Learning to fly at 55



The Intro flight – Again!

In April, I walked into my local flying club to go for a scheduled introductory flight. This is a repeat of something that I did about 25 years earlier. At 55 years old, I had set my goal of becoming a Commercial Pilot.

There were two flight schools in my area:
One flight school flew the more traditional Cessna 172s and Tomahawks as their training aircraft while the other flew the modern Diamond DA20, DA40, and DA42 aircraft as their training aircraft. I jumped
all over the opportunity of flying the modern, sleek Diamond aircraft for my training. These aircraft came with a partial or full glass cockpit. Modern training and aircraft for a modern aviation career. My
hopes were dashed as the school that I wanted to fly with was affiliated with a university aviation program and they would be too busy to accept “off-the-street”, walk-in private pilot training.  So, I had the choice now to do my introductory flight in a Tomahawk or a Cessna. After careful consideration and research, I chose the Tomahawk. I have read all about the infamous “Tramahawk”.  I also read that it would make me a better pilot.

It was a windy, gusty day.

Remember I said I was repeating something I had done about 25 years earlier? 25 years earlier I walked into another flying club for an introductory flight. It was wonderful. I flew a few more hours until an accident sidelined me for over a year. Life and all other things took over and I could just never get back to it.

I have had aviation in my blood back as far as I could remember. I read books, built models, and flew remote control aircraft (The Spitfire was and still is my favorite aircraft). I have flown every version of Microsoft Flight Simulator including flying on VATSIM to get the realism of ATC (I still do today). I did Aircrew selection for the Canadian Armed forces as a Pilot and was accepted. The military aviator career didn’t work out for me, but I still knew that all I wanted to do was fly.

So, back to my introduction flight in the Tomahawk.

We did the walk-around, weight and balance, and briefing. The flight instructor was very thorough with her explanations as we walked around the aircraft. She explained why we were doing all the things that we were doing. It was pilot education and learning right from the start.

We went back into the club and into a  briefing room where she explained to explain what we would be doing on the flight. This sounded all very familiar to me as I had already done this once before. She told me that I would be sitting in the left seat and would be flying the aircraft after takeoff. After the briefing was completed, we headed back to the aircraft. She handed me the keys and the checklists and had me go through the prestart checklist. After all checklists were completed I did the so familiar “CLEAR PROP” out the window and started the engine. My flight instructor completed all the radio calls and then we taxied out to the apron in front of the club where we completed the run-up. After we completed all the necessary checks and received ATC clearance we proceeded to the designated runway, We were cleared for takeoff.

Smooth full throttle on a count of 1, 2, 3.   We rolled down the runway until we were in the air.

I realize I left out a lot of detail there but be assured that all proper checks and checklists were completed throughout the process. My flight instructor was extremely thorough and talked me through every step. Even if I wasn’t controlling, she was telling me exactly what and why she was doing things. I have to say that I was extremely impressed with this young flight instructor. I felt very comfortable.

I want to end each part of this article series with a key takeaway. Something that I just alluded to is extremely important. I just mentioned that I was very impressed with the instructor and felt comfortable. Remember, this is “YOUR” flight education as a new pilot. While I know you are overwhelmed with everything that is going on, you must make sure you take the time to ensure that you can be comfortable with the person that you will be sitting beside for possibly many months. You also must ensure that the aircraft you are in is giving you the experience you want. You should be mentally interviewing both things as well as trying to enjoy the flight. This will be harder than you think because you are so busy soaking up all the information that you are receiving that your head will feel like it is swimming.
Maybe it was because I wanted to ensure that I was getting a great experience and value for my money, but I knew that this would be going to be a part of my introduction flight. I didn’t do that the first time and I paid for it with a couple of bad experiences. I did complete my interview during and after the flight. I decided to make some changes, but it may not be what you think.

 Learning to fly at a later age – Part 2