Diary of a Student Pilot

David Walker writes about his experiences as he learns how to fly, after winning a competition to become a pilot.


Part 1. And so it begins…

Hi. My name is David Walker and in March 2021. I entered a competition with Abbasair based in Dorset, to win the ultimate chance of a lifetime and gain a pilots licence. Two months later I find out I’ve been shortlisted, and two months after that I find myself sitting in front of the control’s of a Piper Warrior PA 28 -161 light aircraft. Having been successfully picked as the winner!

It’s the 14th July, the sun is shining, a few clouds are around and my new Instructor, Pete greets me by touching elbows. We go to a small room and have a brief chat about things and he gives me an overview of the cockpit as we look at a picture on a wall. We put together a brief flight plan and a short time later I’m sitting in the cockpit, looking at all the knobs, whistles and bells laid out in front of me.

The dawning realisation that I’m about to start my actual pilot training is coming over me. No longer is this a lifetime ambition. No longer is this just a pipe dream. This is reality, and it’s happening right now!

After a run through of things we start up the engine and make our way to the end of the runway. Another series of checks, followed by some quick tests. I’m trying to take everything on board and while Instructor Pete is explaining it all to me, I know I make a couple of mistakes. Well it is day one after all and we haven’t even got off the ground yet!

One final check and we take up our position on the runway and take off. It’s a long strip of grass, so we bump and jostle along, gaining speed and before you know it we’re in the air. Immediately the beautiful Dorset countryside is laid out in front of us and stretches for miles in every direction. It’s simply magnificent.

We make a turn and head out for the coast. I’m handed the controls and am given my first basic introduction. The object for today was for me to get a general “all round” feel for the aircraft. But the wind is stronger than I expected, and I find myself having to work slightly harder than anticipated to keep the wings level.

Corfe Castle. Photo Credit: Brian Dorey.com

After reaching Corfe Castle, we make a turn and start to head back towards Compton Abbas. Over the next half an hour I do gentle turns, leading to more steeper angles. We use rudder control and I learn about the Yaw effect, where the characteristics of the aircraft can be changed depending on what you do. We increase and decrease in height as I’m taught about airspeed, and how the various instruments react in certain scenarios. Following this, I’m finally shown how effective it can be when a plane is “Trimmed”. This is used to help the stability of the plane in level flight and make things easier to fly. which believe me…… is necessary! 

A short while later and we come in to land. On the outside I try and look calm, but on the inside I’m as giddy as a toddler who’s just been given the keys to a sweet shop. We park up, give the aircraft a quick wash to remove a few dead bugs and put on the cover for the night. The chart on the left shows our planned route in pink – along with our actual route in blue.

Back in to the small office to complete some paperwork and put my first entry into my log book. We have a brief chat and my first lesson is over. I’m booked in again for next week, so be sure to come back and read the next installment of Diary of a Student Pilot. 


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