing ones. But they aren't in charge of the plane—you are!
He remembers thinking how smooth and stable the little plane felt.
"It was a nice day, clear skies, no turbulence," he says. "The plane was a Cessna 152, a popular trainer airplane."
He remembers thinking how smooth and stable the little plane felt.
At one point he asked the instructor to take over so he could look around and enjoy the view from 1,200 feet up.
Flying solo is a totally different experience than flying with an instructor. It’s more like driving in your own car, without the benefit of having someone with you to point out potential hazards and help you steer clear of them. All the same rules apply: be careful not to fly too low or too high, or too slow or too fast. But the responsibility is on you alone. If something goes wrong—if the engine conks out, for example—you have to figure out how best to handle it yourself. It’s exciting but also terrifying!
Then it was back to practice landings, approaches, and takeoffs -- all under solo conditions.
The first few times you try to land your plane, it will be a little nerve-wracking. But the more you practice and get comfortable with it, the better you will be at flying solo.
Practice makes perfect! It also helps you develop good flying habits that can save your life in an emergency situation. For example, if there is a sudden wind gust or other weather change during takeoff or landing, this could greatly affect your ability to stay on course and safely land. By practicing these situations each time before flying solo again (and again), even if they’re boring or repetitive tasks like takeoffs and landings at different altitudes, they become second nature when they occur during real flights later on down the road.
It’s important not just what we do but how we do things too! When flying under solo conditions it's crucial that we always follow all safety rules so that everyone stays safe out there in any kind of weather conditions--and remember: It's better being safe than sorry!
At some point he realized that he was having fun.
I learned that you can learn new things by having fun.
I learned that you can learn to do something by having fun.
I learned that you can learn to do something by doing it.
I learned that you can learn to do something by trying it.
I learned that you can learn to do something by practicing it
Having fun can help you learn new things!
[You] might be surprised to learn that you can learn new things while enjoying yourself. When you find something that you like doing, or even something you’re good at, it’s easier to relax and pay attention. The more relaxed and focused your mind is on the task at hand, the faster it processes information and the more likely it is that [you] will retain what [you] learn. In other words: if [you] want to learn new things fast, do something fun!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my first solo flight. I learned a lot from the experience, and it gave me confidence in my ability to fly by myself. I still have a long way to go before I’m ready for my instrument rating, but getting my private pilot license has been one of the best decisions of my life!