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 2. Switch Left to Check Right.

Well, I’m now three lessons in and slowly getting to grips with some of the controls. At home I’ve printed out eight sheets of A4 paper and stuck them together on my office wall, to make one large image of the cockpit. I’ve also done the same with the outside of the aircraft, so I can familiarise myself with the pre-flight checks.

According to the checklist, before you even turn on the key, you have to go through 89 different checks (67 external and 22 internal). Followed by another 43 checks by the time you’ve made your way to the end of the runway. Every day I stand in front of the pictures going through the checklist as I look at the aircraft, waving my arms and legs around as I mimic the movements of what needs to be done. Thank goodness the neighbours can’t see me, as otherwise they’d probably think I was having a fit and call for an ambulance.

Everything on an aircraft is backwards to what I’m used to doing. To raise the flaps, the lever goes down. To check the right magneto, you move the key to the left, and so on. Then there’s the terminology – to make a turn you “roll” the aircraft. To go up or down you change the “pitch” and when using the rudder to help steer, it’s called Yaw”. (Not, kicking the back end out – as I said to today’s instructor Janice). But the weirdest thing of all, is when you’re on the ground you steer with your feet! I’ve now taxied the plane to the end of the runway twice, and it feels so surreal turning left and right without using your hands.

Switch left to check right…

My second time in the air was similar to the first, as we go through how the aircraft operates in various modes. This time, I was slightly more relaxed, and able to do the manoeuvres with just one hand – which is how it’s meant to be done!

We climbed to around 3000 feet and headed south, in the distance I could see three cruise liners near Weymouth. The view up in the air is spectacular, and, although it wasn’t the clearest of days, you could still see for miles around. We passed over Dorchester and then made a turn back towards Compton. In the Purbeck hills the Military sometimes do live firing on their practice ranges. And whilst we were fairly confident there were no activities going on that day, we didn’t really fancy straying into their area.

Maiden Castle - Dorchester
Maiden Castle – Dorchester


Cruise liners near Weymouth. Photo credit: Dorset Echo.
Cruise liners near Weymouth. Photo credit: Dorset Echo.


Janice then demonstrated what to do if the aircraft goes into a spiral descent. Although I had every confidence in her as she deliberately sent the pair of us into a downward spin. My stomach still churned, and I let out a slight whimper as she reduced the throttle, rolled us back into level flight and pulled us out of the dive. “Are you ok?” She asked. Gingerly, I said I was fine, and she replied, “don’t worry, we won’t do another one today”.

A short time later we were back on the ground. A quick refuel and it was time to add another entry into the logbook. The lesson was over, it was the end of the day and so with that, it was time to go home. The summer sun was in the early stages of setting, and as I made the 20-mile journey back I reflected on the previous couple of hours. This is an amazing experience, and I would thoroughly encourage anyone to give it a go. To have a trial flight, you can get in touch with Abbasair via this link here.


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