19 July 2010

Demo Flight

I went on a demo flight at a local school on July 15 based on a recommendation. I took up the Cessna 172P pictured here. Great fun. We went through the preflight checklist, taxied the airplane, performed a takeoff, go-around, and finally, a full-stop landing. Having never flown an airplane from the left seat before, I was surprised that every movement required conscious thought. Time sped up--it seemed like it was time to make the base turn five seconds after the downwind turn in the traffic pattern. I'd reach over to extend the flaps and the distraction would cause me pitch down. Sensory overload. At one point, I attempted to line up on the parallel runway (it is longer--that's my only excuse). Having read about coordinated flight, I didn't realize how little rudder was required to keep the ball centered when the plane was moving at 80 knots (I swore the CFI was helping me), and how much right rudder was required to keep the nose pointed straight during takeoff. Taxiing was another show. I couldn't keep the plane on the taxiway centerline to save my life. The nosewheel steering takes some getting used to. You steer with the rudder pedals. For some reason, I kept trying to help my turning radius with the yoke. It is an airplane and not a car. The CFI finally clued me in that I could use differential braking to improve the turning radius. My shiny new David Clark headset worked great. It was comfortable, and I'm really happy with it. While I was fairly certain that I was going to enroll in this particular school just based on what I had heard, I'm happy that I took the demo flight because:
  • it gave me a chance to see if I was comfortable with the instructor. I can get along with just about anybody, but thankfully my CFI seems like a pretty easy-going guy
  • the time can be logged (0.5 hrs dual) and the demo flight is relatively cheap
I learned that the DC SFRA is a total non-issue. HEF has a control tower, so when staying in the traffic pattern you don't even have to file an SFRA flight plan--just maintain communication with the tower and squawk 1234 on the transponder. Same thing with the Dulles Class B airspace: we will fly under it (2500 MSL) to get to the practice area. It is probably good practice anyway to train in such an ATC-rich area. Flight Time this lesson: 0.5 hours dual Total Flight Time to Date: 0.5 hours dual

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