Cessna 172R

So, in the last article, I completed my introductory flight in a Tomahawk.  The flight was very interesting, and my instructor was very informative.  The point of the last post was to give you some insight as to some of the things you should be looking out for during the Introductory flight.

Stay focused on the long-term goal.  Make decisions about how you want your training and aviation education to go.   Get rid of anything that makes you uncomfortable.  This could be the instructor, the aircraft or both.

I was very pleased with my instructor and I felt that I could easily get along with her.  The aircraft had to go.

I didn’t like the Tomahawk.  At my age, I felt that it was too much airplane for me.  One thing about aviation that I have learned, is that you must be completely comfortable with what you are doing.  If anything makes you nervous, it shows in your training.  I am too old to be worried about the equipment I am operating.  The Tomahawk made me nervous.  I don’t feel invincible anymore like I did in my teen years.  So, after a week of consideration, I told my instructor that I wanted to start training in the Cessna 172R.  The Cessna is a well-known trainer.  The wings are in the wrong place, but that’s an argument for another day. Lol.  These flight school aircraft all have the 180HP engine upgrades.

Flight 2 started where the last left off.  We reviewed what we did in the introductory flight and then started talking about what was on the agenda for today.  The first thing we do is listen to the ATIS (Automated Terminal Information System). The ATIS is a recorded message that gets updated every hour.  It usually contains the Visibility, altimeter reading, Ceiling information, active runway, and any other special instructions specific to your airport.  I think I neglected to mention that I am at a controlled airport with a tower so my ATIS recording is recorded by an actual human.  Each AITS is assigned a phonetic alphabet code which we always must know and write down.  In fact, at my airport, it is standard procedure when making your first radio call to the ground controller that you tell them what ATIS information you have by specifying the phonetic letter assigned.  I will do several articles in the future about communicating with ATC.  It is extremely important.  The one takeaway here is that ATC is your friend and is always there to help.    

After we listened to the ATIS, we went outside to complete the walk-around on the aircraft.  The walk-around is an inspection of the aircraft.  We grab the correct checklist for the aircraft and completed the walk-around.   Everything we do as pilots is by checklists.  They should never be skipped.  It is an extremely important part of your flight test.  If you do not do the correct checklists, you fail.  I won’t go into all the detail of the checklist, but 3 important things that you do every time are:  check fuel levels, check oil levels, and check/test your fuel for any contamination (water being the main contamination).  Modern Cessna 172’s have 13 testing points for the fuel system.  All have to be checked every time you fly.  Oil levels in an aircraft are very important.  Just like in your automobile, oil is the life-blood of your engine.    Think about this for a second:  Do you check the oil in your car engine every day?  Not likely.  Aircraft engines are checked every time they fly.  This is one of many key factors in aircraft safety.  The thoroughness of the inspections on an aircraft are 2nd to none and it is your responsibility right from the start, even as a pilot in training to perform these inspections.

For my first walk around my instructor was with me the entire time.  She explained everything in detail why we were doing what we were doing.  Your education starts immediately and there is a lot of it.  Have your notebooks, recording devices, etc. on hand for this.  Write it all down.  I didn’t do that at first, and I paid the price later.  Questions that I should have asked, I didn’t.

As a part of the walk-around, we always write down the amount of fuel measured in the tanks as well the amount of oil.  Knowing the amount of fuel in your aircraft is extremely important.  Not only for determining the amount of time you can fly but also for the very important weight-and-balance calculations that are a part of every flight.  More Education and now MATH.

Weight and balance calculations are arguably the most important thing you do during preflight.  Time to get rid of your humility here.  Know your weight with cloth on.  It is needed for the weight calculation.   Weight, in its simplest terms, is the total weight of the aircraft fully loaded with passengers, fuel, and equipment.  We never exceed a certain published weight for the aircraft type.  The aircraft would struggle to get airborne if it could at all.  The worst-case scenario is that it does get airborne but is unable to climb resulting in an accident.  The balance of an aircraft is another extremely important concept.  Without going into detail here, the distribution of the weight in the aircraft can severely influence the controls of the aircraft.  If too much weight is too far forward, the aircraft will nose down.  If the weight is too far aft, the airplane could severely nose up resulting in loss of control and an accident.

With the walk-around inspection, weight-and-balance check complete, we determined the aircraft was safe to fly.  Preflight briefing time.

My instructor led me through what we were going to accomplish for this flight lesson (LP1 or Lesson Plan 1).  Attitudes and movements, Straight and level flight, turns.  The briefing also included instructions on what the different control surfaces of the aircraft are called and what they do.  Ailerons for turning, elevator for climbs and descents, and rudder for yaw.

After the briefing was concluded we headed out to the airplane and went fly.

What is the takeaway from this article? 

Your education starts right away.  You may think that flying is the most important part, but it is genuinely not.  Education makes flying easier.  Listen to your instructor during the briefing.  Write things down and ask lots of questions.  You may find that your brain will be sore. Lol.  Something else that I want to talk about here that may be controversial to some.  In fact, you may have to ask permission.  If you are lucky enough to own a GoPro, use it.  I am a big fan of this.  I am not talking about being the next Youtube star, but watching and listening to everything that was completed in each lesson is priceless.  This will also give you the opportunity to re-write any notes that you took during your briefings.  Listen to your videos and document.  This documentation will help you study for your flight test and Exam.