It was a cold morning at 8 am when my coworker, who is also a CFI, and I headed out to the Piper Archer we were going to fly to breakfast. Our destination was Kitty Hawk Restaurant in York, PA.
Our first step was to defrost the plane, which had developed a thin coating on every surface. The nozzle on our glycol tank was broken, so my coworker ended up pouring the glycol onto the wings and tail and we used cloths to spread it along the leading edges and as many surfaces as we could. Unglamorous as it sounds, I knew how important this was to do, especially with my aviation weather background (although at school in Florida, frost was not a common issue). As my coworker described it, the plane looked like an orange slushy, but she deemed it safe to fly and we began the pre-flight inspection. She showed me her process, which involves starting at one wing, checking the fuel, and making her way toward the propeller, other wing, tail, and back to where we started. Everything looked good and I hopped into the left seat, while she climbed into the right.
She asked whether I would like to treat this as a lesson, and I enthusiastically agreed. I read each item off the checklist…and there were a lot! It seemed like I was flipping a hundred switches that were scarcely labeled. How was I going to remember all of this? I knew it was a silly thought, because eventually, I’d do this with ease. Finally, we started the engine and we taxied off the ramp, where she let me take over. I already knew that the steering took place with your feet, but it was hard to fight the urge to put my hands on the yoke as if I were in a car.
When it came time to take off, she showed me how to increase the power to reach the right speed before having me pull back on the yoke to start climbing. I warned her beforehand that I rarely had a successful take-off when I played Flight Simulator with my friends from college. However, this time, we took off without a hitch and eventually reached 2,500 ft. We leveled off and she told me what our heading would be. It was most helpful when she pointed out a cement plant that would be my point of reference for the trip. I learned that having a point of reference is really beneficial for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flying, so that you can keep your attention on the outside of the plane, rather than on the instruments; not to mention the fact that there are A LOT of instruments to keep track of at one time!
We checked the visibility for York Airport, which was reporting 3 miles. This wasn’t terrible, especially since our flight visibility was much more than that with just some low level haze. My coworker took the controls once we got close to the airport, which was tricky to find amidst the hills and patches of trees. She yielded to another plane in the vicinity before landing and taxiing over to the restaurant. We parked the plane right outside – awesome! The food was great and you certainly get your money’s worth. I think they figure that if you spent a lot of money to fly there, they should have reasonable prices. After breakfast, we walked around the plane again just to be sure nothing ran into it while we were eating.
My coworker had the flight controls for the majority of the ride home, which allowed me to enjoy the scenery. Once we were safely on the ground, she taxied the plane over to the hangars, where it was going to get a good detailing. When we got back inside, she presented me with a log book and I logged my first flight! I was so proud of my 1.7 hours that I called my parents after work and told them what I had accomplished. I’m looking forward to filling up the book, discovering new places, and having new adventures throughout my training and beyond.