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 4. On the level…

                         Photo Credit: Steve Alexander / temporarytemples.co.uk

When you look at a view like this, who wouldn’t want to fly? This is Fovant Badges and site of the former Chiselbury Military Camp in Wiltshire, located not far from Compton Abbas Airfield.

Lessons five and six comprised of more straight and level work, followed by ascending and descending. Another take off and thankfully this time it was much better than the last. However, my instructor noticed my whole body was rigid and had to tell me a couple of times to relax. This I did and instantly went from intense concentration, to enjoying the flight and my surroundings. Throughout the lesson we practiced various instructions such as fly on a heading of 290 degrees at 65 knots at 2500ft high. Although the images below shows us flying all over the place, they were for most of the time, actual instructions given by my instructor.

                                                               1st September 2021

                                                               8th September 2021

All my life I’ve had an interest in flying and really wanted to become a pilot, but equally I was nervous too. Whenever I would go on holiday, I would dread the take off. The stomach lurching feeling at the point as you just leave the ground. And even though they say flying is the safest form of travel, it still made me feel queasy wondering how can a hunk of metal go through the air with nothing underneath it, and not fall out of the sky?

Doing this course is not only helping me fulfil a lifetime’s ambition but is boosting my self-confidence too. Before I started, I never knew a plane is designed to glide in a specific way, to give you thinking time and react to the situation if ever you were in trouble. You don’t plummet down like you see in the movies. You are in control. And this very feature was demonstrated to me yesterday.

                                                    Vertical speed indicator (VSI)

I’d been doing various manoeuvres at different heights when we took the aircraft to just under 3000ft. My instructor set the engine to idle and naturally, the nose started to dip down, and pick up speed. This was controlled by using the pitch and set at 75 knots. The aircraft is trimmed, and we glided down steadily with a full and clear view around us, thus allowing us to make clear decisions about what to do next. We even deliberately raised and lowered the nose out of the glide to take it of balance, before letting it “settle”. And all by itself, the plane resumed the natural glide again. It was a very reassuring thing to witness and be a part of.

             Controlled glide with disruption to show how the plane rectifies it’self

Once again it was all over too soon. We head back towards Compton, and I’m given an instruction to make over the radio. This I do but don’t hear a reply. My headphones have cut out and I can’t hear a thing! My instructor says he could hear me, and the control tower can hear me, but I don’t hear anything in return. For a few brief moments all manner of things go through your mind, but thankfully it transpired a specific volume control had been turned down on the radio whilst we were doing the lesson which was the cause of the issue. We land once more and head back to the briefing room. 6 lessons down, another 24 still to go…

Abbasair is based in the beautiful Dorset countryside and like everyone else, was affected by the pandemic. Now, they are open to the public once more with full Covid safety procedures in place. It’s a great place to visit with friendly staff, café, experience flights, flying lessons and more. Definitely well worth a visit. Check out their website here.

               Compton Abbas Airfield from 10,000ft. Photo credit: Dan Seagrave


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