Officially Airborne – Flight School (Day 2)

Today was my second officially scheduled day of flight training, and today we were able to fly! If you read my last post, you know that I was unable to fly on my first day of training due to weather. The past two days have been washouts but today had been forecasted to be a relatively clear day. The day started off clear with a ceiling of about 6000ft. My lesson today, 12/9/16, was scheduled for 12PM. I left home around 11AM and as I headed to the airfield I realized that it was becoming more overcast and somewhat windy.

I arrived at my flight school about ten minutes early and pulled up the latest METAR data. Winds were 30018G27 with scattered clouds at 4200ft. The winds seemed significant to me, although I had nothing to gauge them against, relatively speaking. When I arrived at my school and spoke to my instructor, he told me that despite the wind we could fly, but whether or not I wanted my first official flight to be in gusty winds was up to me. The rational against flying on a gusty day for my first experience was simply that I would not be able to get as much of a feel for the flight controls and the responsiveness of the aircraft as I would in clear air.

I told my instructor, “as long as you believe it is safe to fly, I want to go up”. My reasoning did not have much to do with the fact that I had been unable to fly earlier this week, although I was definitely looking forward to getting airborne. I asked my instructor, “relatively speaking, how significant are winds gusting to 27 knots?” He remarked that they were significant, and we would have a bumpy ride, although these winds were not overly concerning to him and we would be able to fly as usual. He further explained that it is important for students to experience winds such as these and that many times he will make it point to fly with students in certain conditions.

The way I looked at it was, as long as we could fly safely, I wanted to get airborne. It will obviously be windy at times, and I thought it was an advantage to experience and feel the wind early on in my training. What if I got sick and couldn’t handle flight in these conditions? I saw the opportunity to fly in gusty conditions as an advantage rather than a detriment. Officially, we would be doing an introductory lesson to straight forward flight, turns, climbs, and descents.

Regardless of the wind conditions, I was also looking forward to running through the checklists as we had in my first lesson, but this time actually starting the aircraft. We went out to the airplane a few minutes after 12pm and began the preflight checklists. The gusts of wind were significant but I had my heart set on getting airborne as long as it was deemed safe by my instructor. We got through the preflight checklists and before I knew it we were taxiing out to our takeoff runway.

Getting a feel for the rudder / steering system will take some getting used. Everything else was basically as I had imagined it and before I knew it we were airborne and headed toward the practice area used by students at my school. Due to the weather, we ended up being the only aircraft training in the practice area today. We spent the next hour or so doing turns, climbs, and descents. The wind was gusting and pushing us around pretty well, and at times there was visible precipitation (rain / snow) between 2000-4000ft.

I got plenty of time on the controls and was able to work on several turns, climbs, and descents. The majority of the first lesson was really an introduction to how the aircraft reacts to certain inputs, all while getting pushed around pretty well by mother nature. At one point, during a power back gliding decent, with gusty winds, I asked my instructor to take control and if we could add power and keep it straight and level for some time. It was around an hour into our first flight and the first time I got an ‘unnatural’ feeling. My feelings were undoubtedly exasperated by the wind, but I reached a point where I had enough maneuvers for one day, mostly likely because it was my first.

At around an hour of flight time, we headed back to the airport. Bringing the aircraft in for landing was exhilarating. As we approached for landing, a regional jet was taxing for takeoff and was instructed to hold for traffic (us). Listening to the exchanges between ATC and that aircraft and watching them positioning themselves on the taxiway anticipating our landing was an added bonus to the experience of my first flight lesson.

We landed without issue in a crosswind and parked the aircraft. My instructor and I spent some time debriefing and discussing the flight. I felt pretty good afterwards, no negative side effects or motion sickness. Ready to fly again, 12 hours exactly from now. Cheers!

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