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My flight training begins!

It was just a few months ago when I realised that this flying goal of mine was actually achievable and I applied and got accepted at the Air Hart flight school out here in British Columbia. Ever since I received confirmation of my acceptance into the school I have been overwhelmed with excitement at the possibility of finally gaining my pilot’s licence.

I arrived in Canada two weeks ago and almost immediately my flight training began. This is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember, and finally being here feels so surreal. 

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I have been flying off and on since I was 15. I always knew that it was my dream to finally get my own licence but that goal always felt so far away because I went to university, then started travelling and all of my money went on flights but only on the bigger planes, taking me to different countries. My priorities were to see the world and my desire to fly got placed on the back burner. The occasional flight with dad whenever I visited home over my next 6 years of travel were treasured and yet learning to fly myself felt like a distant daydream.

But as the years passed by, this little voice in the back of my mind began to grow louder and louder, urging me to re-enter the world of flight and decide to see the world from above too. Slowly but surely a new dream began to take shape. To travel the world by plane, my plane, with me flying it! 

And so here I am, in October 2018 and I’ve finally re-started (for the 3rd time) taking lessons again. So far I have had 5 lessons here in Canada (totaling 7 hours). The thought of flying solo or with friends and family fills me with joy, but to be able to do that I need to get through my very first solo flight. The idea of this has always terrified me. Because no matter how many countless times I’ve flown with dad, he was always there to land, always there to take control if need be. But this time, for the first time, I’ll be completely alone. 

The first solo flight is usually done around the 15 – 20 hour mark (I’m on 7, so I’ve a few more lessons to go yet) and the lesson will start with my instructor and I just making some circuits of the aerodrome and when he thinks I am ready he will hop out and say “now it’s your turn”. The thought of this moment makes me feel sick, but I am assured by my father that when the time comes I’ll be ready and excited. I honestly shake a little when I think about it! 

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So until that point I will be working on take offs, flying straight and level, turns and most importantly, landing! So far I have worked on taxiing (needs huge improvement), straight and level flight, climbing, descending, turns (incl. steep turns of 45 degrees where we pulled 1.4Gs), flight for range and endurance and slow flight. I also do all of the pre-flight checks on the ground under my instructor’s supervision. Pre-flight checks include a walk around the plane checking that everything is in order before take-off, including the engine. 

Up next I have a lesson on stalls (when there is no longer lift generated by the wings and the plane loses altitude rapidly), spins, spiral dives (spins and spirals are both aerobatic maneuvers so this should be interesting!), slipping, take-off, the circuit and finally the approach and landing. 

Although when I see my pre-solo lesson plan I do get really excited and anxious (for the spins and spiral dives) it does also alarm me just how quickly I seem to be advancing. I am told that this is normal and that it will slow down once my first solo is completed. I’m trying to not let my fears cause me to put the breaks on just as I am getting started, reminding myself that I can do this and that my dream lives on the other side of my fear. I continuously try to visualise how I will feel once I have landed safely after my first solo. Total elation I am told!

The amount of theory I am studying is overwhelming, to the point where I come home from my lessons and I am exhausted. I just want to sleep. From 100% focus for 3 hours straight to barely being able to form a cohesive sentence. I am told this will get easier the more I relax into it.

But yesterday’s flight was the first time, as I lined us up to the runway to land (before my instructor took control) that I realised ‘I can do this’. Because if you look at the bigger picture of your dream it can often be overwhelming, too much to handle and you can panic and at the very worst, just refuse to start. But by taking each day by day, lesson by lesson, flight by flight, I see that it can, and will, be done.

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Things I've learnt

I have decided to write down my lessons learnt throughout my training so far at the bottom of each post, for those looking to embark on their Private Pilot’s Licence and who might benefit from this.

  • First of all, I would say, know your theory. Your instructor will give you a Theory of Flight book to read up on before each lesson. So before you have a lesson on turns, make sure you’ve read the chapter on turns several times over. You’ll have time to ask questions at the pre-flight brief before each lesson too. 
  • Practice armchair flying. Sit down somewhere quiet and imagine you’re in the plane and your instructor has just asked you to bank to the left. Act out the maneuver in your mind, moving your hands as though they are on the controls. Muscle memory is important in flight, especially if you have to bank quickly to avoid an obstacle for example, you want to know how to bank successfully without having to think about it. These moves need to become second nature.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, your instructor knows that this is all new to you and it can be overwhelming to begin with. It’s much better to ask questions than to not understand something and just trying to scrape through, there might come a day when you really need that knowledge and your instructor isn’t there.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask to repeat a lesson. If you don’t yet feel comfortable with 45 degree turns, ask to repeat the lesson next time. You are the one who gets to decide if you want to resit, you can do this at your own pace and your instructor is there to help you. 
  • There are many different ways to explain certain maneuvers or the science behind flying, if you’re not quite understanding the way that your instructor explains it, go online. There are heaps of free YouTube videos covering all aspects of flying and you’re sure to find someone who can explain it in a way that you can understand.
  • Try to have lessons regularly. If you space your lessons 2 weeks apart then by the time your next lesson has arrived you may well have forgotten everything you learnt in the previous one. This drags out your progress, especially at the beginning as you’ll have to keep relearning stuff. I personally have between 2 and 3 lessons per week (weather depending). This consistency helps massively when it comes to working my way up a very steep learning curve.
  • Most of all, have fun. Flying is fun and yes it can be daunting, but the more you practice the more confident and happy you’ll feel to be in the air.
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Tel: (250) 762-9830
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Email: info@air-hart.com

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