Some things you do spur of the moment, some things you take your time and prepare for months, years. This is both. I’ve been waiting since I was a young boy to get into a plane and take the controls. Yet, one day in August, I thought, what the heck. Just go and do it.
I live in Hucknall, a few years ago we did have our very own grass airfield. No flight schools there, but an airfield that was used by many other flying schools as a grass runway which can be used as part of the PPL course. Unfortunately that’s now closed down, however living in North Nottinghamshire, there are a number of flying schools close by.
Having a friend who has gone through PPL and Flying Lessons it was an easy task to speak and get recommendations for flying schools. I knew Sam had his lessons with DonAir. And I think even if Sam hadn’t recommended them, which he had, the fact that they are based at East Midlands Airport, it was always going to be my choice. There’s something more exciting about learning at a regional busy airport. One that I used to live near when I grew up and was always excited when we drove past when I was a kid.
This was my airport, I grew up fascinated by it, driving up to the end of the runway watching the planes take off and land. I’ve always wanted to take off and land a plane there.
So I got on the phone. I rang DonAir, and booked myself a training flight for the afternoon of September 9th.
September 9th, a short drive down the M1 to East Midlands Airport and DonAir Flying Club. A quick Instagram video (see below), and a few forms to fill in, I met Craig my instructor.
After a quick chat about why I wanted to be a pilot, and a talk about how the plane performs, Craig advised how it would work with him passing control over to me. “You have control”. “I have control”. And then it was out onto the apron to get into the Cessna 152. Not before Craig called Air Traffic Control with our intentions.
Now I’m not a small man. In fact I’m just over 6 foot 3 and Sam warned me that it would be a little cramped. I was surprised that, yes it wasn’t huge, but it was more than big enough for someone with very long legs.
Craig went through the checklist, started the prop and taxied to the edge of the runway. A few more checklist items covered and we lined up halfway down runway 27 at EGNX. I then had the opportunity to confirm with ATC that we were ready for take off. Craig then increased the throttle and we were soon in the sky climbing up to around 1500 feet. At this point Craig passed control over to me and finally after many many years I was in control of an aircraft.
Sweaty palms. I remember having sweaty palms. It wasn’t that long ago I had a real job getting on a plane. Now I’m in control of one. A little extra personal achievement ticked off along the way.
We were heading south as Craig had previously been on a flight north of the airport which was quite bumpy. We headed down to Nuneaton and towards the Mira test track. I found it fascinating flying over quarries and getting a different perspective of the depth.
As we flew south, we could see a heavy shower heading northwards from Birmingham. Thankfully we’d be back on the ground before it would reach us. I was still in control of the plane, and by now I’d got a good feeling of how to turn and raise and lower the nose. We were now at around 2500 feet. I knew we’d feel the turbulence more in a smaller plane, but found it interesting how easily it was to hit a few bumps and realise you were no longer going in the direction you were expecting. It probably wasn’t a massive amount, but it certainly felt it.
As we headed towards Mallory Park, we met up with the M1 and before we knew it it was time to head back towards the airport. A few more turns just so that I’d get the full hour in the air, we started to lower our speed and height and Craig was back on the radio to East Midlands Airport so that we could plan our landing. We circled a number of time whilst we had visible contact on other planes landing. And then it was our turn to land.
Craig was now back in control so it was good to watch how the landing went, I could see the PAPI lights worked as we lined up correctly. An excellent landing and a taxi back to the flying school, where I’d pick up my certificate and update my lgo to show my first hour in the air. Would I be interested in further lessons? Of course, I was buzzing all the way home and couldn’t wait to tell the family all about it.
That night, I was on the internet ordering my Cessna 152 and my DonAir log book. I’m now planning my next lesson, and of course, keep in touch to find out how that goes.