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First flight

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I went to the Manjimup Aero Club's open day (Manjimup is a small town in Western Australia) today and had a Trial Instructional Flight. I got to fly a small two-seater Tecnam Eaglet high-wing light monoplane in windy and turbulent conditions.


My dream was to fly fighters (then Mirage III0's) for the RAAF, but bad eyesight put paid to that particular notion. I have played with sims etc. for years, getting back into flight sims over the last few years. I now work as a journalist in my local paper, and when the local Aero Club president came in to get a story done about their open day, I decided to come along.


It was a blustery warm day with lots of turbulence, but I decided to give it a go and forked over my $80 for a trial instructional flight. The instructor took me over the basics on the ground, and seemed pleased I already knew about aerodynamics and control surfaces etc. from my time with sims. We climbed into his Tecnam Eaglet, started her up and taxied onto the runway. There was a fair amount of traffic and it took a few minutes to get a slot and takeoff. As well as the airshow traffic, we were having a bushfire to the west of town and a spotter bird and a couple of water bombers were in the area.


After a very short roll, we rotated and started climbing. The very first thing I noticed was the aircraft was very 'live' - you could feel every buffet and dip as we moved through the air and were hit by the blustery breeze. It is an interesting feeling, and one I wasn't really prepared for through sim flying.


Pretty soon the instructor handed over control and told me to hold a steady climb to 4500 feet. It was very hard to hold the aircraft on course and I felt like I was fighting the controls, but we climbed up to the required height and levelled off, throttling back to 4500rpm for cruise. There was still buffeting, and the feeling of fighting the controls persisted. Turbulence rolled, pitched and yawed the aircraft and I was worried it was going to catch me unawares. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, and I really didn't feel in control of the aircraft.


We made a gently left turn and I took it nice and slow, mainly using ailerons to turn the aircraft. Interestingly, having to concentrate on the turn meant I was fighting the controls a bit less. The extra wing-loading from the turn probably helped to smooth it out a bit. I guess it is like learning to drive, the small, instinctive corrections an experienced driver makes are jerky, hesitant movements for a beginner.


I turned through about 90 degrees and we climbed a little to 4700 feet, where the air was a bit smoother. We got a good view of the bushfire burning to the west of town, and I could see we were just above the layer where the smoke abruptly stopped and flattened out. I was keeping an eye out for the spotter and the water bombers, but I couldn't see them. My instructor spotted them and made sure we stayed well clear.


The instructor then asked my to make a 270 degree turn, and I pulled the aircraft to about 15-20 degrees angle of bank and put a bit of rudder into it. I was still fighting the stick and didn't feel in total control, but I was more confident making the turn. It is hard keeping track of your position, other aircraft, where the strip is, and maintain airspeed and a smooth climb. I had to concsoiusly remind myself to look at the instruments, then to get my head outside again to look around.


We were flying parallel to the strip now and started a 500 foot-per-minute descent, throttling back to 3800rpm, moving at about 80 knots. After we passed the strip, we made a long descending turn and lined up on the runway. Once we got down to about 2000 feet, the instructor took the controls and we came in to land. The turbulence was getting worse and there was a significant gusty cross-wind over the strip. I could feel the movements of the controls as the instructor bought us down - and we had to land at a significant angle because of the cross-wind. I was glad it wasn't me putting us down because there was no way I would have been deft enough to react to the gusts to get us on the ground.


We taxied off the runway and I was surprised my half-an-hour flight was over already. I was pretty drained and the constant fighting for control was pretty nerve-wracking, but I had done it. Flying isn't like driving a bus, but I had a go and did it - not particularly well, but with growing confidence.


It was a lot harder to fly an actual aircraft than I was prepared for. The motion of the aircraft moving made me pretty jumpy and I never got to be comfortable with my control of the aircraft. Gusts moved the aircraft quite a bit, and I was concerned it would get away from me. When I talked it over with my instructor, he said the aircraft would resist big movements - the surface area of the wing would resist against flipping over too hard. The unpredictability was just a bit hard to cope with. I guess this would pass in time, and I thought about the first time I drove a car. I had the same sense of being overwhelmed and out of control.


I am not sure if I will get another opportunity to fly, but I am glad I did it and I have a much better appreciation of how hard flying really is.


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The Tecnam Eaglet light aircraft I flew.


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The cockpit of the Tecnam.

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The thermals coming up off the ground will bounce you around quite a bit.

The best thing to remember is that most all civilian aircraft are inherently stable. It's designed into them. If you completely let go of the controls the aircraft will try to maintain straight and level flight.

It is more difficult to fly a trainer aircraft really well than it is to fly,say a jet fighter. For some reason the faster they go the easier it is to fly them,once you get used to the speed.

Sounds to me like you had a good first flight. :good:

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