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My First Flight: Leesburg to Winchester and Back

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Yesterday I took my first ever flight in a real aircraft. About a month ago, when I went to the Dulles Plane Pull, I saw an SR22 that caught my eye. I went over to talk to the pilot and compliment him on the beautiful aircraft he had flown from Leesburg. We got to talking, and he let me sit inside, and after a little while he offered to take me up sometime in an SR20 he flies. He told me his name was Ben. That is now a name I will never forget.

 

Yesterday, at about 15:45, I met with Ben in the Leesburg terminal. We talked about the flight plan and some basics for a while, and then we walked over to the SR20 we would be flying. He was kind and thoughtful as usual. He even chose not to do the pre-flight checklist because he thought I would like to do it with him. We walked around the Cirrus for a while doing the pre-flight as he explained everything that we needed to do in the utmost detail. When we finished the pre-flights we loaded all of our stuff into the plane, did a final walk-around, and sat down in the cockpit. We fastened our seat belts as we went through the Before Engine Start checklist. We then went through the Engine Start checklist. As Ben started the engine, he warned me to hold the door so that it did not slam shut when the engine started.

 

We began to taxi to Runway 17 when Ben did something I hadn't expected. I had thought, as he had told me it would happen earlier, that I would take controls during the flight. Nothing had ever been said about taxiing. I was pleasantly surprised when Ben gave me the controls and let me taxi to the runway. We then lined up with the runway, went through a checklist or two, and took off. It was a relatively smooth takeoff. We reached 75 knots and rotated, and I got the flaps when we reached 85 knots. We made a relatively sharp turn shortly after taking off as we climbed to 1300 feet. We had picked out a couple of visual reference points. One of them was a small ridge that told us that we could climb to 2200, which was 300 feet below the maximum of 2500. We went through the Route 7 gap in another ridge and were free to go to 4500 feet, although we never went above 4000 feet.

 

We flew over Summit Point on the way, and we also took some pictures of the racetrack, as I have very fond memories of the place. We then flew to the Leesburg Practice Area and did some basic maneuvers. I made some different turns for about 5 minutes, and then he took the controls to show me something that knowledge of will eventually prove very helpful. He did a turn around a point so that eventually I will be able to think about what he did and learn how to do it more quickly. Then he gave me the controls for another 5 to 10 minutes.The whole time I had the controls, he tested my ability to multitask by giving me many different instructions at once. Once I had began to get comfortable at a certain altitude or heading, he would give me a new one. It was hard, but it was fun, and it definitely helped me get better.

 

At some point in the flight, Ben had realized that there was a 20 knot wind almost perpendicular to Winchester's runway. This meant that we could not land, but not being able to go to Winchester did not affect how wonderful my flight was. Instead, we just spent a few extra minutes in the air. When we turned back to Leesburg, I was very happy about what had happened so far. I would be even happier about what happened next.

 

We flew over Leesburg Airport and then made a turn so that we were parallel to the runway. We then did two 90 degree turns so that we were lined up with Runway 17. When we landed, I was happily surprised by Ben's amazing landing. It was very smooth. I had barely felt the landing. We slowed down and eventually turned onto the taxiway. Sadly, my wonderful flight was over. However, everything was not over yet. I helped with the shutdown, and I learned things such as the proper way to tie down an aircraft. We took everything out of the Cirrus and then put the cover on it. It had been a great first flight.

 

Ben is a great person. He was willing to let an aspiring pilot take controls of his aircraft. That was putting his life in my hands. He was also willing to go through everything with me more slowly and help me learn everything I need. If I have the chance to fly with him again, I will. I would rather fly with Ben for one hour than any other pilot for two. There is nothing quite like flying with a man who is happy and willing to help.

 

Richmond

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Congrats on your first flight!

 

Our (Mindstar Aviation) offices are there in the terminal building so we're very familiar with your flight's particulars. I've flown pretty much the same flight, except it was in a brand new 172 that sits close to the terminal building.

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Well done Richmond - sounds like you had a great flight. Beware though, it's seriously addictive and before you know it you'll find yourself training for your private pilot's licence.

 

Whilst it is fresh in your mind, I'd be really interested to hear what you feel to be the gaps between the real thing and simulation.

 

Cheers,

 

Z

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Congrats on your first flight!

 

Our (Mindstar Aviation) offices are there in the terminal building so we're very familiar with your flight's particulars. I've flown pretty much the same flight, except it was in a brand new 172 that sits close to the terminal building.

 

I recognise the company. I see the signs whenever I go to Leesburg Airport. What exactly do you do? I've never spent that much time inside the terminal.

 

Well done Richmond - sounds like you had a great flight. Beware though, it's seriously addictive and before you know it you'll find yourself training for your private pilot's licence.

 

Whilst it is fresh in your mind, I'd be really interested to hear what you feel to be the gaps between the real thing and simulation.

 

Cheers,

 

Z

 

It was a pretty good flight. I already know what you're saying about the PPL. My plan is actually to get my license as soon as I can, and then slowly work towards my ATP. I plan to eventually fly for either SkyWest or Air Wisconsin.

 

There are some huge differences between a real aircraft and a flight simulator. The main one is one that greatly affected me. I do a lot of flight simulation. All that I had learned before the beginning of that flight I had learned by myself, most of being learned either studying for my exams at Delta Virtual Airlines or flying in FSX. One thing that I never learned is to look out the window. When you are flying a PMDG NGX in FSX, you stare at the instrument panel at most times except landing, and at landing you sometimes use the HUD. Because I had never flown a real plane before, and also because the SR20 is a plane that is made to be easily flown by one pilot, I often found myself staring at the PFD. In that flight, one of the most valuable things that I learned is to look out of the window instead of at the instruments. You can be nearly as accurate as an attitude indicator by getting a sense of where the horizon is at level flight in comparison to the wingtip. From now on I will look out the window most of the time, and glance over at the instruments every few seconds as opposed to spending most of my time looking at the instruments and only looking out of the window every minute or so.

 

Another big difference that I realised is how hard it is to pull back on a flight stick. At home, I barely need any force to push it all the way forwards or pull it all the way back. I am not sure if this is just with the Cirrus, but in real life, I had to apply the same amount of force to move the same distance. 

 

You also need to be more gentle in real life than in FSX. I overcorrected the plane a few times while taxiing because I was so used to having to put the rudder almost all of the way to one side to turn at all in FSX. Once I was in the air, I realised that I had to be more gentle with the trim than in FSX. I learned this the hard way. I almost put us into a -1500fpm descent before I realised what I had done. I put the trim back to normal and climbed again. Now, because of this, I know never to overcorrect the aircraft again, especially with the trim.

 

I feel that although flight simulation is a great way to learn, you still need to go fly at least a few times to be able to fly a real aircraft effectively.

 

I hope that this answers your question.

 

Sincerely,

Richmond

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There are some huge differences between a real aircraft and a flight simulator. The main one is one that greatly affected me. I do a lot of flight simulation. All that I had learned before the beginning of that flight I had learned by myself, most of being learned either studying for my exams at Delta Virtual Airlines or flying in FSX. One thing that I never learned is to look out the window. When you are flying a PMDG NGX in FSX, you stare at the instrument panel at most times except landing, and at landing you sometimes use the HUD. Because I had never flown a real plane before, and also because the SR20 is a plane that is made to be easily flown by one pilot, I often found myself staring at the PFD. In that flight, one of the most valuable things that I learned is to look out of the window instead of at the instruments. You can be nearly as accurate as an attitude indicator by getting a sense of where the horizon is at level flight in comparison to the wingtip. From now on I will look out the window most of the time, and glance over at the instruments every few seconds as opposed to spending most of my time looking at the instruments and only looking out of the window every minute or so.

 

Absolutely. I'd say this is my biggest criticism of recreational flight simulation. In the circuit (pattern) I'm regularly looking over my shoulder to see where I am and more importantly exactly where the other traffic is. Whilst head tracking clearly does clever things it's just not the same experience at all. I'm hoping CastAR will provide some kind of a solution as I think it would transform the whole experience.

 

 

Another big difference that I realised is how hard it is to pull back on a flight stick. At home, I barely need any force to push it all the way forwards or pull it all the way back. I am not sure if this is just with the Cirrus, but in real life, I had to apply the same amount of force to move the same distance. 

 

Yep - I agree with this one too. When you practice forced landings, there's a point (if you're lucky!) when the instructor asks you to bin the landing you've been setting up (on that perfect upward sloping, short cut grass field without the cows in and a pub in the corner) and apply full power. At this point in a little Cessna you're usually at full trim so the aircraft is dying to pitch up dramatically as the power comes in and it takes a BIG push on the column to control the climb until you can get the flaps up and set the trim. This is not something you'll discover easily in a recreational sim.

 

 

You also need to be more gentle in real life than in FSX. I overcorrected the plane a few times while taxiing because I was so used to having to put the rudder almost all of the way to one side to turn at all in FSX. Once I was in the air, I realised that I had to be more gentle with the trim than in FSX. I learned this the hard way. I almost put us into a -1500fpm descent before I realised what I had done. I put the trim back to normal and climbed again. Now, because of this, I know never to overcorrect the aircraft again, especially with the trim.

 

True too. Took me ages to learn any degree of passable ground control although this was not influenced by use of the sim. I was forever catching the toe brakes too. Another thing I notice in FSX is the excessive "stickiness" of the ground. Quite modest applications of throttle will get the real thing moving whereas FSX seems to need you to be very heavy handed initially - which in turn leads to difficulty in controlling taxy speed. Not sure what you mean by "especially with the trim" though...

 

Another thing that strikes me is the difference in radio chatter. Where I fly from is a reasonably busy general aviation airfield with a number of training centres and a bit of commercial traffic. Some days it can be quite a challenge to get your calls in and I found that I learned a whole new skill of building a mental picture of who is where whilst not actively concentrating on the voices on the airwaves. Apparently women call it "multi-tasking" but I have no idea how you do it in a domestic setting. :)

 

 

You should have no problems when it gets to the instrument appreciation section of training if you have learned your scans well in the simulator. I just found it very tiring (as well as disorientating when the "foggles" come off - couldn't tell left from right!!). Best of luck with your training.

 

Cheers,

 

Z

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Not sure what you mean by "especially with the trim" though...

 

I mean that you have to be especially careful with the trim. I almost put us in a -1500fpm dive because I overcorrected the trim. Luckily I caught my mistake, and even if I hadn't, Ben, being the experienced (and now CPL-holding) pilot that he is, would notice something like that in less than a couple of seconds.

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I recognise the company. I see the signs whenever I go to Leesburg Airport. What exactly do you do? I've never spent that much time inside the terminal.

In the AV-ED flight school is a Redbird training simulator. It is what we do. We write avionics software for training simulators.

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You should have no problems when it gets to the instrument appreciation section of training if you have learned your scans well in the simulator.

 

That's the one thing that I never really had trouble with. However, I learned something from it. I had trouble holding an altitude and turning at the same time. Whenever I hand fly, I'll check my altitude more often. On autopilot, the only thing you need to look at your altitude for is to make sure your autopilot is holding it at the correct altitude. When hand flying, you are responsible for whether or not the plane holds a certain altitude. I've learned to look at altitude more often in my scans because of that flight.

 

Richmond

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Congrats on your first flight! Whilst it is fresh in your mind, I'd be really interested to hear what you feel to be the gaps between the real thing and simulation.

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